All throughout history specific dog breeds all served a certain purpose and function. They worked on farms, as gun dogs, water dogs and so on. The Kennel Club, the oldest recognised kennel club in the world, categorises breeds of dogs into 7 distinct groups, known as The Kennel Club Groups. As of 2011, The Kennel Club recognises 211 different breeds of dog. Whilst the breeds listed in each group may appear to be varied with very little in common, they are characterised together because they were all bred for the same specific purpose. Read more
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The gundog is a type of hunting dog used mainly to hunt birds in a variety of locations and were bred to help hunters find and retrieve game. Gundogs can be separated into three categories, depending on the dog’s hunting style. Pointing breeds were used to direct a hunter to their prey. The dogs would either ‘point’ with their noses or ‘set’ – freeze in place, to indicate to their owners that hunted game was nearby. And so, the names ‘Pointer’ and ‘Setter’ were used! Flushing dogs were trained to flush out birds and other animals from their hiding spots, making it easier for their owners to shoot or capture them. Many spaniels, like the Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel are very popular flushing dogs. It’s easy to guess what Retrieving dogs do! Retrievers were trained to collect prey and return it without damage to their owners. Types of retrievers are famous for having ‘soft mouths’ because of this!
Hounds are very similar to gundogs but were actually the first hunting dogs. Hounds have a powerful sense of smell, which help them sniff out and track down whatever they are hunting. Some breeds of hound are also characterised by their speed. There are three distinct types of hound, with several different breeds within each subgroup. Sighthounds or gazehounds are dogs that use their fast speed for hunting and keep their prey in sight, whilst chasing them down. Some of the most popular breeds of sighthound are Greyhounds, Salukis and Irish Wolfhounds. Sighthounds are predominantly used in hunting foxes, deer and hares.
Scenthounds, as their name suggests, have some of the most sensitive noses amongst dog breeds. Unlike sighthounds, they are not known for their speed but they make up for it in stamina. Scenthounds, such as the Beagle, Foxhound and Basset Hound, are well-known for using their amazing noses to sniff out prey or even lost people. Many scenthounds even have jobs as sniffer dogs!
The last group of hounds are difficult to classify because they use both their sense of sight and smell when tracking.
Pastoral dogs were originally kept for working with cattle, sheep and other livestock, and were used to help herd and manage them. Because these dogs were hard-working and reliable they were ideally suited for a life of intensive work. Unsurprisingly, a lot of dogs in this breed group are called Shepherds or Sheepdogs, for example German Shepherds and Old English Sheepdogs! However not every dog in the pastoral breed group are large breeds, with more compact breeds like the Corgi, Lancashire Heeler and Shelties also being traditional dogs for herding!
This group of breeds is easy to identify! The terrier is typically a small breed that is a bit of a live spark! Terriers were originally kept to hunt small animals, such as mice, rats, rabbits and even weasels. Some were even bred to be small enough to fit down holes in order to catch their prey or scare them out. Just like pastoral breeds, some terriers are still kept as working dogs today and are used to keep their homes free from any vermin.
These dogs are not similar breeds, but instead they serve as companions tot their owners. Toy breeds are usually the very smallest dogs and some were originally ancient lap dog breeds or smaller versions of hunting dogs or terriers. These minute breeds are full of character and range from the fluffy Bichon Frise, to the elegant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or the most classic of the toy breeds, the adorable Chihuahua!
There are as many types of work for dogs as there are types of dogs. Lap dogs may work as therapy dogs, herding dogs may work livestock, and guard dogs may work at defence of people or property. Most dogs today are kept as pets rather than for any particular work. This group is for dog’s that are still used as working dogs, but in areas other than hunting or herding. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes work as sled dogs, which is why they are bursting with energy and love nothing more than a good run! Other muscular or large dogs, like the Dobermann, Mastiff or Rottweiler still work as popular guard dogs today. And, of course, the iconic St. Bernard is famous for alpine rescues!
Dogs in the utility group tend to not fit into other group’s definitions. For example, the Shih Tzu would be perfectly suited in the Toy Group, but it is considered too large! Other dogs are placed in this group because they are no longer used for what they were originally bred for. Dalmatians, with their long legs and speed, were meant to run alongside horse-drawn coaches! Bulldog’s, as their name suggests, were originally bred for bull baiting and Shar Pei’s were used as fighting dogs. Thankfully these dogs are no longer used for what they were initially bred for, so they all happily sit together in the Utility Group!