5 Extinct Dog Breeds You Didn’t Know About

News from the Natural World: 5 Extinct Dog Breeds You Didn’t Know About.

For most of us, the first question we ask a dog owner is “what breed is he/she?” 

Most of the breeds we see today all have a common ancestor – the grey wolf. How is it, then, that all these dog breeds look so strikingly different? 

The answer to that lies in domestication and breeding. Humans have been involved in the genetic selection of dog traits for 40,000 years. 

Dogs’ ancestors proved to be great companions to the nomadic man. They provided an element of security and helped him hunt, all in exchange for some scraps of food. Soon, humans began to encourage the breeding of wolves that were friendlier and less wary of humans. Finally, they eventually became their own species – the dog.

Sadly, some seem to have dwindled away – gone extinct mostly as a result of human actions.

5 Extinct Dog Breeds

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds

Why Did Some Dog Breeds Go Extinct?

It’s a little sad to consider that many of our favourite dog breeds had ancestors that once walked the Earth. Only to be remembered in natural history books today.

The thing is, humans can be selfish. We like to tailor-make everything to our preferences, needs, and wants. Even the species we consider our ‘best friends’ are no exception.

Take German Shepherds for example. You’ll notice these dogs next to armed police officers, always on guard, always ready to put up a fight. As the name suggests, they were first bred in Germany. Their main purpose was to guard and protect livestock from predators. When WW1 rolled in, they gained widespread popularity. Many were used as military attack dogs in conflicts that had nothing to do with them.

The cute pugs we see today? Those were bred to be companions to the ancient Chinese aristocracy. Unfortunately for these little dogs, human interference caused a host of health problems. The pug now suffers from a wide range of health conditions like respiratory issues, seizures, and skin problems – all so humans could have a ‘cute’ pet.

While pugs have retained their popularity for centuries, that isn’t the case with many other dogs, whose populations shrunk as they began to be considered ‘unfashionable’. 

As soon as the purpose they were bred for ceased to exist, so did their demand – within a few generations, there simply weren’t enough to continue their lineage.  Breeders would generally move on to other, more popular options, and eventually, the final dogs of these old breeds would breathe their last.

Extinct Dog Breeds You Haven’t Heard Of

It’s time we diverge our attention from popular dog breeds like Labradors, Huskies, and Daschunds to the ones that made history their resting place. Here’s a list of unique dog breeds that have been extinct for years:

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds – Paisley Terrier

Paisley Terrier

Hailing from Scotland, Paisley Terriers were truly a sight for sore eyes, with their silky, luscious fur coats. This breed ranked among the most famous dog breeds in the world at the time for being beautiful and boy, did it do a great job at that!

While they were bred for cuteness, the Paisley Terrier had a knack for killing rats, rabbits, and other mammals that caused serious harm to crops and livestock. They were a farmer’s best friend, helping them increase profits, preventing rodent-related problems and diseases, and staving off starvation.

Despite how useful they were as pets and show dogs, they fell out of favour with breeders. The Yorkshire Terrier we know now carries the lineage forward. There’s some part of the Paisley Terrier in the world alive today, after all. 

However, some claim that the birth of the Yorkshire Terrier is the reason why their ancestors went extinct. After all, they had the same silky coat as the Paisley Terrier at a smaller size, giving breeders more legroom for breeding the tiny munchkins we all love and adore.

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds – Norfolk Spaniel

Norfolk Spaniel

Some dogs are pretty, some are smart. The Norfolk Spaniel, also called Shropshire Spaniels, is a bit of both and is closely related to today’s Cocker Spaniel.

Norfolk Spaniels were medium-sized dogs. It was noted that the Norfolk Spaniel had a beautiful coat, filled with spots of red, black, or brown. Their coats required frequent brushing with a bristle brush to avoid getting their fur matted.

When properly trained and exercised, no terrain was too difficult for the Norfolk Spaniel to explore, proving their mettle by serving as excellent hunting companions. They were also adaptable and coped well in both the countryside and the city.

While this breed was well-respected for its bird-hunting skills, they were also notorious for being difficult and temperamental. Owners complained that their dogs were ill-tempered, stubborn, and whiny when they separated from them for any length of time. This difficult-to-raise attitude perhaps contributed to their decline in popularity over time.

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds – Turnspit Dog

Turnspit Dog

The Turnspit dog was an old English breed, with a reputation for being easily trained and subservient. They were small and low-bodied with a heavy head, short and crooked front legs, and drooping ears. 

The Turnspit Dog was also called the ‘Vernepator Cur’, which means ‘dog that runs the wheel’ in Latin. Turnspit dogs could cook the meat evenly over the fire by running on a wheel, which was connected to a spit over an open flame. Because they were constantly on the wheel, they were named ‘dizzy dogs’.

Roasting in an oven was looked down upon, which popularized Turnspit Dogs across large kitchens in England – eventually becoming a mainstay of popular hotels. To ensure that the dogs didn’t slack on their job, hot coal was thrown on the wheel to train the dog to run faster. When one dog was tired out, another would move in to take their shift.

With advancements in technology, humans no longer had to rely on their furry friends to roast meat. Automated spits made these dogs obsolete, and by the end of the 1800s, they began to fade out of existence.

Despite their generally rough lives, a few Turnspit dogs retired in luxury – Queen Victoria was fond of these dogs, and kept a few older specimens as pets. 

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds – Tahltan Bear Dog

Tahltan Bear Dog

If you’re thinking that the Tahltan Bear Dog was large and imposing, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Tahltan Bear Dogs were small and gentle dogs used as trackers by bear hunters – very different from the criteria usually associated with the job they performed! They were of such a small size that the North American Tahlton tribe could carry them in a pouch until they were ready to hunt.

The Tahltan Bear Dogs’ appearance closely resembled that of a fox. It had a tapered snout, a bushy and fluffed tail, and thick paws that made it easy for them to make their way in the snow. Like all cold-climate breeds, their coats needed regular brushing.

The Tahltan Bear Dogs may have hunted in packs but they didn’t attack any bears. Tahltan Bear Dogs used their agility and high-pitched voice to their advantage, surrounding and shocking the bear into submission long enough for their humans to appear and complete the job.

However, as soon as the Tahltan humans came into contact with guns, Tahltan Bear Dogs ceased to be useful to them, paving the path for their extinction.

5 Extinct Dog Breeds
5 Extinct Dog Breeds – Moscow Water Dog

Moscow Water Dog

The Moscow Water Dog was a working dog, used for hunting and protection. This breed was created by the Soviet Union’s ‘Red Star Kennels’ by combining traits from Newfoundlands, Caucasian Shepherd Dogs, and the East European Shepherds. 

Also known as Moscow Divers, the breeders aimed to create a powerful, large breed with a double coat that could withstand rough waters and frigid temperatures – the Russian Navy’s ultimate rescue dog.

While the dog was tough, it wasn’t very friendly – displaying an excessively aggressive temperament. Soon, the breed developed a reputation for biting drowning victims, instead of rescuing them!

As they were not bred in large numbers, it didn’t take long for their numbers to dwindle rapidly. They were last seen in the 1980s, and have since been replaced by the much more successful Black Russian Terrier breed.

Final Thoughts

Extinction is as real as it gets. Living in the world today, we’re constantly exposed to species and breeds disappearing from the charts due to environmental conditions and at times, due to human cruelty.  

Some of the dog species facing extinction right now are Smooth Collie, Irish Red and White Setter, and the Norwich Terrier. 

While we can’t exactly bring back the extinct dog breeds to life, we can certainly play our part in saving the ones that are endangered today.


5 Extinct Dog Breeds

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