Want a rare dog that stands paws apart from the other dogs at the dog park? Well, we have some adorable and unique dog breeds you’ll go barking mad over. Fair warning—you may have to wait before you get one. Some of these unique dog breeds may be hard to come by.
. Lagotto Romagnolo
Curly-haired, Italian dog breeds are so darn cute and cuddly, and the Lagotto Romagnolo is no exception. “Their name means ‘water dog’ in Italian, but they are commonly called ‘truffle dogs’ because they are used to hunt for truffles,” explains Catherine Lenox, DVM, a regulatory veterinary manager at Royal Canin. In fact, the Lagotta Romagnolo is the only purebred in the world recognized as a specialized truffle searcher. Truffle hunters or not, they are warm and friendly companions.
You can see why this unique dog is nicknamed the “Arabian Greyhound” as the resemblance is uncanny—they are one of the fastest dog breeds in existence. “Originally from North Africa where they were bred to hunt game such as gazelles, Sloughi make somewhat reserved pets and may require some extra socialization to warm up around strangers,” says Dr. Lenox. Yet, they form a closely-knit bond with their person or family. Because of their hunting genes, they might not make the best roommates with smaller animals and birds unless introduced to them at an early age.
. Kai Kens
We can’t get enough of the super cute Japanese dog breeds, including the Kai Ken. Their show-stopping, striking brindle coat is uniquely beautiful. “Nicknamed ‘Tora Dog’ (“tora” is Japanese for “tiger”), this breed is athletic—the Kai Ken tends to be a good swimmer and climber,” says Dr. Lenox. They are exceptionally clever and devoted to their family. As one of the six native Japanese breeds, they are one of the rarest dogs in the world. The Kai Ken became a designated national treasure of Japan in 1934 and is protected by law.
. English foxhounds
Many rare dog breeds come from across the pond, such as the English foxhound, bred in England. “They are used for fox hunting and tend to be much stockier than their American counterparts. The conformation of the English foxhound hasn’t changed much since they were first bred, around the 1700s,” says Dr. Lennox. As a pack-mentality type of dog, they are most happy around other dogs, people (including children), yet rarely seen as house pets, the AKC says.
. Australian Kelpie
When it comes to herding sheep, the Australian Kelpie is the blue-chip candidate for rounding up the herd, whether the herd consists of sheep, other dogs, or kids. It’s outgoing and friendly, but also a workaholic and brainiac that requires loads of exercise and mental stimulation. For that reason, the Kelpie isn’t a breed for a first-time dog parent or a family with young children, which may partly explain why it’s so rare. While the origin of the Kelpie is disputed, these Australian dog breeds are 100 percent Aussies.
. Bavarian mountain scent hound
The Bavarian mountain scent hound, a German breed with superior tracking ability, can differentiate between a wounded animal it is hunting and other animals of the same species. The BMSH needs lots of space to roam and expend their energy. They’re not keen on spending time away from family in a kennel. “They are calm and devoted to their families, but they need an experienced owner,” says Mary Burch, PhD, an animal behaviorist with the AKC Family Dog Program.
. Estrela mountain dog
The Estrela mountain dog is one of the oldest breeds in Portugal and one of the biggest dog breeds in the world. Unique dog breeds often make the best companions, and the Estrela is no exception. “Much like the Leonberger, this is a big and sturdy dog with a warm personality,” says Mari-Beth O’Neill, vice president of AKC Sports Services. “You do not see dogs like this every day. If you are looking for a dog that is a protector and a playmate, this is it.”
. Thai Ridgeback
It would be incredibly rare to see a Thai Ridgeback outside of Thailand. You might mistake a Rhodesian Ridgeback for one, as both have the trademark ridge of hair on their back that grows in the opposite direction of their coat. Thai Ridgebacks are faithful companions and exhibited their devotion to family back in the day by keeping cobras away from their humans, and killing the dangerous snake if necessary. “While Thai Ridgebacks can be loyal pets, they are independent and protective and are not the best choice for the first-time dog owner,” says Burch.
. Norwegian Lundehund
The Norwegian Lundehund was the one-and-only dog breed created to hunt puffins, yes, puffins. “Now that puffins are an environmentally protected species, Norwegian Lundehunds have become loyal family dogs that usually have six toes on each foot instead of the usual four,” says Dr. Lenox. They might not need their extra toes for scaling rocky coastlines anymore, but they could prove useful in agility courses. Lundehund’s are an easy-to-live-with breed, as long as their day is full of activities to expend their boundless energy.