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The Reality of Dog Breed Origins

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Tracing back through Fido’s family tree, do the branches extend where one might believe or are there a few misnomers scattered among the doggy forest? Registries, breeding and lines aside, the roots of many breeds as we know them today run deeper and in different directions than many surmise. Did you ever wonder the reality of some dog breed origins? Is the Havanese from Cuba? (yes). Does the German Shepherd hail from Germany? (affirmative). We did a little digging under the world’s canine trees and uncovered the origins of ten popular breeds. As for the mutts of the world, we know you’ve got your international markings spread abound!

Toy Poodles: Oui oui mon cherie, the toy poodle originated in France, right? Au contraire, mon frère. Though the Poodle is the national dog of France, the toy poodle originated in Germany. Often confused with “French Poodle,” the German word pudelhund, translated to ‘splash in the water’ is of German origin. Circuses often use poodles as performers because the breed is so quickly trainable and smart. Although all one breed, the varying sizes of the Poodle are denoted into standard, miniature, and toy. Considered to a good breed for those with dog allergies, poodles, like all dogs, release dander; however, they shed hair less lesser amounts.

dog breeds

Boston Terrier: The Red Sox, Pops, and the Terrier: These all hail from Boston, Massachusetts, right? Indeed! Originally called American Bull Terriers but upon admittance to the American Kennel Club in 1893, the breed’s name was changed to Boston Terrier. The Boston Terrier is actually one of the few breeds originating in the United States. The now extinct English White Terrier was a cross between Boston Terriers and an English Bulldog. One look at the adorable muzzle of a Boston and is it any wonder?  A big dog attitude in a little package, Boston Terrier lovers to their great intelligence and loving character.

boston terrier

Labrador Retriever: This super popular breed certainly has its origins in the Labrador region of England, correct? Tis wrong, kind sir or madam. The Labrador is actually a native of Newfoundland, Canada. Many believe the Labrador to be a close relative of the Newfoundland (aka ‘Newfie’). Look no further than a guide dog foundation, pet therapy program, a neighbor down the street or perhaps in your own family—the Labrador ranks high in the AKC’s annual registry of top ten breeds. His yellow, black or chocolate short coat repels water, so Labrador Retrievers are protected from a chill in the line of duty or fetching, dock diving or retrieving a tennis ball.


Lhasa Apso: That’s a mouthful, even for fans and fanciers of the breed. Recognized by the AKC in 1935, the Lhasa Apso hails from (any guesses?) Tibet. Within the deep confines of the Himalayan Mountains, the Lhaso Apso was watchdog for Buddist monks and Tibetan nobility. This little traveler has made its way from palaces, temples and monasteries to living room floor and as apartment dwellers. Assertive and friendly, the Lhaso Apso loves its pack and its bark is often mistaken for a much bigger breed.

cute dog

Australian Shepherds come from Australia. No wait, Austria. No wait, somewhere in the middle of Spain and France in the Pyrenees Mountains region. Indeed the latter is correct. The breed’s name is a derivation of the Basque sheepherders who came to America from Australia in the 1800’s. Many of these shepherds actually came from Australia. Nicknamed the ‘Aussie’, this herding breed thrives on attention and is up for a challenge. Though they can be reserved in personality at first, this driven breed exhibits excellent guarding instincts and a high energy drive.

Their origins run deep
Their origins run deep

Pit Bull: Arguably one of the most controversial and misunderstood breeds, the ‘pit bull’ is not an official breed. Instead, 3 types of dogs are commonly and mistakenly referred to as ‘pit bull:’ the AmStaff (American Staffordshire Terrier), American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Considered part of the terrier and mastiff families, the American Staffordshire Terrier hails from the Staffordshire region of England.  Efforts from groups like Rescue Ink and the Stubby Dog Foundation are working to change the stigmas often associated with these terriers. Little lovers, eternal companions, and perfect family pets are but a few of the descriptions ‘bullie’ aficionados use to describe their canine companions.


Chihuahua: As the spokes-dog for a taco chain, is it any surprise the Chihuahua hails from Mexico? More specifically, the Mexican state of Chihuahua, or so it is believed. Some experts argue this mighty mini’s roots trace back to artwork on ancient walls.  Their colors run the gamut of the spectrum: everything from black and tan to fawn or sand and sable or steel blue. Other ‘chi’ experts claim the Aztec and Toltects tribes associated with smaller breeds, so perhaps this diminutive doggy had its place amongst them. First registered with the AKC in 1904, the Chihuahua is part of the toy group and has a loyal following of fans.


American Cocker Spaniel: With American as part of its breed name, certainly this wigglebutt with a merry disposition hails from the United States, correct? Incorrecto, senors and senoritas. The cocker spaniel is believed to have originated in Spain. Writer William Chaucer (Canterbury Tales) used the term ‘spanyel’ in his writings of the year 1340. Today, millions adore this breed whose eyes of melted chocolate plead for treats and playtime. The name cocker stems from the word ‘woodcock,’ a type of bird the breed flushed out of fields. No more famous a cocker exists than the red beauty Lady from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp film.


Japanese Chin: Japan or China? One of the great dog breed origin debates exists in the Japanese Chin world. Some says the breed made its first appearance in Japan in 732 while other contest it hails of Chinese origin. Originally called the Japanese Spaniel, the AKC officially changed the name in 1977. As part of the toy family, these thick-coated energetic pooches descend from lap dog royalty; in fact, emperors of the Orient are believed to have carried them in their overflowing sleeves. Gentle and affection, this little dog packs a mighty legion of devotees.


Jack Russell Terrier: The Russell region of England? Perhaps the Jack Russell section of a Scottish village? Neither: The Jack Russell Terrier, whose name was changed to Parson Russell Terrier, was named for a clergyman. It is believed the one of the Parson’s favorite breeds with which he bred the line was the Fox Terrier. The official website of the American Kennel Club notes that after Parson Russell’s passing, bloodlines were crossed with the Welsh Corgi and other terrier breeds. The lineage lives on in the energetic, intelligent breed who catapulted to stardom after ‘Eddie’ on the sitcom Frasier put the breed into the spotlight.

Terriers are the most winning group in all of Westminster Kennel Club history.

 What breed(s) are your favorite? We love them all, including the All-American Dog, the mutt!




  1. Lara Elizabeth says

    I will forever hold a place in my heart for Norwegian Elkhounds, which I knew nothing about until adopting my beloved Freya, but there are so many breeds I love, usually the ones which make up my own mutts. (Currently crushing on Border Collies and Jack Russells 🙂 I tend to favor the herding breeds in general.

  2. Liz says

    I love all of them but beagles hold a special place in my heart, with the lab a close second. Beagles are so inquisitive, they make me laugh.

  3. 2 Brown Dawgs says

    Since the Labrador is descended from the St. John’s Water Dog (lesser Newfoundland) as are so many of the modern retriever breeds, I wish those dogs were still around.

  4. Carl Williams says

    I think the Poodles are the cutest. I didn’t know that they were from Germany though, I always thought they’re from France. When I was young I always confuse their name to “puddle”, turns out it their name was derived from a similar word in German. I learned a lot about Poodles in this post, Thanks!

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