20 Rare Dog Breeds

Erica Vasquez

Erica Vasquez

. Reviewed by Hannah Hart, DVM
Updated Jun. 16, 2024
red finnish spitz standing on a log in the woods

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Think of a dog, and you’ll probably picture one of the most popular breeds: a French Bulldog, a Golden Retriever, or a German Shepherd. While these popular pups often take the spotlight, lesser-known breeds often boast fascinating histories, distinct physical features, and unique temperaments that set them apart from more common canine companions.

From charming toy breeds with centuries-old origins to big working dogs with specialized skills, rare dog breeds offer a glimpse into the diverse world of man’s best friend. Here are some of the rarest dogs in the U.S. 

1. Sloughi

tan sloughi dog walking through green grass
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The Sloughi, or Arabian Greyhound, is a striking breed originating from North Africa, where the dogs are prized for their speed, agility, and grace. Historically used for hunting in the desert, they have a sleek, athletic build and a short, smooth coat that comes in various colors.

Today, Sloughis remain relatively rare outside of their native region, with only a few hundred registered in the U.S.

2. English Foxhound

tricolor english foxhound standing on pavement
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Originating from England, the English Foxhound is known for exceptional hunting abilities, a keen sense of smell, and a sturdy build. While historically bred for fox hunting, this large, rare dog breed possesses a gentle and sociable nature, making them suitable companions with proper training and socialization.

3. Norwegian Lundehund

white and tan norwegian lundehund dog standing in grass
Photo by Adobe Stock/Radomir Rezny

The Norwegian Lundehund is a rare dog breed from Norway that’s specifically bred for hunting puffins in rugged coastal terrain.

The breed’s most striking features include polydactylism (having more toes than most dogs) and an incredibly flexible neck. Both of these traits allow Lundehunds to navigate tight spaces with ease in search of prey. Lundehunds can also wiggle, fold, and close their ears to prevent dirt and water from getting into their ear canals.

4. Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

close-up of a grand basset griffon vendeen with sand in his beard
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Hailing from France’s Vendée region, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV) is a rare dog breed prized for an impressive hunting prowess and a charming demeanor. Sporting a shaggy coat and droopy ears, this medium-sized hound excels in hunting small game through rugged terrain.

Prospective pet parents should be aware of the GBGV’s strong prey drive and independent nature, traits that make the breed best suited for experienced pet parents. And while the breed is rare outside of France, GBGVs are cherished for their friendly nature.

5. Azawakh

red and white azawakh dog running an agility course
Photo by Adobe Stock/Aleksandr Tarlokov

The Azawakh is a distinguished dog breed from West Africa. With their lean physique and long legs, they excel in coursing and agility competitions. Their short coat sheds less than many other breeds and doesn’t require much grooming upkeep. However, their strong prey drive may not suit households with small animals.

6. Belgian Laekenois

curly-coated belgian laekenois dog lying down in grass with his tongue hanging out
Photo by Adobe Stock/Dogs

A large rare dog breed, the Belgian Laekenois is related to Belgian Sheepdogs, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervuren. Like their cousins, the Laekenois originated in Belgium, where they were used as working dogs to herd and guard livestock.

Laekenois are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and highly energetic nature. They need a family to provide lots of activity and mental stimulation.

7. Finnish Spitz

red finnish spitz on a hike
Photo by Adobe Stock/rodimovpavel

Friendly, alert, and playful, the Finnish Spitz is one of the cutest rare dog breeds, known for having a foxlike appearance, golden-red coat, and distinctive yodel-like bark used in hunting. Originating from Finland, this breed is independent and intelligent, requiring early and consistent training with positive reinforcement.

This breed is highly energetic, so early socialization and regular exercise are crucial. While common in Finland, the Finnish Spitz is rare globally due to limited breeding.

8. Polish Lowland Sheepdog

close-up of a scruffy black and white polish lowland sheepdog looking over a fence
Photo by Adobe Stock/KawaiiS

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a rare herding breed from Poland, known for their shaggy coat and robust build. Intelligent, lively, and confident, Polish Lowland Sheepdogs can make excellent family dogs and do well with children.

But their thick coat needs lots of grooming, so pet parents need to dedicate time throughout the week to brush out their dog’s fur and prevent matting.

9. Cesky Terrier

gray cesky terrier with long head hair looking up nervously
Photo by Adobe Stock/sue

The Cesky Terrier was first bred by crossing a Scottish Terrier and a Sealyham Terrier to create a versatile hunting dog. As the only American Kennel Club–registered dog breed from the Czech Republic, the Cesky is a sturdy and small rare dog breed with a long, silky coat in shades of gray, complete with a distinguished beard and eyebrows.

10. Canaan Dog

black and white canaan dog standing up
Photo courtesy of the Canaan Dog Club of America

Canaan Dogs are known for their intelligence and independence, and this rare dog breed does best with experienced pet parents who dedicate themselves to training. Socialization is also a must, as Canaan Dogs can be reserved around strangers at first.

While training and socialization are a lifelong commitment to this rare dog, their grooming needs are minimal thanks to their dense but short coat.

11. Harrier

close-up of a brown and white harrier dog
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Smaller than an English Foxhound but bigger than a Beagle, Harriers are versatile scent hounds known for their friendly nature and hunting abilities.

Harriers are energetic dogs who require regular exercise and mental stimulation to thrive, and some of their favorite activities include tracking, agility, hunting, and going on scent walks.

12. Otterhound

otterhound lying down in front of a fence
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A shaggy coat, webbed feet, and an exceptional sense of smell are what Otterhounds are known for. This rare dog breed originated in 1100s England, where they were historically used to hunt otters.

Their affectionate nature makes Otterhounds well-suited for families, and they enjoy joining their humans for activities like hiking and swimming. Potential pet parents should be prepared to provide regular exercise, grooming, and training to keep these active and friendly dogs happy and healthy.

13. Bergamasco Shepherd

brown bergamasco shepherd dog with cords standing in grass with his tongue out
Photo by Adobe Stock/slowmotiongli

Hailing from the Italian Alps is a rare dog breed known for having a unique coat made of felt-like mats called “flocks”: the Bergamasco Shepherd.

The Bergamasco is an intelligent and loyal dog with a strong herding instinct and a calm demeanor, making them an excellent companion. Despite this rare dog’s eye-catching coat, Bergamasco Shepherds require minimal grooming. Like all dogs, training and exercise are important to keep these devoted dogs happy and healthy.

14. Pyrenean Shepherd

longhaired pyrenean shepherd sitting on a rock
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Pyrenean Shepherds are versatile herding dogs beloved for their intelligence and loyalty. The French breed historically worked alongside Great Pyrenees to herd and watch over flocks of sheep. They are also known by their French name, Berger des Pyrénées.

This rare dog breed sports a high energy level coupled with strong herding instincts, so Pyrenean Shepherds need consistent training and an outlet for their drive.

15. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

small dandie dinmont terrier on a walk looking up at this pet parent
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The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a charming Scottish breed known for their unique appearance and spirited personality. Named after a fictional character from a Sir Walter Scott novel, these terriers have a long, low body and a soft, silky coat with a signature top-knot of hair on their head.

This small, rare dog breed is affectionate and loyal, but they can also be strong-willed and require patient and consistent training. While somewhat low-energy compared to other terriers, they still need regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. 

16. Skye Terrier

black longhaired skye terrier standing in grass
Photo by Adobe Stock/slowmotiongli

Another breed from Scotland, the Skye Terrier also has a long and low-to-the-ground build with a thick double coat that needs frequent grooming. Skye Terriers are dogs of “style, elegance, and dignity,” according to the breed standard, accentuated by a fall of hair over their eyes.

Along with their long locks, this rare dog is known for loyalty. In Edinburgh, Scotland, a statue commemorates a Skye Terrier named Greyfriars Bobby, who gained fame by guarding his pet parent’s grave for over a decade in the 1800s.

17. Cirneco dell’Etna

red cirneco dell'etna dog walking toward water on the beach
Photo by Adobe Stock/DragoNika

With roots in Sicily, the Cirneco dell’Etna is an ancient and rare dog breed known for their sleek build and large, erect ears. Cirnecos are intelligent, independent, and affectionate, with strong hunting instincts. While relatively rare outside of Italy, enthusiasts value these dogs for their unique characteristics and hunting abilities, and there are ongoing efforts to preserve the breed. 

18. Entlebucher Mountain Dog

entlebucher mountain dog sitting in autumn grass
Photo by Adobe Stock/Alexander

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog, originating from Switzerland’s Entlebuch region, is a versatile and rare dog breed recognized for their tri-color coat and strong work ethic.

With a muscular build and a loyal nature, these medium-sized dogs are valued for their intelligence and herding instincts. Regular exercise, training, and companionship are essential to keep these active and intelligent dogs happy and healthy.

19. American Foxhound

tricolor american foxhound standing and looking at the camera with his head tilted
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Originating from the U.S. as a hunting dog is the American Foxhound. This rare dog is prized for their keen sense of smell and athletic prowess. With a friendly and sociable temperament, American Foxhounds also make loyal companions off the hunting field.

While they require regular exercise to maintain their high energy levels, their short, dense coat is low-maintenance and requires minimal grooming. American Foxhounds do tend to bay and howl, so it’s important to understand and account for their noise level.

20. Plott Hound

brindle plott hound standing in front of a river
Photo by Adobe Stock/Melissa

Another breed with U.S. origins is the Plott Hound, the official state dog of North Carolina. With a muscular build and distinctive brindle coat, these dogs excel in tracking game. And while Plotts are loyal and devoted to their family, they also possess a strong prey drive and are independent thinkers, so patience during training is a must.

Erica Vasquez


Erica Vasquez

Freelance Writer

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