Canids are one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet. They are found in most countries and regions of the world, and many of these regions have special breeds that originated there with particular characteristics unique to the region. Even if you know dozens of dog breeds, there are probably hundreds you don’t know about.
The real question is how many dog breeds there are in the world. Is it even possible to count them?
These are reasonable questions, and to get answers, we have to turn to the groups that make dog breeds their business: the dog registries of the world. Let’s take a look at these registries and the number of breeds recognized by each of them to get a better idea of how many different dog breeds exist in the world.
The governing bodies of dog registries
There are some groups that control the registration of dog breeds. . In general, these groups are limited to certain countries. For example, the AKC, the American Kennel Club, is a governing body based in the United States. Of course, it is far from the only such governing body. Other similar groups include the British Kennel Club (KC), the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), and the European Continental Kennel Club (CKC).
What is interesting about these groups is that they all use entirely different protocols for determining breed. As a result, they each recognize a different number of dog breeds. This makes it a bit difficult to determine how many breeds there really are in the world, as the regulatory bodies that track dog breeds do not agree with this number. For example, the AKC only recognizes 195 breeds, while the FCI officially recognizes 360 breeds. And then there are all the experiential breeds of dog races. So there is no exact, worldwide, internationally recognized number, but we can say that there are between 195 and 500 dog breeds in the world.
What it takes to see a new breed of dog
Today, there are hundreds of established dog breeds, but this was not the case just 200 years ago. Back then, the number of different breeds was very limited. In the Victorian era, creating your own breed became popular, and that’s when the number of breeds started to increase.
You could easily start crossing different breeds of dogs to create your own breed. This does not mean that it will ever be recognized by any of the world dog organizations. Getting a breed recognized by all these groups is a long and hard process.
In order for a breed to be considered by most federations, it must meet certain criteria of popularity and population. If the breed is not popular enough or if the number of specimens is insufficient, no club will recognize it.
But population and popularity are not enough to get a breed officially recognized. They must also have some history. For the AKC, this means that the breed must have existed for at least three generations. In addition, national kennel clubs specific to that breed must exist and have at least 100 members in no less than 20 states. Yes, some of these requirements are very specific.
It is not enough to meet all of these requirements to obtain breed recognition. You must also get approval from the federation through which you seek recognition. For the AKC, once approved, the breed will join the “miscellaneous” class, which is for breeds that are not officially recognized, but are on track.
To be fully recognized, the breed must compete in dog shows in the “miscellaneous” category for at least three years before the board of directors will consider the breed’s eligibility for the registry. This is an arduous and time-consuming process. Since 2010, only 25 new breeds have been declared officially recognized by the AKC.
The 7 classifications of dog breeds
Once a breed is recognized by the AKC, it receives a classification that groups it with another similar breed In total, there are 7 classifications for breeds that are officially recognized. In addition to these seven, there are also two entry groups that allow breeds to work their way to full recognition – the Foundation Stock Service and the Miscellaneous Class – but they are not for official breeds.
- Working Dogs
The working dog group includes many of the oldest dog breeds on the planet. These are hard-working, utilitarian breeds that were used to assist humans in their work. Common characteristics of these breeds are physical strength, intelligence, and large size. Some of the most popular working breeds include Boxers, Great Danes, and Rottweilers.
- Sporting Dogs
Breeds classified as sporting breeds are dogs that are used to help hunters bring in game birds. These dogs are often great swimmers, able to retrieve waterfowl in the water. Other sporting dogs have thick coats that protect them from brush and brambles as they make their way through thick forests. Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and German Shorthaired Pointers are good examples of sporting breeds.
- Non-sporting dogs
When a breed does not have the qualities that make it suitable for inclusion in one of these other groups, it is classified as a non-sporting breed. These breeds all have one thing in common: they are dogs. For this reason, the non-sporting group is one of the most diverse dog classifications, containing breeds such as the Poodle, Dalmatian, and Bulldog.
- Herding dogs
The herding dog group is fairly self-explanatory. The breeds in this group were built and bred to herd livestock, such as cattle, sheep, reindeer, and horses. Dogs in this group must have high intelligence and be very easy to train. Members of this group are still used for herding, but they have also been used in other areas such as the police and military. The best-known herding breeds are the German Shepherd, Border Collie, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
- Terrier breeds
Terrier breeds were created to prey on rodents and other small vermin. Short-legged terriers were designed to go underground in search of vermin, while long-legged terriers dig for their prey. The large “bully” breeds are also included in this classification. Originally, they were bred for much more dangerous activities, such as baiting bulls. Bull Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and West Highland White Terriers are bred in this group that you may be familiar with.
Hounds are a group of hunting dogs. Both sighthounds and hounds are included in this group, although they hunt by different means. Sighthounds had to chase cunning and agile prey, such as antelopes and hares. Hounds had to stalk their prey, which sometimes included convicts who had escaped from prison! Hounds that you might recognize are bloodhounds, dachshunds, and sighthounds.
- Companion dogs
Smaller dogs are bred solely for companionship. These are much smaller breeds that are often a good option for city dwellers, especially for people living in smaller homes, such as apartments. Many toy dog breeds are popular pets, including Shih Tzus, Pugs, and Chihuahuas.
How many breeds of dogs are there?
The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask, as each dog registration organization recognizes different breeds. For example, the AKC only recognizes 195 breeds. In contrast, the FCI officially recognizes 360 breeds, not including the many experimental breeds that are in the process of gaining true recognition.
Mixed breeds and designer dogs complicate matters further. Some mixed breeds are well known, such as Labradoodles, Cockapoos, or Puggles. These breeds are crosses of known and officially recognized breeds, but these mixed breeds are not themselves officially recognized. In the absence of organizations governing the recognition of these mixed breeds, there is no way of knowing how many of them exist, and how many of them are real breeds and not isolated cases.
So unfortunately there is no way to know how many dog breeds exist in the world. We can be sure that 360 is the minimum number, as it is the largest number officially recognized by any regulatory body, not counting mixed breeds and designer dogs. If these were included, the total number of breeds could be 500 or more, but there is no way to be sure.
We can make guesses as to how many dog breeds exist in the world, but we can’t be sure. The different organizations that regulate the recognition of dog breeds do not agree on the number of official breeds. The FCI recognizes 360 breeds, so we can assume that there are at least that many dog breeds. This number does not include mixed breeds, nor even breeds of popular and well-known design, so we can only guess how many breeds actually exist in the world.