Check out the most ancient dog breeds that still exist today! This top 10 list of amazing rare dogs explains the history of dogs, starting with some of the oldest dogs that were kept as pets thousands of years ago!
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10. Chinese Shar-Pei
The Chinese Shar-Pei are thought to have originated in Tai Lin, China, and are easily recognized by their deep set wrinkles and bluish-black tongue. They were named in 1978, as one of the world’s rarest dog species by Time magazine, and while the American Kennel Club only recognized them as their 134th confirmed breed in 1992, they are thought to be one of the oldest breeds in the world.
The first known records of Shar-Pei have been found among artefacts that date back to the Han Dynasty Period, about 220 BC, with tomb statues and clay figurines that resemble them very closely. Very little is known about China’s history with the Shar Pei from that time, but a 13th century Chinese manuscript was recently uncovered which also mentions the Shar-Pei. They were a popular breed in the region through the 18th century, but their numbers dropped in the 20th century when people chose more ferocious dogs that were being imported from the rest of the world.
Nowadays, they are making a comeback, but as is the case with many breeds of dogs they have been bred to exaggerate their features to make them more appealing. The extremely wrinkly, wide headed and deep set eye types that you may see today are a far cry from the lean, small wrinkled Shar-Pei’s that were popular in China. But it has been a couple of thousand years…
With a name meaning “dog of the bush”, the first mention of Basenjis by European travellers came in 1895 where they were found being used by locals in the Congo. They were prized for their intellect, speed, bravery and silence, and even had to wear bells so their owners knew where they were in the dense jungle. Otherwise they could just sneak up on you! Evidence suggests, though, that the breed has existed alongside humans for far longer than this- with carvings found in Egyptian tombs depicting dogs with very similar features.
Basenjis are very energetic dogs, and are one of the smallest breeds of hounds- weighing about 24 pounds when fully grown. They have excellent eyesight and a strong sense of smell, and have large ears that stand on end when alert. They are very protective with their family, but not so much towards strangers- and are often referred to as being cat-like because of their fondness of climbing to high places and self-grooming.
8. Lhasa Apso
Lhasa Apsos originated in Tibet, and are named after Lhasa, the Tibetan capital city and, unsurprisingly, their word for “bearded”. They weigh, at most, 14 pounds, and have very distinctive coats that only fully form in adulthood. My parents had one and they loved it, although it was very independent!
They are thought to have been domesticated as a pet as long ago as 800 BC, which makes it one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world- meaning it has strong genetic links with the ancestral wolf. They live for a long time, more than 20 years in some cases, and were used in Tibet as companions for monks in Buddhist monasteries and acted as sentinels that would alert the monks to any intruders.
Historically it was not possible to purchase a Lhasa Apso, you could only receive one as a gift, and they were very closely tied with religion. It was believed that their bodies could be inhabited by the souls of Lamas, the Tibetan Spiritual Master, while they awaited their rebirth. The first pair of Lhasa Apsos arrived in the U.S as a gift from Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, to an American explorer who was the first Christian to enter the Tibetan Holy City, in 1933.
7. Afghan Hound
Afghan Hounds come from the cold mountains of Afghanistan, and have developed their signature thick, flowing coats as a result. Their isolation in the mountains, and use by humans as shepherding and hunting dogs, has meant that they have a high breed purity, because there wasn’t much of an opportunity for them to encounter other types of dog.
It used to be completely prohibited to export the hounds from their home country, where they have been living with humans for a very long time. They are depicted in cave paintings in the mountains that have been dated back to more than 4000 years ago, and they can also be seen in some examples of Egyptian Papyrus.
Afghan Hounds typically grow to weigh up to 64 pounds.
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