Barking Through Time: 8 Oldest Dog Breeds & Their Origins

From the earliest days of human civilization, dogs have been our loyal companions, guardians, and hunting partners. 

But have you ever wondered which breeds can trace their lineage back to the dawn of domestication? Here’s the oldest dog breeds and their remarkable bloodlines.

1. Basenji: The Barkless Wonder of Ancient Egypt

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Believed to be one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, the Basenji has a rich history intertwined with the ancient Egyptian civilization. Genetic evidence suggests that this breed predates the emergence of modern breeds in the 1800s (ref), retaining traits from its ancestors that once herded cattle along the Nile .

Tomb paintings, inscriptions, and archaeological finds provide compelling evidence of the Basenji’s ancient roots. These dogs were revered for their cat-like grooming habits, their ability to hunt small game, and their distinctive yodel-like vocalizations, which earned them the nickname “barkless dogs.”

2. Akita Inu: The Samurai’s Loyal Companion

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Hailing from the rugged mountains of northern Japan, the Akita Inu is a breed steeped in tradition and honor. Archaeological discoveries indicate that the Matagi-Inu, the Akita’s ancestor, lived between 8,000 B.C. and 200 B.C. (ref), making it one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.

These powerful and courageous dogs were prized by Japanese samurai warriors for their unwavering loyalty and hunting prowess. The Akita Inu’s distinctive features, such as their thick double coat and bear-like appearance, were well-suited for the harsh climate and demanding tasks they faced.

3. Greenland Sled Dog: Survivors of the Arctic Tundra

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Recent research has shed light on the remarkable ancestry of the Greenland Sled Dog (ref), a breed that has endured the harsh conditions of the Arctic for millennia. Genetic analysis of 9,500-year-old remains found on the remote island of Zhokhov off the coast of Siberia suggests that this breed may be even older than previously thought .

These resilient dogs were essential for the survival of indigenous communities, serving as reliable transportation and hunting companions in the unforgiving Arctic tundra. Their thick double coats, powerful builds, and endurance made them well-equipped to navigate the treacherous terrain and extreme temperatures.

4. Afghan Hound: The Aristocratic Hunter of Ancient Lands

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With a distinctive appearance that has changed little over the centuries, the Afghan Hound is a breed that can trace its roots back to ancient times. Archaeological evidence suggests that these elegant dogs have been around for at least 8,000 years, making them one of the oldest breeds in the world .

Originally bred for hunting in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound’s slender build, long silky coat, and exceptional speed made them formidable hunters of hares and other small prey. Their regal demeanor and striking appearance have earned them a reputation as the “aristocrats” of the canine world.

5. Greyhound: The Graceful Sprinters of Ancient Egypt

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The Greyhound is a breed that has captured the imagination of humans for millennia, with depictions of these sleek and graceful dogs appearing in art from Egypt and Western Asia dating back 3,000 to 4,000 years ago .

These swift and agile hunters were prized for their ability to chase down gazelles and other fleet-footed prey across the vast deserts and plains. Their streamlined bodies, powerful hindquarters, and keen eyesight made them well-suited for the 

6. The Chow Chow: A Chinese Original

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The Chow Chow breed originated in China and is said to date back to the Han era (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) . It has quite a lot of genetic similarities to the wolf, which by simple deduction, would put them nearer to the ancient doggy ancestors .

Chow Chows are known for their distinctive blue-black tongues and their thick, fluffy coats. They are independent and reserved dogs, often described as cat-like in their behavior. Chow Chows require regular grooming to maintain their luxurious coats and can be protective of their families 

7. The Shar Pei: A Wrinkled Warrior

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The Shar Pei is an ancient dog breed that has a rich history dating back to around 200 B.C. in China. Originally bred for hunting and guarding purposes, these dogs were highly valued for their protective instincts and loyalty.

Shar Peis are known for their distinctive wrinkled skin and their blue-black tongues, which they share with the Chow Chow. They are intelligent and independent dogs, with a strong protective instinct. Shar Peis require regular grooming to maintain their short, rough coats and can be prone to skin issues due to their wrinkles.

8. The Shiba Inu: A Japanese Treasure

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The Shiba, an old Japanese breed, is a small yet well-muscled dog that was previously used as a hunter . The energetic, good-natured Shiba has become one of Japan’s most popular companion dogs.

Shiba Inus are known for their fox-like appearance and their independent nature. They are intelligent and curious dogs, with a strong prey drive. Shibas require regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy and can be prone to boredom if left alone for too long .

Preserving the Living Links to Our Past

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These dog breeds are more than just fascinating relics of history; they are living embodiments of the enduring bond between humans and their canine companions. By preserving and celebrating these ancient bloodlines, we honor the shared journey that has shaped our societies and cultures for thousands of years.

For in their unwavering loyalty, resilience, and companionship, we find a timeless reminder of the profound connection that transcends the boundaries of species and time.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.