Ten Rare Dog Breeds You May See at a Dog Show - The Trupanion Blog
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Ten Rare Dog Breeds You May See at a Dog Show

Read on to learn more about the rare dog breeds you may see at a dog show.

From A to X, the American Kennel Club maintains a list of low entry, low registration breeds, many of which are in grave danger of becoming extinct in our lifetimes. Preservation breeders are working to save these rare, endangered breeds, many of which you may only ever see at a dog show. Listed below are just ten rare dog breeds of the nearly 100 breeds AKC includes on this list.

Rare dog breeds


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Often called “monkey dogs” for their inquisitive and mischievous expression, Affenpinschers hail from Germany and are believed to date back to the 1600s. The “shaggy but neat” outline of the Affenpinscher is a challenge to create and maintain. The coat doesn’t grow quickly. It’s easy to get carried away with grooming the coat, which is hand-stripped for the show ring, and be left with not enough furnishings.

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 148 of 196
  • Height: 9-11.5 inches
  • Weight: 7-10 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years


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The Azawakh are long-legged and aloof hounds that first arrived in the US in 1988. With only an estimated 150 dogs in the States and less than 3,000 worldwide, Azawakh fall into the category of “threatened” breed populations. They hail from West Africa where they were known as the camp guardians of the nomadic Tuareg people in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Azawakhs are not the best choice for a first-time dog owner or someone who hasn’t owned a primitive breed.

  • Height: 23-29 inches
  • Weight: 33-55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years


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The water dog of France, Barbet are a rustic breed that appears in artwork as early as the 16th century. 

Experts say: “Barbet has a hair coat that always is growing and does need to be trimmed. So people with allergies, most of them do quite well with the breed, but of course, you know there’s no such thing as hypoallergenic and some people may still have problems with them. The coat itself can range from a wavy coat to a very tight curl … each coat probably has its own challenges to live with but no matter what it’s a high maintenance coat. Keeping it combed through to the skin and all the dead hair pulled out is a constant job. I think this is one of the things that are super important for pet owners to understand … this is not a breed that gets to be just ignored. You have to trim and you have to comb it out all the way to the skin.” -Judy Descutner, Hickory Tavern Farms Barbet

  • Height: 19-24.5 inches
  • Weight: 35-65 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

4.Bedlington Terrier

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Experts say: “We have a saying in our breed that they have ‘the head of a lamb and the heart of a lion.’ They were bred to course above the ground as well as go under the ground like your typical terriers,” says podcast guest Laurie Friesen.

Bedlington owners consider them the dog world’s best kept secret. They are hypoallergenic and don’t shed.

“They are rambunctious enough to still be active with a family with young kids. They’re extremely active when you want them to be like if you’re going on a five-mile hike they’re game to tag along. But if you want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day, they are also cool to just hang out with you. They’re a very versatile dog that really fits a lot of different households,” states podcast guest Gaby Gilbeau.

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 141 of 196
  • Height: 15-17.5 inches
  • Weight: 17-23 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 11-16 years

5.German Pinscher

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German Pinschers date back to the 1800s. This family farm dog was the foundation for Doberman Pinschers and Minature Pinschers. Also, they’ve split off as the “smooth coat” variety of the dogs that became the Standard Schnauzer. In fact, in Germany to this day, the Pinscher Schnauzer club remains united.

Like so many other purebred dogs, the German Pinscher was salvaged after the devastation of WWII. Werner Jung, the breed warden, smuggled a GP female out of East Germany and mated her with an oversized Miniature Pinschers to establish the modern breed.

Energetic, watchful, alert, agile, fearless, determined, intelligent, and loyalthe German Pinscher has the prerequisites to be an excellent watchdog and companion.

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 134 of 196
  • Height: 17-20 inches
  • Weight: 25-45 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years


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According to breed experts, there are Fewer than 300 Harriers in total registered in the United States. Also, just two litters were whelped nationwide in 2017.

“There are probably more tigers in the U.S. than Harriers,” said Donna Smiley, the only Master of Harriers in the country.

One of the first five breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, records of Harrier packs in England date back to 1100 AD. Further, Harriers are believed to predate both Beagles and Foxhounds in England.

They were bred to hunt hare, which was one of three “appropriate” quarry, along with boar, and a stag for royalty to hunt. Foxhunting is a more recent tradition.

According to one fancier Kristi Bowers, “If Harriers went to college, they’d study engineering.”

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 189 of 196
  • Height: 19-21 inches
  • Weight: 45-60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years


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The Lowchen is a non-shedding, healthy, active “best-kept secret” little lion dog. With depictions dating to the 1400s in Germany, Lowchen see only 80 dogs total registered annually in the U.S.

In 2015, only 18 litters of Lowchen were whelped in the US, with an average litter size of only three puppies. On its current path, the club estimates Lowchen could become extinct by 2044.

The breed was developed in Germany. One legend has it, “that if a knight was killed in battle, they put a lion on his tombstone. If he died at home, they’d put a Löwchen on the tombstone, “ says Rodriguez

The breed was rumored to be a favorite of the ladies of European royalty because the dogs would attract fleas and keep them off the people.

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 168 of 196
  • Height: 11-13 inches
  • Weight: 10-15 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 15+ years

8.Pyrenean Shepherd 

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The Pyrenean Shepherd is an endangered herding breed from the Pyrenees mountains of France. The dogs accompanied the Great Pyrenees guarding the flocks that moved between the isolated and remote regions of the mountains and valleys.

Experts say: “They have a mischievous, funny sense of humor and a really cute little face, but this is a working dog. It should not just be a pretty face. Because of their job, the breed is just hardwired to see the world as a friend or foe. There’s not a lot of grey area for them.” – podcast guest Joni McKeown

The coat is described as half way between sheep and goat hair. It has a very coarse texture.

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 181 of 196
  • Height: 15-20 inches
  • Weight: 15-30 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: Late teens

9.Clumber Spaniel

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Shedding, snoring, and slobbering aside, fanciers agree that the dedication and humor of the Clumber Spaniel are what endears them to their owners.

With only an estimated 3,000 dogs in the U.S., the breeders strongly recommend prospective owners go to a national specialty as well as meeting dogs in their home environments, so they can experience “love mauling” in person.

A very old flushing spaniel named for Clumber Park in Sherwood Forest in England, the breed was developed to push through low hedges in search of game. They remain a determined and methodical hunting dog that works close to the hunter. 

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 143 of 196
  • Height: 18-20 inches (male), 17-19 inches (female)
  • Weight: 70-85 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10-12 years


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The Xolo is one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds, with statues identical to the hairless variety dating back over 3,000 years. These clay and ceramic effigies have been found in tombs of the Mayan, Colima, and Aztec Indians. The Aztecs deeply revered the Xolo and believed the breed to have mystical healing abilities. Columbus even mentioned encountering strange hairless dogs in his 1492 New World journals.

Xolos are recognized in three sizes and two coats. The Xoloitzcuintli was actually first registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) from 1887 to 1959 as the “Mexican Hairless” breed, but was dropped due to insufficient numbers of dogs being bred and registered.

Experts say: “Puppy skin is soft. They break out, so they get like little pimples and then they outgrow it. Each dog feels different but they’re very smooth, almost like a chamois. I mean just a very, very smooth. It feels like fine leather.” 

  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 140 of 196
  • Height: 10-14 inches (toy), 14-18 inches (miniature), 18-23 inches (standard)
  • Weight: 10-15 pounds (toy), 15-30 pounds (miniature), 30-55 pounds (standard)
  • Life Expectancy: 13-18 years

Guest writer and podcast host Laura Reeves of Pure Dog Talk chats ten rare dog breeds you may catch at a dog show.

For more on dog breeds, read What to Look for When Buying a Puppy from a Breeder

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