New dogs breeds came to the African continent centuries ago, introduced as more and more immigrants and colonists arrived. Many breeds were brought in for specific purposes, such as hunting or guarding, and those descended from European lines were interbred with local breeds to make them more suitable for the local conditions. Here are 10 dog breeds that are uniquely African.
Sources: DogBreedsInfo.eu, Wikipedia.org, AfricanDogs.BulldogInformation.com, Dog-Breeds-Expert.com
This large mastiff breed from South Africa was bred with the specific purposes of acting as a guard dog for homes, defending against wild predators as well as sending up the alarm if any human intruders came through. Boerboels are known for brute strength, courage and surprising agility.
The azawakh, a sight-hound breed that can be traced back to the nomads of the Sahara and sub-Saharan Sahel, is most commonly found in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Southern Algeria. It is used as a guard dog, as well as a hunting dog, as it is able to run up to 40 miles per hour – making it uniquely suited for hunting gazelle and hares.
This usually hairless breed (though the “Powderpuff” variety does in fact have hair) was originally called the African hairless terrier back in the 19th century, but became more commonly known as the Chinese Crested Dog after being popularized by Debora Wood’s Crest Haven kennel in the U.S. The tiny breeds are very intelligent, and do very well in obedience-type sports.
The Basenji, a hunting dog that originated in Central Africa, is best known for the unique yodel-like sound that it makes, known as a “barroo,” thanks to the unusual shape of its larynx. This “barkless” dog is considered ideal for hunting, as it is unable to scare off potential prey by barking. Its origins have been traced to the Congo Basin, and it hunts best in old-growth forest environments.
The coton de Tuléar, a small white dog breed found in Madagascar, was named for the city of Tuléar in its home country, as well as its cotton-esque coat. The affectionate breed is known for its intelligence and affection, as well as its “big dog” personality, meaning it loves to swim, run, and play with other dogs and people.
The Rhodesian ridgeback, while popular around the world, can trace its heritage to the Cape Colony of Southern Africa, after Europeans crossed their dogs with the semi-domesticated ridged hunting dogs of the KhoiKhoi. Still used for hunting, the Rhodesian ridgeback is also sometimes referred to as the African lion hound, as it is known for its ability to keep lions away from a recent kill while waiting for its master to claim it.
The sloughi, a member of the sight-hound family, originated in North Africa and remains most popular in Morocco. While related to the azawakh, it cannot reach quite the same speeds, though sloughis are often used for dog racing. This intelligent breed is known for its desire to move, and needs plenty of exercise.
Also from Morocco, the aidi (also known as the chien de l’Atlas) is often used as a livestock guardian to protect sheep and goats from potential predators. Often, the aidi is paired with the sloughi for hunting purposes – the aidi’s powerful sense of smell tracks down prey, and the quicker sloughi chases it down.
Sometimes referred to as the Egyptian sheepdog, the armant is a medium-sized herding dog, though it was originally used more for guarding due to its fearlessness when facing predators. Armants are extremely agile, and are known for their determination and willingness to work hard for their masters.
“Tesem” can sometimes refer to a specific dog breed, though it is also the general ancient Egyptian name for “hunting dog.” Similar in appearance to a greyhound, tesem were often depicted in popular literature with unique pricked-up ears and a leggy build. Their origins are presumed to be Southern Egypt, though some believe they come from further south, on the Horn of Africa.