When was the last time you saw an Azawakh at the dog park? Or a Fila Brasileiro being walked down the street? Or a Telomian at the groomers? Chances are, the answer is never. That’s because these are three of the rarest breeds—at least in this part of the world.
However, just because they’re not popular in American cities and suburbs doesn’t mean that they are uninteresting. In fact, the more you know about these dogs, the more you appreciate the great diversity of the canine world.
From A to X, here’s a quick look at a few of the interesting breeds you’ve probably never met (and probably never will)…
Azawakh: Hailing from West Africa, these sighthounds (fleet-footed, streamlined hounds that use their great speed to hunt) have been known to run at up to 40 m.p.h. Gazelles beware!
Catalburun: This Turkish breed has a very distinct and memorable split nose, with a deep cleft separating the two nostrils. It is believed that this physical characteristic is the result of intense inbreeding.
Fila Brasileiro: As the name suggests, this Mastiff breed comes from Brazil. Known for their aggressive manner, when these dogs are hunting with their masters, they hold onto the prey until the hunter arrives. Once upon a time, they were also used in Brazil to track and return fugitive slaves. .
Lagotto Romagnolo: This Italian breed has a thick coat of curly hair that, at first, looks like wool. But what truly makes these dogs a breed apart, is their acute sense of smell. That amazing capability is put to good use in truffle searching. The next time you enjoy one of those delicacies from Italy, it may have found its way to your dinner table with the help of a Lagotto Romagnolo.
New Guinea Singing Dog: The name tells you a lot about this breed. Yes, these dogs are found in New Guinea and, yes, they “sing.” Actually, they sound more like a wolf being strangled—almost like a high-pitched wail. Nearly extinct, this breed is considered difficult to domesticate—though it has been done.
Telomian: In Malaysia, where this breed originates, families lived in houses built on stilts. The reason was simple: To keep the people safe from dangerous animals that lurked in the area. It’s not surprising, then, that these enterprising dogs developed the ability to climb!
Xoloitzcuintli: It’s easier to call this breed by its nickname, the Mexican Hairless. This breed’s appearance is as distinct as its full name. Actually, there is also a coated variety, but most people only remember the hairless members of the breed. At first glance they don’t fit our usual idea of a cute and cuddly dog, but they were often used by indigenous people in Mexico and Central America for cuddling. That’s because, being hairless, they easily shared their body heat with their masters when the weather turned cool.