In 1621, the first Thanksgiving Day meal was served at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, and dogs in America have been begging for table scraps ever since. In the nearly four centuries that have followed, US breeders have produced a number of hearty and hungry canine originals by combining established British, European, and Asian breeds with local village dogs. Each of the nearly two dozen recognizable breeds developed on these shores has contributed to the growth of the nation in some way. Their prowess as hunter, herder, guardian, and companion is deserving of our eternal gratitude and continued support. So, as we gather once again with family and friends to count our blessings, let’s remember to give thanks for the American breeds that helped to shape our national identity.
It is hardly surprising that the Boston Terrier was one of the first home-grown hybrids recognized by the American Kennel Club. Known originally as the Olde Boston Bulldogge, the breed was admitted to membership in 1893. Early representatives were typical of the Bulldog-Terrier crosses, with some individuals weighing upwards of 44 pounds. By the beginning of the 20th century, French Bulldog influence had considerably modified the breed, and color and markings became essential characteristics of the “American Gentleman.”
In the 1930s, American breeders in search of a more diminutive ratter crossed the original breed with the Manchester Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, and the Chihuahua.
Although recognized in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier was bestowed its current name in 1969 through a revision to the breed standard. Originally nicknamed the “pitdog” and the “half-and-half,” mid-century breeders in the US selected a heavier dog. Their efforts produced the “Am Staff,” a Yankee original that is distinguished from both its smaller British cousin and the more slightly built American Pit Bull Terrier by its larger size and “proverbial” courage.
Selective breeding of Smooth Fox Terriers for size helped to create the Toy Fox Terrier. In the 1930s, American breeders in search of a more diminutive ratter crossed the original breed with the Manchester Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, and the Chihuahua. Acceptable colors for the breed are tri-color in white, black & tan or white, chocolate & tan, white and black or white and chocolate. Recognized by the UKC in 1936, this animated and intelligent breed was only granted full AKC recognition in 2003.
The Rat Terrier was developed in the US by British immigrants who crossed Fox Terriers with Manchester Terriers, Bull Terriers, and the Old English White Terrier. Looking to improve both nose and speed, American enthusiasts also introduced Beagles, Toy Fox Terriers, Whippets, and Italian Greyhounds into the mix. The result is a game and playful character that was officially recognized by the AKC in 2013.
Recognized in 2016, the American Hairless Terrier is essentially a Rat Terrier without a coat. When one hairless pup appeared in a Louisiana litter in 1972, an entire breed was “born.” The AHT is the only hairless breed to originate in the US and the only one with normally complete dentition. This playful and agile breed may be shown in any color or combination of colors. Merle and albinism are disqualifications.
The Australian Shepherd has a vague history and a convoluted name. Once known as the California Shepherd and the Pastor Dog, the breed is thought to descend from sheep and cattle dogs of the Western Pyrenees that arrived in the US via Australia with Basque shepherds. The breed became ubiquitous in the West where it was employed by both ranchers and sheep herders. Although a longtime fixture on the American landscape, the breed only became fully recognized by the AKC in 1991.
A favorite among horse show competitors, the Miniature American Shepherd was developed in California from small, unregistered dogs thought to be Australian Shepherds. Granted full AKC recognition in 2015, the breed’s modest size makes it serviceable as a household companion that’s still expected to handle sheep and goats when called on to do so. Like its larger predecessor, the breed has been known by many names, including Miniature Australian Shepherd and North American Shepherd.
Fully recognized by the AKC in 1994, the American Eskimo Dog is by no means a recent arrival to these shores. Nineteenth-century European immigrants brought their German and Italian Spitz, Keeshonden, and Pomeranians to America where each was influential in the formation of the breed that became a talented circus performer. The Eskie’s white coat color—with or without biscuit cream—quickly became favored and was later secured through the introduction of the Japanese Spitz. Owing to its varied progenitors, the breed is shown in Toy, Miniature, and Standard size divisions.
The first Cocker Spaniel is said to have arrived in the New World aboard the Mayflower. True or not, one of the earliest breed clubs in America was formed to promote the Cocker, and AKC recognition was granted in 1878. The breed became so popular in the US that it ultimately took on a make and shape of its own. Beginning in 1946, the breed was divided in two and registrations for English Cocker Spaniels appeared in the AKC Stud Book the following year. Only in the US does the American-type carry the breed’s “original” name.
Developed in the Upper Midwest, the American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin where it was developed as an all-around hunter that could retrieve from boats. By combining Irish and English Water Spaniels, Curly Coated Retrievers, and various land Spaniels with native dogs, the breed became a versatile hunter and a perennial favorite among local hunters. Known originally as the American Brown, the breed was granted AKC recognition in 1940.
Although the Boykin Spaniel shares a somewhat similar history with the Midwest Spaniel, its development took place in the American South. Legend has it that around 1900, a stray Spaniel-type dog was befriended by a banker in Spartanburg, South Carolina, while the man was walking home from church. Mr. Alexander L. White sent “Dumpy” to live with sportsman Lemuel Whitaker Boykin for whom the breed is named. Recognized in 2009, today’s Boykin is thought to be the result of combinations of Springer and Cocker Spaniels with two American breeds, the AWS and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
The history of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be traced to two pups rescued from a British ship foundering off the coast of Maryland. Described as Newfoundland dogs—but likely St. John’s Water Dogs—”Sailor” and “Canton” were bred independently with local Spaniels and Hounds living on both shores of the Bay. Known today for its brown, sedge, or deadgrass coat color as well as for its confident and tenacious nature, the “Chessie” was originally recognized in 1878 as the Chesapeake Bay Dog.
Descended largely from Brooke’s Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound and the Bloodhound, the breed was developed to trail possum and raccoon, and to give voice when the quarry has been treed. The Black and Tan is tireless while in pursuit and can travel many miles through the night without tiring.
The American Foxhound is an amalgam of hounds brought to the US from England and France. In 1650, Robert Brooke arrived in Virginia with his pack of hounds and these were combined with Grand Bleu de Gascogne Hounds given to General George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette. Later, Irish-bred Foxhounds were introduced to improve speed. Officially recognized by the AKC in 1886, the breed was developed into several fox hunting strains that include the Walker, Calhoun, and the Penn-Marydel, among others.
In 1945, the Black and Tan Coonhound received full AKC recognition to become the first of five Coonhound breeds to do so. Descended largely from Brooke’s Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound and the Bloodhound, the breed was developed to trail possum and raccoon, and to give voice when the quarry has been treed. The Black and Tan is tireless while in pursuit and can travel many miles through the night without tiring.
John W. Walker and George Washington Maupin are given credit for the development of the Treeing Walker Coonhound. Bred in Kentucky, the hounds that both men produced have generally been referred to simply as Walker Hounds. Accepted into AKC’s Hound Group in 2012, this “hot-nosed” breed was first recognized by the UKC in 1945 as a variety of the English Coonhound.
The American English Coonhound is capable of hunting fox during the day and raccoon at night. Sometimes referred to as the Redtick Coonhound, the breed was recognized by the UKC in 1905 as the English Fox and Coonhound. Possessing extraordinary agility with the ability to climb trees, this racy breed was granted full AKC recognition in 2011.
The Bluetick Coonhound originated in Louisiana where breeders combined local “curs” with the Bleu de Gascogne, English and American Foxhounds, and Brooke’s original Virginia Hound. Sleek and racy, the Bluetick is speedy and ambitious with a “bawl” or “bugle” voice. A subgroup of this breed is known as the American Blue Gascon Hound, which is heavier in appearance and slower on the trail. The Bluetick was fully recognized by the AKC in 2009.
The foundation of the Redbone Coonhound was laid by Scottish immigrants who brought red-colored Foxhounds to America in the 18th century. Named for Tennessean Peter Redbone, the breed was developed for speed through the introduction of Irish-bred Foxhounds. Crosses were also made with the Bloodhound to improve “nose.” Originally sporting a black saddle, this solid-colored hound entered AKC’s Hound Group in 2009.
In 1750, Johannes Plott emigrated from Germany with five Hanoverian Hounds that would become the foundation of the breed known simply as the Plott. The breed has been bred for more than 250 years for its stamina in pursuit of wild boar and bear. A single breeding with a “leopard spotted dog” appears to be the only documented cross. In 2006, the state dog of North Carolina received full AKC recognition.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is Louisiana’s state dog. In the Choctaw language, Catahoula translates to “sacred lake,” a reference to the breed’s genesis around the region’s many waterways. Several theories exist as to the breed’s origin, including the mixing of local dogs with Mastiffs and Greyhounds brought to the area in the 16th century by Hernando de Soto. French settlers likely added the Beauceron, lending that Herding breed’s coloration to the Catahoula’s coat. In 1996, the breed was first recorded in AKC’s Foundation Stock Service.
The Alaskan Malamute is very likely the oldest and only landrace breed hailing from the United States.
Mr. Arthur Treadwell Walden devoted his life to the creation of New Hampshire’s state breed, the Chinook. This canine is named for Walden’s lead sled dog that was a combination of Husky stock and Mastiff blood. Crossed with the German Shepherd Dog, Belgian Sheepdog, and the Canadian Eskimo Dog, Chinook, the dog, was bred back to his progeny to fix type. Although the breed’s foundation sire died while serving in Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic expedition, his legacy continued when the breed that bears his name was granted AKC recognition in the Working Group in 2010.
The Alaskan Malamute is very likely the oldest and only landrace breed hailing from the United States. Named for the community of Innuit people living along the shores of the Kotzebue Sound, the breed is thought to descend from wolf-dogs brought to the area from present-day Russia more than 4,000 years ago. Recent examination of the Malamute’s genetic markers demonstrates an East Asian origin and a relationship with the Siberian Husky. The breed has been recognized by the AKC since 1935, twenty-four years before its namesake territory was admitted
Making its entry into AKC’s Foundation Stock Service in 2017, the Carolina Dog was “discovered” in the 1920s, living wild in isolated stretches of cypress swamp, by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin. Studies of the breed’s autosomal, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome diversity reveal a partial pre-Columbian ancestry. Although not entirely an indigenous breed, the Carolina Dog does appear to share a relationship with the Peruvian Inca Orchid and the Chihuahua. And as with each of the recognized American breeds, the AKC’s most recent arrival is a combination of qualities from dog breeds brought to this country from around the world. In this way, they are just like us. And that is something for which we can all
A version of this article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of SHOWSIGHT.
Bostons, Boykins, and Blueticks | Let’s Give Thanks for the American Breeds – ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY DAN SAYERS.