Dogs have a long and spotted history in North and South Korea, bred and kept chiefly for their keen guarding skills, hunting prowess, and meat. Over the last few decades, dog meat consumption dropped significantly with changing cultural norms and values of a newer generation.
We see some beautiful South and North Korean dog breeds come from the region, with the ancient Jindo, the most commonly known and the official national dog breed of South Korea.
Most people don't realize that several beautiful South Korean dog breeds make sweet and obedient pets to adopt. Because these dogs were largely bred as work animals, most Korean breeds tend to listen well to their owners with the proper training.
Interested in learning more about Korean breeds? Read more about how dogs entered Korea and our favorite fluffy Korean breeds below.
A brief Korean dog history
East Asian Korea splits into two states, and both are home to some incredible Korean rural dog breeds.
According to historians, dogs first came to Korea from Mongolia after a 13th-century invasion. After a successful takeover, the Mongols brought their best friends along with them - the Bankar dog. Since then, we've seen several breeds emerge from the area, likely through the same selective breeding we see in practice all over the world.
5 Popular Korean Dog Breeds
#1: The Dosa
The Dosa, or Korean Mastiff, isn't a tiny pup by any measure. While some might be intimidated by their size, these dogs are sweet as pie. Their good nature and massive wrinkles make them super-huggable, and they're perfectly bred for companionship.
One downside is their inability to listen, as they'd much rather take the role of pack leader, but proper training can help balance the power dynamic. Dosas love to mind the children in their family as big, furry caretakers, and they get along well with other dogs.
These dogs get big at up to 185 pounds and have a short, smooth coat with beautiful deep brown or red coloring. To save their joints some stress, you may want to invest in a bed ramp for dogs so they can easily get up and down quickly, even into old age.
Dosas originated in the late 1800s, from what researchers can tell, and these unique-looking pups can sell for a pretty penny as show dogs.
- Average Height: Up to 30 in
- Average Weight: Up to 185 lbs
- Average Lifespan: Up to 10 yrs
#2: The Jindo
Some may remember the most popular of all Korean breeds, the Korean Jindo, from the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics in Korea. They earned their moniker as the national dog breed of South Korea by being a fantastic all-around pet.
Jindos are one of the small Korean dog breeds, which mostly tend to be quite large, working dogs. The Jindo is a great hunting companion and guard dog - Koreans tried to train these pups into military dogs, but their hunting instincts proved to be too strong.
Instead, you'll often see Jindos used for and excelling at search and rescue jobs, which suits their brave and courageous personalities well. As long as it's a land search, they're fine, as Jindos don't like to swim or even head into the rain.
These pups are so fiercely loyal to their owner that there's an old Korean tale that one Jindo walked 300 km to find and reunite with its owner. Adopting a Korean Jindo means making a best friend for life.
As intelligent hunting dogs, Jindos are full of energy. This breed needs plenty of exercise, training, and socialization. Korean Jindo pups get along well with and enjoy being around people and children.
- Average Height: From 18-22 in
- Average Weight: From 30-50 lbs
- Average Lifespan: Up to 14 yrs
#3: The Jeju
Jejus may have ancient Chinese origins dating back 3000 years, but they've now firmly established their Korean roots.
These cute dog breeds originate from the southern island of Jeju and are one of the biggest native Korean breeds that share much with the Jindo. One distinctively Jeju feature is a broad, pointed forehead that looks almost fox or wolf-like.
These dogs aren't the best to adopt for no reason other than their rarity. After almost going extinct, they were saved by breeding the three remaining dogs left in 1986. In 2010 the numbers were up to 69 total Jejus globally, and today, the numbers likely range in the hundreds. They're still quite a rarity, with the Jeju Livestock Institute auctioning off just 20 puppies in 2017 - adopters were then well-screened with home inspections to ensure these precious pups have the best life possible.
Jejus are, like Jindos, insanely loyal to their owners and will guard their home and family well. The Jeju also makes an adept hunter and tracker, known best for their badger hunting abilities. They're even known to take down deer!
One downside to the Jeju is it's tough to train, so an experienced owner is necessary. They also don't do well with other pets, so they're best kept as an "only fur-child." If you have the option to adopt a Jeju, consider yourself incredibly lucky to care for one of these rare, sweet creatures.
- Average Height: 18-22 in
- Average Weight: 45-60 lbs
- Average Lifespan: 12-15 yrs
#4: The Sapsali
Have a big family? It may be time for you to check out the Sapsali, one of the most family-centered dog breeds in Korea. Another of the Korean dogs that narrowly avoided extinction, these dogs bred back from the point of only eight remaining Sapsalis.
These sweet pups look like little lion cubs with their long, fluffy coats, earning them the nickname "lion dogs" among the locals. They're similar to an Old English Sheepdog, with plenty of color variations.
In Korean folklore, the Sapsali provide protection from evil spirits, and during the Silla Kingdom reign a millennium ago, they were commonly military dog companions.
Despite their strict military background, the Sapsali is a sweet, docile, and good-natured doggo. Sapsalis are naturally friendly to other humans and animals, getting along particularly well in family homes with children.
- Average Height: up to 23 in
- Average Weight: 35-65 lbs
- Average Lifespan: 10-12 yrs
#5: The Nureongi
The Nureongi, also called the Korean Yellow Spitz, is a native Korean medium-sized breed with a very similar personality to the Jindo, but with different physical traits. The Nureongi is a landrace breed, meaning they naturally developed without human interference.
These Korean dogs love the sound of their own voice, so be prepared to listen to some barking, though the breed is intelligent and rarely shows aggression in their bark. They're alert, agile, and were ancient hunting dogs.
- Average Height: up to 22 in
- Average Weight: up to 55 lbs
- Average Lifespan: Short
#5: The Pungsan
The Pungsan is the only North Korean breed coming from the Kaema Plateau in North Korea. These adept hunters are primarily found in North Korea and certain regions of China, being relatively rare throughout the world.
These dogs are the region's official national dog and are occasionally gifted from the North Korean leader as gifts and peace offerings. Pungsans are said to be part-wolf, part-dog, with a high prey drive that makes them energetic hunting pups.
The Pungsan dogs look like a smaller, less-muscular Siberian Husky and are usually white or cream-colored.
Pungsans like to be the pack leader with both animals and humans, so a proper training regimen to establish an owner's dominance is necessary. Pungsans also need plenty of running to burn off energy - they should get at least 2 hours each day. An under-exercised Pungsan can cause some serious havoc and become excellent escape artists in a hurry.
With proper training, the Pungsan dog can be a fantastic pet and guardian.
- Average Height: 20-24 inches
- Average Weight: up to 70 lbs
- Average Lifespan: 11-14 years
Final Notes On Korean Doggos
While there are plenty of Korean breeds that make fantastic pets, they're not always readily available for adoption.
If you're looking to adopt one, stick with the Jindo or Dosa, though the latter fetches a higher price if you source through breeders.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about these sweet Korean breeds!