Believe it or not, there are dozens of extinct dog breeds. These unique dog breeds are no longer with us for a variety of reasons. Some fell out of popularity, some were working dogs out of a job, and some were abolished for one reason or another. Let’s take a trip into history and explore just some of the world’s extinct dog breeds.
The Alaunt lived in the North Caucasus, Europe, and Central Asia until about the 17th century. It is thought that the breed was developed by the Alans, an Iranian nomadic people. It is also believed that this dog gave way to later fighting dogs in Molossi, Albania. The dog was known for its long, flat head. Throughout its history, it was bred by many peoples for different reasons. Some wanted a thin, fast hunting dog, while others wanted something bigger used for dogfighting and bull baiting. Modern relatives of this old breed are the British Alaunt, Antebellum Bulldog, and Dogo Belgrado. The Alaunt is a likely ancestor of the first bulldog breeds.
Black & Tan Terrier
The Black and Tan Terrier is sometimes referred to as the Old English Broken-Haired Black and Tan. It seems to be the ancestor of the popular Yorkshire Terrier and Airedale Terrier. In the 1800s, they were used in fox hunting and saw great popularity. Their ability to track prey down in small tunnels and burrows made them highly regarded. Although it was called a “black and tan,” there was likely much variation within the breed.
Probably the most folkloric on our list is the Celtic Hound. These dogs of legend were likely the ancestors of today’s Scottish Deerhound and Irish Wolfhound. Their likenesses were carved into jewelry and featured in the art of the 17th century. Celtic Hounds were used to hunt game, such as deer and rabbits, and fight along with their masters in battle.
Cordoba Fighting Dog
The Cordoba Fighting Dog hailed from Argentina and was known for its willingness to fight to the death despite the pain. Although it was used in fighting, the dog also made a great guard dog and hunting partner. There were many coat colors to the breed, but the white coat was the most prized. No one knows for certain why the breed went extinct, but it’s possible that the breed’s aggression was one reason it fell out of favor. The last of its breed died sometime in the 950s. The Cordoba Fighting Dog is survived by its close ancestor, the Dogo Argentino.
The Dogo Cubano has also been called the Cuban Mastiff. It looked like a cross between an English Mastiff and Bulldog, with a short muzzle and pendulous ears. The fur was often a rust color with black facial coloring. While the dog was used in competitive fighting, it was also used to hunt runaway slaves. That’s likely why they went extinct around the time of the abolition of slavery on the island.
Hawaiian Poi Dog
This dog existed before the American colonization of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Poi Dog was similar to Polynesian breeds and was short with white fur. Their name comes from the food they were primarily fed: poi – or the stem of the taro plant. The breed was not bred for hunting or working, instead, it was seen as a food source or a good luck charm. Once the island was colonized, the breed was mixed with American and European dog breeds. Today, no one knows the true genetic origin of the Hawaiian Poi Dog.
Salish Wool Dog
The Salish Wool Dog is also known as the Comox Dog. Some believe this is the first North American Dog developed by man. It’s believed that the dog was “farmed” for its wooly fur and was kept by the Native Americans of British Columbia and Washington State. This Spitz-type dog had white, wooly fur that was sheared yearly. There are several likely reasons this dog went extinct including colonization and cross-breeding.
St. John’s Water Dog
Originating in Newfoundland, the St. John’s Water Dog worked with fishermen and sailors on boats. Known for their calm demeanor, they would help the fishermen retrieve their catches. Their waterproof coat kept them warm and protected during their swims, and they loved being near the water. This dog has many popular ancestors today including the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever. It is thought that the last water dog died around the 1980s likely because new technology meant there was no need for the breed on boats.
The Turnspit dog was a small working dog with long bodies and short legs. These stocky pups had a short coat but a long snout. Their tail curled on itself and came in many colors – from white to brown.
Other names for the Turnspit Dog:
- Vernepator Cur
- Kitchen Dog
- Canis Vertigus
While the names for this dog seem a bit strange, they describe this dog’s job. The dog worked all day in a wooden wheel that turned a rotisserie for evenly cooked meat. According to NPR, “The Canis vertigus, or turnspit, was an essential part of every large kitchen in Britain in the 16th century. The small cooking canine was bred to run in a wheel that turned a roasting spit in cavernous kitchen fireplaces.” They performed without protest and were smart enough to learn to take turns with the other dogs in the kitchen without being told. These overworked dogs often developed bent legs and overly large muscles.
Turnspit Dogs went out of fashion as activists in the early 20th century highlighted the ways the dogs were mistreated and overworked. This and new technology, making cooking food easier and automated led to the dog’s inevitable extinction.