7 Fascinating Dog Breeds That No Longer Exist
Published on June 01, 2015
It is hard to imagine our favorite dog breeds becoming extinct — that seems more likely to be the fate of rare wild animals, not the affectionate lump of fur curled at our feet. But that’s exactly what happened to these seven breeds. The reasons vary widely: Some became extinct when the jobs that they were bred to do (like bull baiting) went out of fashion, while in other cases, the dog was absorbed into the lineage of a new breed and became the dogs we know and love today.
Check out our gallery to see paintings and photographs of dog breeds that have gone extinct and to learn the stories of their demise.
If you think this dog looks like an English Springer Spaniel, you're not too far off — but take a closer look. It's actually a breed called the Norfolk Spaniel, which has been extinct since the early 1900s. (The dog pictured above, Dash II, competed in the 1886 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.) The 1861 book House Dogs and Sporting Dogs calls the Norfolk Spaniel "perhaps the commonest breed in England," which may have led to its demise. "A History and Description of Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland," published in 1897, claims that the liver-and-white dogs became so common that the public no longer saw them as a specific breed, and in 1902, the Kennel Club rolled its description (along with any other medium-legged Spaniel who wasn't a Clumber or Sussex) into a new breed: the English Springer Spaniel.
Cordoba Fighting Dog
The Cordoba Fighting Dog, named for its native Cordoba, Argentina, was known for its aggression and skill as a dog-fighting competitor. It became extinct, though, when breeders started crossing it with Great Danes, Bulldogs and other breeds to create a more favorable dog: the modern Dogo Argentino.
English Water Spaniel
"She hath more qualities than a water-spaniel." So says William Shakespeare in Act 3 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in an apparent reference to this breed, the English Water Spaniel. The curly haired dog was known for hunting waterfowl and is mentioned by name for the first time in Sportman's Cabinet in 1802. But though Britain's Kennel Club maintained a breed standard for the Irish Water Spaniel, the English Water Spaniel got grouped into a category called Water Spaniels Other than Irish. It's believed that the English Water Spaniel was then absorbed by other Spaniel breeds at the start of the 20th century, eventually contributing to the creation of the American Water Spaniel.
This dog looks a lot like our modern Golden Retriever, doesn't he? Some experts believe the Golden Retriever descends from this now-extinct breed called the Russian Tracker (or Russian Yellow Retriever), a large herding and guard dog who lived with the Indo-Aryan people in Russia's Caucasus Mountains, although that theory is often hotly debated.
Tweed Water Spaniel
Other experts believe that this dog, the Tweed Water Spaniel, contributed to the modern Golden Retriever. An 1833 article in The British Sporting Magazine refers to a "long famous" variety of athletic brown dogs in the English town of Norham, on the River Tweed. Decades later, the 1897 book, British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition, describes this breed as a small Retriever with a liver-colored, curly coat and a long tail. The breed dwindled at the end of the 19th century, when the Lord of Tweedmouth bred Tweeds into a line of yellow dogs that is said to have become Golden Retrievers.
Old English Bulldog
Think these dogs share features with our modern Bulldogs and Pit Bulls? Well, that's the idea. The 1817 painting above depicts two Old English Bulldogs named Crib and Rosa. The breed was a larger, more athletic version of a modern Bulldog, used for the English sports of bull baiting (where its name comes from) and dog fighting. But when England passed its first animal cruelty law in 1835, the sports went out of fashion, as did the original breed. Breeder Bill George is believed to have crossed them with Pugs to create a smaller, friendlier and more brachycephalic dog who he marketed as a companion pet, which is closer in style to our Bulldogs of today. Interestingly enough, breeder David Leavitt began in the 1970s to create a new breed, called the Leavitt Bulldog, that harkens back to the original, more athletic version of the Old English Bulldog.
St. John's Water Dog
This medium-size, stocky dog with white patches may remind you of our modern Retriever breeds, and that's no coincidence. The St. John's Water Dog, also known as a lesser Newfoundland, was used as a Retriever by fishermen until the 20th century, when the original breed disappeared after many of the dogs were exported to England and crossed with other breeds to create our modern Retrievers. The St. John's Water Dog pictured here was named Nell and was believed to have been 12 years old when the photograph was taken in 1867.