How old is the world’s oldest domesticated dog? The answer isn’t quite as clear cut as we’d like. While some research has pointed to the earliest dogs being domesticated 40,000 years ago, fossil evidence also points to dogs becoming man’s best friend about 14,000 years ago.
Regardless, dog breeds have lineages that can date back varying lengths. A recent study from Nature zeroed in on ancient dog breeds whose DNA points to them originating before today’s most popular breeds like golden retrievers and labradors.
We compiled data from the Canine Genome Project as well as Nature and Science Magazine to pinpoint the oldest dog breeds, according to to today’s most up-to-date research. Only nine breeds made our list which was selective and only included ancient dog breeds that could be agreed upon by scientific research.
So, what’s the oldest dog breed in the world today? Read on to discover 9 of the oldest dog breeds ever!
9.) Chow Chow (At least 2,000 years ago)
Chow Chows originate in China, where they were valued as retrievers, pointers, or sled dogs. They can adapt easily to their environment. Described as affectionate, strong, sweet, and confident, this dog keeps well-groomed and easy to train.
Although a great companion, this dog does not like a lot of fussing. They choose a favorite person and will be very loyal to them, but will show loyalty to their favorite person’s family. The Chow Chow is very territorial and will protect, giving warning to strangers.
They should be exposed to socializing at an early age, need plenty of exercises, but are not runners. You can expect to brush them two or three times per week to keep their fur maintained.
8.) Chinese Shar Pei (At least 2,200 years ago)
While there are no records of the origin of Chinese Shar Peis, genomic testing confirms that the breeds lineage can be traced back several thousand years. Its believed that Shar Peis were first bred in China in roughly 200 B.C.
Today, Shar Peis are beloved for their appearance. However, thousands of years ago they were valued for protecting farms and livestock from predators and hunting. Believe it or not, but this ancient breed that has existed for more than 2,000 years was almost wiped out in the 20th century! With Shar Pei populations decreasing dramatically during China’s communist revolution, a breeder from Hong Kong issued an appeal in Life Magazine to save the breed. The resulting attention from the magazine feature led to a boom in Shar Pei adoptions and breeding across the Untied States.
Incredible fact: the Shar Pei was so rare that the Guinness Book of World Records named them rarest dog in the world in the late 1960s!
7.) Alaskan Malamute (2,000 to 3,000 years ago)
Known for its Alaskan origins, the Malamute is said to cross into Alaska from Siberia. Endurance and ability as a working dog, the Malamute, is valued by villages and tribes. The dog is playful and mischievous and makes a great family pet.
Their thick fur gives them the protection they need in the Alaskan climate but needs lots of care. They shed year-round, but especially in the spring. You can expect a sea of fur whenever you brush them.
They need companionship and a job to do. If left unattended, they will become bored. When boredom hits, it may be destructive. They require plenty of exercises and are highly intelligent. They are known for their “talking” to their humans by the “woo woo” sound they make.
6.) Samoyed – (3,000 or more years ago)
Another Arctic dog, Samoyeds have an ancient lineage. Thousands of years ago, the dogs were bred to hunt, haul sleds long distances, and herd the livestock of tribes that lived in sub-zero conditions in Siberia.
While Samoyeds originate from cold weather climates like other ancient dogs on this list, they differ in some key areas. For example, the breed is less aggressive than Siberian huskies. Samoyeds are extremely social creatures that struggle when left alone and crave attention.
5.) Afghan Hound (3,000 or more years ago)
There is some debate about the origins of this beautiful dog. Some believe they come from Egypt, while others believe in Afghanistan, as the name suggests. Long silky hair, narrow face, and thin build give this breed an unmistakable elegance.
This hound is known for speed and was used for hunting antelopes and leopards. Before long, British soldiers took them and brought them back to the UK as show dogs. Some feel they are not smart dogs, but in fact, they can be stubborn when you try to train them, preferring to keep their hunting instincts intact.
Afghan hounds will do well in any family, but be prepared to do many brushing and exercising to keep up with their energy level. They do well in warm and cold climates and adapt very well to their living circumstances. A sociable dog, they like plenty of attention from their owners.
4.) Siberian Husky (Up to 4,000 years ago)
Siberian Huskies were first bred in Chuckchi Peninsula that sits less than 100 miles from Alaska. Despite this proximity, the beed wasn’t brought to Nome, Alaska until 1908. Today, sled dog racing has made Siberian Huskies an iconic breed that’s widely associated with Alaska’s vast frontiers.
While the Alaskan Malamute also makes this list, recent genetic evidence shows the breed is closely related to the Siberian Husky. Today, Siberian Huskies are popular for their moderate size. The breed rarely weighs more than 60 pounds, a size much smaller than the closely related Alaskan Malamute.
3.) Saluki (More than 4,000 years ago)
The Guinness Book of World records recognizes Salukis as their oldest dog breed, and notes the breed dates back to at least 329 B.C. Yet, Guinness also notes that cave paintings of dogs that look like salukis date back 9,000 years ago, which shows just how difficult deciphering the exact age of specific dog breeds can be. No matter when salukis first emerged, the bottom line is that they’re one of the world’s most ancient dog breeds.
Arab tribesmen and Egyptian nobility both valued the Saluki. Their speed, endurance, and hunting skills made this breed a valuable asset. Running at speeds up to 42 miles per hour, the Saluki was used for hunting Gazelle and deer.
If you want a lifelong companion, this dog might be for you. They are loyal, lifelong companions, need lots of exercise and a high fence. They are high jumpers and will not think twice about escaping to hunt. Prey consists of goats, foxes, otters, raccoons, snakes, squirrels, and deer.
Salukis like long-distance running. They need to stretch their legs in a full run, so prepare to give them 300-400 yards where they can run. Having very little body fat, they will sleep on your bed or couch for comfort when indoors to rest. They will become very attached to their humans and do not like to be left alone.
2.)- Akita Inu (Unknown, perhaps more than 5,000 years ago)
There is significant debate into the origins of the Akita Inu. In 1962, Japanese archeologists unearthed the bones of two canines at the Kamikuroiwa Rock-shelter site. Carbon dating put the date of these two dogs at between 9,200 and 9,400 years ago, a time far before the origin of many dog breeds on this list.
Many have taken this discovery to date Akita Inus as the oldest dog breed, however with this list being based on genetic evidence, we do not believe the Akita Inu would rank as the oldest dog breed.
The Akita Inu breed is part of the Husky family. They are a fearless breed that is calm and dignified. The dog is very loyal to their family, making them an excellent match for therapy dogs, police dogs, and family pets.
A native of Northern Japan, these dogs are sometimes called Japanese Akita or the Great Japanese dog. Originally they were bred to hunt wild boar, deer, and bear in the winters in Northern Japan. In 1931 an Akita named Hachiko was declared a Japanese National Monument.
The Akita was introduced to America when Helen Keller was given two after visiting Japan and becoming enamored with the breed. They have a dense fur coat that can be almost any color but are frequently seen as shades of red, fawn, white, brindle, or sesame.
1.) – Basenji (More than 6,000 years ago)
While some sources may list different dog breeds as the oldest, genetic research points to the Basenji being the oldest dog breed on in the world.
The Basenji is an ancestor to dogs and the Egyptians, but some claim they are native to Africa. Keeping traits of its ancestors, this breed has a more catlike personality, including its need to remain clean. Basenjis don’t bark but make a sound similar to yodeling.
They are nicknamed the “jumping up and down dog” because of their ability to leap vertically in tall grasses. They need lots of exercises and mental stimulation. A great family pet, this dog was once used primarily for hunting small game and to control rodents in villages.
Basenjis don’t bark. They yodel. Basenjis are very intelligent but can be a bit stubborn. They can learn all commands you teach but getting them to do what you ask is another story. Don’t trust them off-leash; they will bolt out an open door and climb over fences when their hunting instincts kick in.
Bonus: A New Oldest Dog Breed? The Greenland Sled Dog (9,500 years)
Scientific debate on the oldest dog breed will remain ongoing. However, recent evidence points to the Greenland Sled Dog having a strong claim to the title of world’s oldest dog.
Scientists recently sequenced the genome of a dog from an archeological site on Russia’s Zhokhov Island. What they found was astounding, the remains of this sled dog were similar enough to today’s Greenland Sled Dogs to reveal that sled dogs have not interbred with wolves across the past 9,500 years.
The study opens up the door that today’s rankings of oldest dog breeds could continue to change with new archeological finds and advancements in genetic testing!
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How long ago were dogs first domesticated?
Researchers believe that dogs were first domesticated sometime between 14,000 and 40,000 years ago.