Our history with dogs is deep and more ancient than you may think - evidence points to canines being man's best friend for over 10,000 years. While some dog breeds have fallen into extinction over time, many modern breeds have outlasted the rest. Read our list of the top 9 ancient dog breeds, and find out which is the oldest living dog breed.
We first domesticated dogs from their closest living relative, the Gray Wolf, back when we were still rubbing two sticks together for fire. The relationship between humans and wild dogs flourished as a means of mutual protection in a harsh world full of fierce predators.
Today, humans and canines still possess a valuable bond, but for very different reasons.
And it might be hard to believe as you're scolding your pup for breaking into the trash can for the third time this week, but many breeds around today are several thousand years old.
We're digging into the past to find which modern dog breeds have the oldest roots.
A brief history of domesticated dogs
- As we mentioned, domesticated dogs come down the line from a primitive wolf species closely related to the Gray Wolf.
- The earliest existence of domesticated dogs was in the human hunting-gathering phase.
- Archaeologists dug up the remains of a dog buried with its owner that are about 14,700 years old - we've bonded with our dogs for quite a while!
- East and West Eurasian Wolves were domesticated independently from 6,400 to 14,000 years ago, which is partly why our pups' genes are so diversified.
Primitive vs. ancient dog breeds
Primitive dog breeds live in very specific and historically isolated areas of the world, allowing them to avoid interbreeding with other dog breeds, like the Australian Dingo and the Carolina Dog.
While these breeds are pretty fascinating themselves, we're covering ancient dog breeds instead, which are pups with the most extended living history in their original form.
Common characteristics of ancient dog breeds
- Ancient breeds had to live in much rougher times; thus, most ancient breeds have healthy, muscular bodies that are also compact. Coat coloring typically falls into the brown, red, and tan shades.
- All ancient breeds have a stronger sense of independence than most modern breeds, and they're brilliant to boot - they can truly fend for themselves, though they generally prefer to be in the warm, loving home of their owners.
- With all that intelligence, ancient breeds are easily trainable and happily hunt with you or guard your home.
- The only potential drawback of owning an ancient breed is their social skills. Ancient breeds are typically very social, but they require extra attention in the socialization department to ensure they remain open and friendly with other people and animals outside of their immediate family.
What is the Oldest Dog Breed: 9 Ancient Breeds
#1 Akita Inu - 10,000 Years Old
The oldest breed of dog in the modern world is the Akita Inu, from what researchers gather. The clues are in the DNA, which reveals an ancestral line 10,000 years old, all the way back to 8,000 BC.
This Japanese breed is intelligent, loyal, and very affectionate with their loved ones. Socialize them with other people and dogs, so they learn to tolerate and play well with others. They'll guard their home and family with fierce loyalty, and their hunting roots make them fantastic at running down prey in all types of terrain.
Akita Inus have a super-insulated double fur coat, which makes them much better suited for cool and moderate climates.
#2 Shiba Inu - 9,000 Years Old
These pups make trendy pets these days because they stand out for their sweet-looking faces, even among other cute breeds.
The Shiba Inu breed is from Japan, though some argue that point, believing it comes from China or Korea instead - regardless, they're claimed today as Japan's national dog and one of the oldest breeds worldwide.
Shibas do well in the cold with their exceptionally thick coats, and they make an independent, intelligent, and prey-driven pet. Socialize your Shiba regularly to keep it from heading into the antisocial territory.
#3 The Basenji - 8,000 Years Old
The Basenji is the third oldest dog breed. The Basenji originate in Africa and are used for hunting all sorts of prey.
Basenjis strangely don't bark at all and instead use howling to communicate - we're not sure if that's better or worse for the neighbors! These pups often seem more cat-like than dog-like, with an aversion for water and similar grooming techniques.
These intelligent pups are also highly energetic - give them plenty to do, or risk them tearing your house apart.
#4 Afghan Hound - 8,000 Years Old
These primitive hunting dogs originated in Afghanistan thousands of years ago, making it another one of the oldest breeds. This hound is closely related to the Chinese Saluki, another ancient breed.
While caretakers originally bred them to work, they have breathtakingly beautiful long coats making them popular show dogs - they possess the rare combination of skills and beauty! Beware, as beauty always comes with a price tag, and these dogs will require more grooming than others.
Afghan Hounds love to sprint and may try to escape in a flash when not well-protected. These mischievous pups may also attempt to stealthily take things from you, especially snacks. These pups like to live and let live - while they enjoy a bit of affection, they don't want holding or petting as often as other dog breeds do.
#5 Mastiff - 5,000 Years Old
These massive, wrinkly pups are among the oldest breeds in the world. Mastiff dogs are lovely, despite being ancestrally related to Molossers, ancient war dogs.
Mastiffs are genuinely gentle giants; they're very talented as guard dogs, with strong personalities that are both territorial and courageous.
The Mastiff breed is enormous - most of them weigh well over 100 lbs, so keep them well-trained and keep your strength in mind if you consider adopting one. Starting the training early can help you keep behavior in check before becoming too large to manage.
#6 Shar-Pei - 5,000 Years Old
The Shar-Pei has a face full of wrinkles and a sweet disposition. They almost look like a red, wrinkly bulldog, and it's a wonder to us that they can even keep their eyes open, with heavy-looking wrinkles above them.
Despite their slow-looking appearance, the Shar-Pei has excellent herding and hunting skills, making them a great working dog, historically invaluable to Chinese farmers. Shar-Peis have a sense of fierce independence and high levels of intelligence.
These pups’ roots dig back to China, and you can see them depicted on ancient pottery and ceramics from up to 5,000 years ago.
#7 Alaskan Malamute - 4,000 Years Old
These pups live for the cold weather - the Alaskan Malamute is a double-coated sled dog that originates, like its name hints, from Alaska.
The Malamute breed is massive, muscular, and incredibly strong. Many still use the Malamute as a sled dog to haul big loads from place to place in northern regions. These dogs aren't just brawny - they also have brains that make them highly-intelligent, resourceful, and easily trainable.
#8 Chinese Saluki - 4,000 Years Old
These long, lean doggos root back thousands of years to Egyptian times, with many painted and carved images of them on ancient tombs.
The Chinese Saluki breed has a similar body as a Greyhound, and they're just as fast as them, too. Their unique faces slightly slope around the snout.
Salukis are quiet, shy, and incredibly devoted to their owners. Their calm and gentle demeanor also makes them easy-breezy in most social situations with other dogs or people, but prey should beware. These pups take hunting very seriously, and they're fantastic at it!
Find a safe and enclosed space for them to sprint and run down their energy, as they may act out if too much power is still in the tank.
#9 The Samoyed - 3,000 Years Old
These big white balls of floof have a very long history indeed. The Samoyed breed hails from Siberia as a hunting and sleigh dog, so they're strong, playful, and full of energy to burn.
Samoyeds love everyone they meet and are always down for another playmate.
This breed also loves to get into everything - they'll dig plenty of holes, chew anything they can get their teeth on, and bark with limitless energy, so plenty of exercise is the key to happily owning one of these pups.
Final takeaways from these ancient breeds
If you're considering breeds for doggie adoption, we strongly recommend further research on any of these ancient breeds that offer plenty of strength, energy, and sweet personalities.Ancient breeds make some of the healthiest dog breeds to own, as their vast gene pools mean lessened chances of recessive genetic disorders, which can save you quite a bit of money over your pup's lifespan.