Your Beagle, Greyhound or Yorkshire Terrier didn’t just magically appear. Their ancestors evolved to give them their unique features and characteristics, just like with all other species.
Dogs have changed over time as their skills and expertise are no longer needed, and some have even gone extinct completely.
Here are a few dog breeds which are sadly no more.
Ancestor to the Mastiff, these dogs were loved by the Romans and Greeks, and used to herd, fight and hunt. Aristotle has referenced them in many texts, writing that ‘this breed are superior to the others in size’.
2. Alpine Mastiff
The Alpine Mastiff is an ancestor of the St Bernard, and was a younger relative of the Molossus. They were mountain dogs used to herd cattle, pull carts, and keep watch.
Originally a German Bulldog, the Bullenbeisser was bred over many years, finally creating the well-known Boxer breed. Their name means ‘bull biter’, and they were known for their agility. They shared many of the same characteristics as today’s Spanish Bulldog and Dogo Argentino.
4. Cordoba Fighting Dog
The Cordoba did exactly what it says on the tin; it fought. They would always fight to the death, and had an extremely high pain thresh-hold. Due to their innate aggression towards other dogs they were used as fighting dogs, and quickly became extinct as females and males would rather fight than mate.
5. St. John’s Water Dog
These guys originated from Newfoundland, and their main export was to England where they were used to herd sheep. This breed declined due to heavy restrictions placed on imported animals coming into England after the Rabies epidemic. The last known two doggo’s of this kind were found in a remote area, and were unfortunately both males.
6. English Water Spaniel
Last seen in the 1930s, they were described as a cross between a Poodle and a Collie, and known to be exceptionally good divers. Shakespeare mentions the breed in two different plays, in Macbeth referring to them as a ‘water rug’ and in The Two Gentlemen of Verona; “She hath more qualities than a water-spaniel”.
7. Hare Indian Dog
These pooches were like a domesticated Coyote, and were used by the Hare Indians for catching their dinner. Over time, aboriginal hunting methods were no longer needed and in turn neither was the breed. They’re believed to derive from another extinct breed, the Tahltan Bear Dog.
8. Braque Du Puy
A hunting dog from France, the breed was flexible and fast. Their origin is not known but there are many great stories claiming where they come from. One tells of how two brothers with the surname Du Puy crossed a Braque Francais called ‘Miss’ with a Sloughi called ‘Zidar’.
Another story tells of a French gamekeeper to the King battling to save his dogs during the French revolution by breeding them with Braques. As the story goes, he ended up creating the new breed, and was rewarded for his valiant effort by having the new breed named after him; Du Puy.
Tesem literally translates as ‘hunting dog’ and this breed most closely resembles today’s Greyhound. One of the earliest known recordings of the Tesem is the “Khufu dog” from the tomb of King Khufu. This dog was named Akbaru, and was depicted wearing a collar. Although their nearest living descendant is the Greyhound, their skeleton is closer to the Terrier.
10. Talbot Hound
Ever wondered where Beagle gets their big floppy ears? The Talbot hound is the great-great-great-greeeeat (etc!) Grandad of the beloved Beagle. It’s believed William the Conqueror brought the breed to England in 1066, and although fairly slow, they were used as law enforcement at war, searching out escaping soldiers.
And while not quite as adorable as their grandchildren have turned out to be, they actually feature on many pub crests in the UK. Look out for them next time you go for a pint!
11. Hawaiian Poi dog
Hawaiians used this dog as a spiritual protector for their children.. or as an ingredient at dinner time!! Named after the common Hawaiian food ‘Poi’, a root which was used to fatten them up.
They were noted to be lethargic, sluggish and have flat heads, caused a weakening of muscles as a result of not needing to chew. Too lazy for hunting, and replaced by more desirable meat sources they eventually became extinct.
12. Paisley Terrier
So far in this list, we have seen mostly hunting dogs become extinct due to man’s evolution (and discovery of the supermarket). However, this little dog was bred in the 1800’s to be a show dog and a lady’s companion.
Their coat was hard to maintain, and over time their popularity waned, though not without leaving a lasting mark as the ancestors of the Yorkshire terrier.
The Chien-gris were used in the French royal pack as scent hounds. Funnily enough though, their sense of smell wasn’t actually anything special, it’s just that the Kings preferred them over St Huberts as they were larger in size. By the nineteenth century they had become virtually impossible to find, because of mixed breeding and the effect of the Revolution on French hunting.
With the invention of so many cross breeds, and the increasing popularity of fashionable sidekicks such as French Bulldogs and Dachshunds, there are plenty of British breeds which are now vulnerable. You can find these listed on The Kennel Club.