The 15 Rarest Dog Breeds in the United States

Many dog lovers can rattle off some of the more popular dog breeds without a second thought. We all know about Labrador Retrievers, Poodles and Chihuahuas, right? You might even be familiar with a few of the lesser-known but much-loved breeds that tend to get a lot of attention at dog shows, like the Affenpinscher and Puli.

But when it comes to the very rarest breeds in the country, how many do you think you'd recognize? We're about to find out. We asked the American Kennel Club for a list of the top 15 rarest dog breeds in the United States, based on registration data for 2013. Check them out below and let us know how many were new to you.

Rarest Dog Breeds in the United States

Four Curly Coated Retriever dogs

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 15: Curly-Coated Retriever

Starting out our list is the Curly-Coated Retriever, a charming and protective dog with an unusual, tightly curled coat. She originated in the 18th century, most likely by crossing the now extinct Old English Water Dog, Irish Water Spaniel and small Newfoundland, with some Poodle added later. She is a constant thinker and generally loves channeling her energy and brainpower into new sports like agility and flyball, or games like pulling a child on a skateboard. With proper motivation (like play, praise and treats), this talented and entertaining breed tends to learn quickly.

Canaan Dog

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 14: Canaan Dog

The independent Canaan Dog is a natural watchdog with historic roots. In fact, he may have originated in the biblical land of Canaan, where he guarded camps and flocks. The breed became feral after the Romans dispersed the population, and it wasn't until World War II that these dogs were redomesticated after displaying their intelligence and trainability. However, the Canaan is still a bit primitive, with a few quirks in general, so finding just the right home is of the utmost importance for this breed.

Scottish Deerhound dog

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 13: Scottish Deerhound

Although Hickory, a Scottish Deerhound, won Westminster in 2011, this tall and noble breed is rare. Despite her regal air, she's a bit of a prankster, particularly during her highly active puppy years. She's typically equally at home in a condo or castle, and the two things she may love most in life are running and cuddling up with her people on the sofa.

 Norwegian Buhund

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 12: Norwegian Buhund

This Norwegian farm dog is generally cheerful, hard working and talkative. The Norwegian Buhund has made a name for himself as a hearing assistance dog and agility and obedience athlete, as well as a companion. He tends to be very active and barks and sheds, but his fans adore his foxlike face, confidence and lively disposition.

Glen of Imaal Terrier

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

No. 11: Glen of Imaal Terrier

Like many other terriers, the Glen of Imaal Terrier tends to think she's larger than her 32 to 40 pounds. She's often called "scrappy," doesn't generally care much for other dogs, and don't even get her started on cats. She is usually a bit quieter than other terriers, though, making her a breed to consider for apartment dwellers who love the terrier group.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 10: Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Named after a character in Sir Walter Scott's book Guy Mannering, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a true darling, with big, dark eyes; a poufy topknot; and plenty of self-confidence. He's typically playful and affectionate with his family but can be reserved around strangers.

Pyrenean Shepherd Dog Breed

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 9: Pyrenean Shepherd

The Pyr Shep is the smallest of the French herding breeds, but she generally has a big personality and energy to spare. She tends to be highly alert, extremely devoted to her family and quite intelligent, all of which means she requires a home with a family who's fully committed to giving her the training and exercise she needs.

Finnish Spitz dog

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 8: Finnish Spitz

A medium-size spitz breed, the Finnish Spitz is quite the talker. He barks, first and foremost, but also uses many different sounds to get his point across. In fact, this is one breed that can actually claim the official title of "King of the Barkers" each year in Finland, where he is the national dog.

Finnish Lapphund dog

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 7: Finnish Lapphund

Another medium-size spitz breed whose double coat sheds heavily, the Lappie is known to be noisy, agile and alert. These characteristics came in handy in her early days as a reindeer herder, but now she tends to be calm, friendly and submissive with people.

Otterhound Dog Breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 6: Otterhound

The laid-back Otterhound is the sixth rarest dog breed, and given the fact that this breed nearly disappeared when hunting otters became illegal in Britain in the late 1970s, that's hardly a surprise. This big dog (up to 125 pounds!) tends to be hairy and messy, so he's not for the house proud, but he loves to "communicate" with his people with various muttering, grumbling and groaning sounds.

Harrier dog in grass

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 5: Harrier

The Harrier may look like an oversized Beagle or small English Foxhound, but she is her own breed. She's typically sweet, affectionate and highly energetic. This scenthound was originally used to hunt hare and fox, and she tends to be a good competitor in agility and a natural tracker.

Cesky Terrier Dog Breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 4: Cesky Terrier

With his long body and bearded face, the small Cesky Terrier has a distinct look. He's all terrier, too, with a tendency toward barking and digging, and he generally has loads of energy. He requires a securely fenced yard to keep him safe, and it's best to keep him away from small animals and birds, which he's likely to chase and try to kill. Still, this intelligent breed is known to love his family, even if he is somewhat aloof with strangers.

Two Norwegian Lundehund Dogs

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 3: Norwegian Lundehund

A fairly recent addition to the AKC's list of recognized breeds, the Norwegian Lundehund is quite the contortionist. This spitz breed was bred to climb cliffs on Norwegian islands and retrieve live puffins, which explains a few of her unusual characteristics: six-toed feet and a surprising flexibility that allows her front legs to extend flat to the sides and her head to bend backward almost to her back.

Two American Foxhound dogs

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 2: American Foxhound

He's not always thought of as a companion animal, but the typically friendly and energetic American Foxhound certainly has the capacity to be a great workout buddy. This is one of the older American breeds, but more often than not, he's a member of a pack owned by a foxhunting club.

English Foxhound side view

Sam Clark, Animal Photography

No. 1: English Foxhound

Like the American Foxhound, the English Foxhound — which finishes off the list as the rarest dog breed in the country — is frequently found on the Atlantic seaboard or in the southern United States, usually as a member of a pack owned by a foxhunting club. She, too, is an older, established breed and has been part of the American landscape since the 18th century or earlier. She's a spirited hound who can be an excellent companion to an active person, and although her stately bearing makes her look almost regal, know that this dog is generally always ready for fun — and barking. Her loud bay can carry surprisingly long distances, so she's typically best in a rural home.

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