Non-Sporting Group members are canines with varying personalities, sizes, facial features, coats, and jobs they were created to do. Breeds like the unique, and rare, six-toed Norwegian Lundehund, the regal blue/black tongue Chow Chow, and the Xoloitzcuintli, one of the first dog breeds in the Americas. Six breeds from the Non-Sporting Group have been working their way up AKC’s most popular dog list, gaining in popularity over the last ten years. Three breeds S-X are highlighted here.
Shiba Inu is one of six breeds native to Japan, and the smallest and oldest of the six. This cat-like Spitz breed originated in the mountains of Japan, and was bred to flush out birds and small game from thick underbrush growing on Japan’s steep mountain slopes. An ancient breed with roots going back to primitive dogs of the early people of Japan, the Shiba Inu was also used to hunt bear, deer, and wild boar. In 1936, the six Japanese breeds were designated as a precious natural resource of Japan in the Cultural Properties Act, giving them official recognition and protection. No one is sure how the Shiba Inu got its name, but some suggests Shiba comes from an old Nagano dialect meaning, “brushwood,” which is the type of bush growing on the mountainside, and Inu is the Japanese word for dog. A common reference to this good natured, intelligent, alert, strong willed, and agile dog is, “Little Brushwood Dog.” Others believe their name came from the dog’s ability to hunt with ease through the brushwood, and yet another idea is the breed was named after the brilliant red color of the brushwood leaf in the fall, which is the same color as the preferred red of the Shiba Inu coat. World War II and a distemper outbreak after the war left the Shiba Inu on the brink of extinction. The breed was saved with careful breeding programs. Today, the Little Brushwood Dog has been gaining in popularity, moving up from number 55 to 50 over the last decade.
Tibetan Terrier was created 2,000 years ago, high in the Himalayas, the “Roof of the World.” In 1329 an earthquake devastated the region, destroying access roads and leaving Buddhists monasteries where these medium sized dogs were bred cut off from the rest of the world. This land became known as the Lost Valley of Tibet. The only way in or out was by foot. Lama monks bred these dogs as companion pets, guard dogs, and herding dogs. Developed with a warm double coat to ward off the harsh climate of the mountains, the Tibetan Terrier is an exceptionally agile dog with large round, flat feet, which act like snowshoes, giving them good traction in snow. One of their duties was to retrieve items that fell from pack animals as they climbed steep mountain trails. These dog were cherished by the lamas who raised them, and were treated as if they were children. The monks referred to their dogs as, “little people.” They are also known as the “Holy Dogs of Tibet.” Lamas saw their dogs as companions and good luck charms, and never sold, mistreated, or mismated them. The only way to receive a Tibetan Terrier was as a gift. Dogs were given to the rare visitor who made the difficult trek up the mountains to the monastery to provide them with a safe journey back down the mountain. They were given as a token of thanks to people who provided the monks with a great service. Visiting dignitaries were presented with dogs as a show of respect, and nomadic herdsman were given dogs to guard their tents, and help with their livestock. Anyone who was lucky enough to have been gifted one of these dogs, treated them in the same matter as the monks. Selling the dogs was thought to bring bad luck that could unleash untold hardship to entire villages, and no one was willing to tempt fate. The Tibetan Terrier might have remained unknown in the Lost Valley had it not been for Dr. Agnes Greig who was gifted a dog after she saved the life of a Tibetan merchant’s wife in the 1920’s. This breed is not a true terrier, and was given the terrier name only because of his terrier-like size. This sweet tempered and good-natured dog has gained in popularity over the last ten years, going from number 92 to 83.
Xoloitzcuintli pronounced show-low-eats-queen-tlee, or simply Xolo, is considered the first dog of the North America continent, and among the world’s oldest and rarest breeds. A more familiar name is the Mexican Hairless. Archaeological findings indicate these dogs came with early man when they migrated from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge into the Americas. The breed name comes from the Aztec god, Xolotl, and the Aztec word for dog, Itzcuintli. Some 3,500 years ago in pre-Hispanic Mexico, the Aztec Indians held the Xolo in high regard. Unlike most breeds that were created by artificial selection, crossing two or more breeds, the Xolo is considered a natural selection breed that developed entirely on its own without any manipulation from man. The Aztecs considered these dogs sacred, and believed they helped guide their owner’s soul safely through the underworld. When someone died, their dog was sacrificed and buried with them. Aztec “doctors” believed the dogs had special mystical healing powers for ailments like, insomnia, sore muscles, toothaches, asthma, and rheumatism. When pressed against a wound, the hot skin of the hairless Xolo was thought to ease pain by drawing it out, as well as relieve other illness; including malaria. In rural pockets of Mexico, this belief is still held by some people. The Xoloitzcuintli has remained pretty much unchanged from their early beginnings. Ancient clay figures uncovered by archaeologists show a remarkable resemblance to the modern day breed. In ancient times, the dogs were highly regarded as guards to protect the home from evil spirits, and intruders. The Xolo can be hairless or have a medium powder-puff coat, which is a downy, velvet-like coat. This breed comes in three sizes, standard, miniature, and toy. Recognized in 2011, the Xoloitzcuintli has gained in popularity, moving from number 155 up to 137 in just two years.
Pictured: Shiba Inu, Tibetan Terrier – 7 months old, Xoloitzcuintli.
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Non-Sporting Group
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Terrier Group
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Working Group A-C