Also know as the Caucasian Mountain Dog, this breed is believed to have been the earliest domesticated dog. They were bred to protect sheep by local herders in Caucasus, and continued to do so for over 600 years. “Ovtcharka” means “Guardian” in Russian, as this breed is most commonly found there, often appearing in dog shows. It is also common in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech and Slovak Republics, where breeding programs are ensuring that the breed continues to thrive, despite their declining importance as shepherds. In the late 1960s, the Caucasian Mountain Dog was brought to East Germany for use as a border patrol dog, especially along the Berlin Wall. When the Wall came down in 1989, the dogs no longer had a purpose, so they were adopted into German families. Because of it’s inbred aggressiveness and urge to defend, the Caucasian is considered one of the most dangerous domesticated dogs. Their strong possessive instincts cause them to believe that everyone and everything belongs to him. More recently, these dogs have been used as guard dogs and theft deterrents because of these characteristics. No one would dare mess with this dog. As the popularity of this breed increases, however, careful breeding plans on selectively breeding out the fiercest aggressive and protective qualities.
The Mountain Cur is a rugged working dog with a stocky build. “Cur” is a term with uncertain origins, but it often refers to a dog of mixed ancestry, usually bred for it’s hunting abilities. They have a generic coat, but it comes in a variety of colors, ranging anywhere from yellow to brindle to black, or a combination of all three. They are also known by their bobbed tail, and many breeders report that over half of all Mountain Cur puppies are born with naturally bobbed tails. Immigrants to the Americas from Europe brought a terrier-type Cur with them, breeding them with the native Curs, making a more rugged dog, better fitted to pioneer life. Their terrier blood gives them a fearless, tenacious quality. This particular breed was called the Mountain Cur because of it’s ability to travel and live in heavily wooded regions, particularly in the Ohio River Valley. In fact, the story of Old Yeller, portrayed as a Yellow Lab in the movie, was actually a Mountain Cur. In the book, the dog is described as a yellow, bob-tailed dog, excellent at hunting and treeing prey. He also wasn’t afraid to take on a full-grown bear, as well as a bull, when threatened, characteristics that personify the Mountain Cur. The Mountain Cur is the first true American purebred dog, as well as the oldest recognized Cur breed. Despite their prevalence in pioneer times, the Mountain Cur almost went extinct after the Civil War. A few determined owners, however, managed to keep the breed alive, and they have been recognized as an official breed by the United Kennel Club.
Peruvian Inca Orchid
Called by several names, such as the Peruvian Hairless Dog, the Inca Hairless Dog, or the Moonflower Dog, this breed is incredibly rare. Spanish explorers first came upon this hairless dog when they entered the homes of Peruvian nobility in the 1500s. In Peru, this breed is known as “Calato,” a Quechua word which means “Naked.” After encountering this dog in Peru, the Spanish gave many of these dogs to the Chinese as gifts. One theory states that this dog was the origin of the popular Chinese Crested breed. All of the Peruvian Inca Orchid in the United States today come from a very small gene pool of dogs brought directly from Peru. This ensures that the breed maintains it’s unusually characteristic look. Because this dog has no fur to protect his skin from the sun, this breed naturally prefers the nighttime (hence the nickname “Moonflower dogs”), becoming somewhat nocturnal. This breed is considered a sighthound, but it appears that their main purpose was to be companions of royalty.
While not exactly a rare dog breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is definitely a breed worth analyzing. The most prominent feature of the Ridgeback is his pronounced ridge of fur that grows along the spine in the opposite direction than the rest of his fur. When I first encountered this dog, I was mesmerized by that ridge, as well as his handsome muscularity. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was the result of many crosses between other ridgebacked dogs kept by native South African tribes, including the Khoikhoi, the Mastiff, the Deerhound, and other unknown breeds. The Khoikhoi, however, was the breed that gave the Ridgeback it’s distinct reverse-hair marking. The Ridgebacks were imported by Boer settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the breed standard was determined in Rhodesia in 1922. The Ridgeback is also called the African Lion Hound, alluding to his main purpose as a hunter. Used for many purposes, the Ridgeback excels at hunting game, retrieving, and guarding property. South African hunters discovered that, when used in packs, the Ridgeback was highly effective at hunting lions. This breed was also developed to adapt to the harsh African climate. This dog needed to withstand very high temperatures during the day, as well as the damp cold of night. This breed is also insensitive to insect bites and can go without food or water for a full 24 hours.
This unusual dog is an ancient breed with origins tracing back at least 2,000 years. The most interesting aspect of this breed is it’s naturally-matting coat. The coat is characterized by three types of hair (the waterproof undercoat, the “goat hair,” which coarse like a goat’s coat, and wooly top coat, which is soft to the touch). The combination of the goat hair and the wooly hair intermingle and naturally forms mats, or flocks, covering the entire body. The mats start at the spine and grow downward, eventually reaching the ground and forming several layers as the dog ages. Despite appearances, the Bergamasco’s coat is easy to maintain once it’s fully flocked (the mats have grown) and are consider excellent dogs for allergy sufferers since they do not shed. Because of this, and the matting tendency, the Bergamasco’s coat is considered hair, not fur. Thick mats also shield the eyes and act as a visor, blocking out the sun’s rays when it’s reflected off the snow. Since this breed was thought to have originated in the Alps as a sheepdog, the thick, shaggy coat was important to protect the dog from the harsh elements. The color of the Bergamasco is generally a grayish color, which served as camouflage while working in the mountains. This breed began in the Orient, eventually spreading to the Western world with the migration of the shepherds and their flocks. Throughout 2,000 years, the hereditary pattern of these dogs has remained the same, allowing the breed to maintain the same look for centuries. In fact, shepherds kept the bloodlines of their dogs a secret for hundreds of years.