9 Rare Dog Breeds You’ve Never Heard of Before



Glen of Imaal Terrier



An unheard of breed originating in county Wicklow, Ireland! Originally, they were used as badger hunters, and – curiously – as a ‘turnspit’ in a kitchen… running small hamster style wheels to keep a meat spit turning. They’re smart too! Though, they are a typical terrier in the fact they’re not always that friendly with other dogs.

They’re a sturdy, scruffy little breed that definitely enjoy their work. They’re suspected to come from similar heritage to the Kerry Blue, Wheaten and Irish terriers.




These lean and muscular hunting dogs were bred to track small animals in the West African countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, notes Highland Canine, though they also traveled with and guarded a number of nomadic people. Because of this, azawakhs become very attached to their humans . This breed is grace and loyalty at its finest.


Kai Ken

One of the six Japanese breeds – but definitely one of the lesser-known! The Kai Ken comes in three brindle varieties – black brindle, brindle and red brindle – or if you take the direct translations from Japanese (which is so damn cute!) Black Tiger, Middle Tiger and Red Tiger respectively!

They’re a middle size between the Shiba Inu & the Akita Inu – and were used for a multipurpose hunter which is where their brindle colouring really benefited them as they blend wonderfully into a Japanese forest.

Kai Ken are considered rare even in Japan – and like most of their Japanese originating breed buddies, they are exceptionally clean by nature, somewhat aloof, but unerringly loyal. Though, their high prey drive is an accepted quality that can make them tough to the owner. I have to say? I love the Japanese breeds as a whole, (not just because Indie is a little bit Akita Inu) and think they’re very undervalued! I’d love to see more of them, personally. These dogs, nicknamed Tiger Dogs in Japan, definitely deserve a little more love.


American & English Foxhounds


These two relatives were some of the least popular breeds recorded by the AKC in recent years. It’s not to say that they don’t make great family dogs; they just need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to keep themselves out of trouble. After all, these breeds were meant to run, hunt, and sound the alarm, so it would be unfair not to expect barking, baying, and a pretty strong prey drive. These gorgeous breeds certainly are not for everyone.

Did any of these rare dog breeds surprise you? Whether short and stubby or long and lean, there’s no one trait that makes any breed more or less popular than others. Difficult histories are usually responsible for their smaller populations, but a few dedicated advocates may be all a breed needs to get back on track.


Pyrenean Mastiff

There is a difference between these and the Great Pyrenees and different to a pyrenean shepherd. For one, these gentle giants have had zero, yes, zero registered puppies in the UK in the last 18 months… that’s sad! These dogs have been in a very slow incline since the 1970s when 100 were found, narrowed to the 30 closest to the breed standard and bred once more by some passionate enthusiasts.

But these working dogs are a 3000-year-old breed – astonishing! They have a deep history in Europe (surprisingly) and were once used to fend of wolves, bears and people from their flock – impressive! But it does explain their size when some of them have been known to reach over 100kg – definitely not a small commitment – but an adorable floofy one!




As another African sighthound breed, sloughis are found mostly in Morocco and Northern Africa. In the United States, though, they’re the third-least popular breed based on breed registration . Unlike some hunting dogs, these pups are just as gentle as they are motivated to work. Some can even be shy!



A curly coated hungarian farm dog! This tenacious little herder is resilient despite its petite stature, athletic and agile, they are known to herd cattle as well as sheep – which is pretty impressive! As a breed, they were finally recognised as their own breed in 1936 and are mostly still found in their home country of Hungary. They almost disappeared (like so many others on this list!) through the second world war. Repopulation began in the 60’s.

Did you know, they’re the only herding breed that shows the Merle colouration in a healthy dog – as well as white colouration. Curious, huh?



I think you’d be very much forgiven in thinking these regal looking animals are actually a labrador crossed with a bernese mountain dog (who are likely more common, in the UK at least!) but they’re not! Nor are the blonde ones a Golden Retriever! Or the black ones a flatcoat.

These fabulous looking dogs are livestock guardians, bred to work and guard. They’re also incredibly sensitive dogs, and it makes them wonderfully adapted to work as therapy dogs. Dog only knows, but if I were down? Their fluffy faces would definitely bring a smile to my face!

They originate from a cross between Leonbergers, Newfoundlands and German Shepherds! Can you see it? I think they’re gorgeous! And am stunned why only 31 of these gorgeous dogs were registered by the Kennel Club in 2019! Astonishing, huh?


Norwegian Lundehund

This northern breed is special for a few reasons. They were bred—likely around the time of the Vikings—to hunt puffins off the coast of Scandinavia, which isn’t a history many dogs can boast. This breed also has six toes on each foot instead of five, notes Highland Canine. This can help them navigate a variety of terrains in the wild, though it may help them get into trouble at home, too.