There are truly an astounding amount of dogs in the world. While the American Kennel Club only officially recognizes 167 breeds, international clubs recognize over 340. The actual number is highly debated, but there is some agreement on what the most popular pups are in the US. While the numbers fluctuate slightly year to year, here are the top five most popular dog breeds and their origin stories.
1. Labrador Retrievers
It probably comes as no surprise to see the Labrador retriever on the top of the charts. These happy-go-lucky, highly trainable people-pleasers make amazing companions, whether you’re looking for a family pet or a sporting partner. Their great dispositions have made them top choices as professional scent workers for law enforcement, service dogs, therapy dogs, and even protection work.
The lab’s ancestors hailed from the island of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The shared founding breed was the St. John’s water dog, likely a mix of various European, Irish, and Portuguese dogs. Used for retrieving nets from water, the smaller of the St. John’s water dogs were selectively bred over time and become the Labradors we know and love today.
2. German Shepherds
When you think of tough, hard-working dogs, it’s hard to not call a German Shepherd to mind. These incredibly intelligent canines are commonly seen on police and military forces, used for protection and guarding, and are also a popular choice for family companions.
The origins of the German Shepherd go far back into the 1800s when the so-called “continental shepherd dog” was a popular fixture for farmers looking to protect their livestock. Max von Stephanitz was an ex-cavalry captain who was on a quest to create the perfect working dog, and over many years selectively bred different European shepherd dogs to create the first German Shepherd.
3. Golden Retrievers
There are possibly no dogs as instantly recognizable as the Golden Retriever. This loveable goofball is a fan favorite of families around the world, and their eagerness to work and please has made them a staple in the service and therapy dog industries. They have playful, sunny dispositions that can’t help but bring a smile to everyone’s face.
The Golden Retriever originally hails from Scotland, coming into existence around the mid-19th century. Wildfowl hunting was all the rage at the time, but there was a lack of a hardy breed that could reliably retrieve from both water and land alike.
The originally crossing that ended up paving the way to the breed was a mix of a yellow retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel, a now extinct breed. Further breed mixing included Irish Setters, blond-colored Bloodhounds, the St. John’s water dog, and wavy-coated black retrievers.
4. French Bulldogs
Moving out of the large dog territory and into the world of smaller companion canines is the immensely popular French Bulldogs. Despite overwhelming medical conditions that make the breed unable to breed or give birth naturally, and a wealth of back, spine, hip, skin, and eye issues within the breed, they have remained a popular choice of pet for those willing to foot the medical expense.
Those who own “Frenchies” love their fun-loving personalities and their need for close interaction with their humans. The breed was first seen back in the 1800s, after many long years of breeding the large English bulldog breed with smaller, local ratter dogs to bring down their size.
This small-but-mighty breed is one of the smallest scenthounds around, with a great deal of intelligence and a keen nose that has made it a no-brainer addition to scent work teams and law enforcement agencies around the world. Its smaller size, even temperament, and lack of inherited health problems have all helped it become a very popular pet choice.
Ancestors of the beagle can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece, eventually coming over to England as the years progressed. In medieval times the term beagle was used for a variety of smaller hounds that resemble the current breed while still appearing quite different from the dog we know and love today. A beagle pack in Essex in 1830 is often attributed to the modern day development of the breed as we now recognize it.