15 Oldest Dog Breeds In The World (And Still Living)

Your cute puppy is probably just a few months old, but have you ever considered how old its breed might be?

Dogs and cats have been around for centuries and have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, from Cleopatra’s Egypt to the Greco-Roman period.

Some of these oldest dog breeds still exist today, while a couple of the newer ones have connections to old breeds. 

According to scientists, dogs are the most ancient domestic animals that still exist in our modern world, and people have treated them as pets for a long while, going as far as giving them reputable burials.

In addition, people started domesticating wolves as far back as 10,000 to 30,000 years.

This domestication laid the foundation for what we now know today as dogs, further proving just how far back our animal friends originated from.

This article will present 15 of the oldest breed of dogs still existing today. Before that, there are some confusing terms that we would like to clarify.

What Do We Mean By The Oldest Breed Of Dog?

Ancient Dog Mosaic

In any discussion about ancient dog breeds, some people assume it is about dog breeds that are extinct or primitive.

These words are sometimes used with the same meaning in mind, but they are different terms. Clarifying them would let you know where our focus is. 

An extinct dog breed is no longer in existence due to any number of factors. Some of these dogs were old and are credited as modern pooches, but some extinct breeds aren’t too old.

Moscow Water Dog is an example of such. It existed after World War 2 but has disappeared today.

Some other extinct dog breeds are the Molosser, the Tweed Water Spaniel, the Chiribaya dog, and the Hare Indian Dog. 

Primitive dogs are also ancient, but they never interbred with any other dog. They existed on their own and have been isolated from other dogs.

Some of them are extinct, but a few others remain in our modern times. The Australian Dingo and the Carolina Dog are good examples.

The ancient dog breeds we’ll consider in this article are domesticated, human-bred dogs that have retained a lot of their original qualities from times past.

15 Oldest Dog Breeds In The World

1. Akita Inu

Akita Inu Dog Standing Standing Near Bush
  • Est. Years of Existence: About 1,000 to 10,000 years
  • Origin: Japan
  • AKC Recognition: 1972 (Working Group)
  • Height: 24 to 28 inches
  • Weight: 70 to 130 pounds
  • Temperament: Loyal, dignified, courageous
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

The Akita Inu started as a hunting dog in Japan, and it was also used as a guard dog in Japan.

There have been some arguments over the existence of the Akita Inu because of the discovery of two Japanese archeologists in 1962.

They found bones of two canines at the Kamikuroiwa Rock shelter site, and carbon dating set these bones at 9,200 to 9,400 years ago. However, one cannot even be sure if those were Akitas. 

The more accurate records of the Akita Inu puts it at 1,000 years. The first recent mentions of the Akita Inu were in the late 1600s when they began serving as guard dogs.

Akitas still serve as guard dogs today, and their loyalty is sought after by many.

In the modern days, there are two types of Akitas: The American Akita and the Japanese Akita. 

2. Shiba Inu

Cute Shiba Inu Dog Standing at Park
  • Est. Years of Existence: 9,000 years
  • Origin: Japan
  • AKC Recognition: 1992 (Non-sporting Group)
  • Height: 14 to 17 inches
  • Weight: 17 to 23 pounds
  • Temperament: Alert, attentive, active
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 16 years

The Shiba Inu is a kin of the Akita Inu, and they originated alongside breeds like the Kai Dog, the Shikoku, Hokkaido, and Kishu.

While it only got to America about 60 years back, the Shiba Inu has been in Japan for as long as the Akita and the other Japanese dog breeds.

World War 2 threatened the existence of this breed, but they were able to surmount that. 

Now, the Shiba Inu is relatively popular (Top 50) and is a good family dog. Of course, with breeds like this, caution must be applied.

The new pet parent who tries to own a Shiba Inu will find that the dog will not always be willing to obey.

Shiba Inus are free thinkers and independent. You need special methods to train one, and inexperienced owners need not apply. 

3. Afghan Hound

An Adult Afghan Hound Standing Near Lake
  • Est. Years of Existence: About 8,000 years
  • Origin: Afghanistan
  • AKC Recognition: 1926 (Hound Group)
  • Height: 24 to 26 inches
  • Weight: 50 to 60 pounds
  • Temperament: Aloof, dignified, intelligent
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

The Afghan Hound is considered by many to be the oldest dog breed in existence today.

While there isn’t any concrete evidence of this, the Afghan Hound has been around for thousands of years, even before the existence of Christianity and the advent of modern civilization.

It was originally thought to be from Egypt but is actually from Afghanistan.

Afghan Hounds are independent and aloof dog breeds, dignified in their ways, and prefer having their own space.

This independence can make them hard to train, so they are best left in the hands of experienced owners.   

4. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Puppy Relaxing on Couch
Dominic Buccilli / Pexels
  • Est. Years of Existence: 8,000 years
  • Origin: China
  • AKC Recognition: 1969 (Toy Group)
  • Height: 9 to 11 inches
  • Weight: 9 to 16 pounds
  • Temperament: Affectionate, playful, outgoing
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 18 years

The Shih Tzu has been a part of China for years, and by that, we mean thousands of years.

China has always had dogs for as long as 8,000 years, and the Shih Tzu has always been classified as one of the oldest breeds.

Because of this, its origin remains unclear. We do know that the Shih Tzu has always been a companion for royals. 

It remains a treasured companion today, and because of its size, it is highly adaptable.

Shih Tzu can live in an apartment as much as a house. It is also suitable for both new and old pet parents because it is trainable. 

5. Basenji

Tri Color Basenji Standing Next to Sitting Two Tone Basenji Dog
  • Est. Years of Existence: 5,000 years
  • Origin: Congo
  • AKC Recognition: 1944 (Hound Group)
  • Height: 16 to 17  inches
  • Weight: 22 to 24 pounds
  • Temperament: Independent, alert, affectionate
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

The Basenji is an African hunting dog and an oldie in the canine world.

The actual age of the Basenji is unknown, but it was once recorded as a gift presented to a Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. That should tell you the Basenji is among the ancient dog breeds. 

The modern-day Basenji is an attractive companion whose fine coat is capable of influencing a pet parent’s choice.

However, this breed isn’t suitable for every family. It has its set of challenges and requires a firm owner. 

6. Saluki

Saluki Dog Standing on Snow
  • Est. Years of Existence: 5,000 years or more
  • Origin: Middle East
  • AKC Recognition: 1929 (Hound Group)
  • Height: 23 to 28 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
  • Temperament: Aloof, gentle, quiet
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

The Saluki was once considered a gift from Allah, and given its lovely physical traits, this isn’t surprising.

It is also one of the oldest dog breeds, and archeological evidence places it as far back as 7,000 B.C. They made their way to Ancient Egypt where Pharaohs used them to hunt. 

Saluki has a similar structure to the Afghan Hound and still carries itself like a divine gift.

It tends to be aloof with strangers and might be found staying quietly with just one member of the family.

Its attractive features are sure to attract even people who are not dog lovers, but just like other breeds we’ve mentioned thus far, the Saluki is not for everyone. 

7. Mastiff

Sturdy English Mastiff Standing on Guard
  • Est. Years of Existence: 5,000 years
  • Origin: England
  • AKC Recognition: 1885 (Working Group)
  • Height: 28 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 120 to 230 pounds
  • Temperament: Courageous, dignified, good-natured
  • Life Expectancy: 6 to 10 years

The Mastiff, also known as the Old English Mastiff, is considered one of the oldest breeds of dogs, with ancestry that dates back 5,000 years.

It is also the largest breed in the world, with a weight getting over 200 pounds. A Mastiff has even gotten into the Guinness World Record as the longest and heaviest dog, getting up to 323 pounds. 

Pet parenting this humongous breed is certainly not for the weak! But it’s not all stress and frustration with the Mastiff.

These dogs look like crazy fighters, and they can be, but they are also very sensitive inside. They’re also dignified and quietly polite with people.

8. Canaan Dog

Canaan Dog Walking on Grass
  • Est. Years of Existence: 4,000 years or more
  • Origin: Isreal
  • AKC Recognition: 1997 (Herding Group)
  • Height: 19 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 35 to 55 pounds
  • Temperament: Alert, devoted, docile
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

The Canaan Dog existed during the times of Ancient Isreal, and it is believed to be one of the oldest dog breeds, which is why it is on our list.

In biblical times, the Canaan Dog was most likely used to protect camps, as well as herd livestock. This breed probably knew Moses, given its long existence.

The Canaan Dog is often reserved towards strangers, and may not be the best option for a house with small kids.

It does get along with older children, though, when well socialized. It is also highly territorial and alert, which makes it a good watchdog.

Another name for the Canaan Dog is the Kelef Kanani. It is very rare today, with only a few thousand in existence. 

9. Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky Dog Standing on Grass Looking Aside
  • Est. Years of Existence: 4,000 years
  • Origin: Siberia
  • AKC Recognition: 1930 (Working Group)
  • Height: 20 to 23 inches
  • Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
  • Temperament: Loyal, mischievous, outgoing
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Not much is known about the Siberian Husky’s first appearance, but according to DNA testing, this breed has been with humanity for a long.

What we do know is that these dogs belonged to the Chukchi nomadic tribe in Siberia.

The Chukchi employed the Siberian Husky as a mode of transport, and also as a companion.

Today, not many people use Siberian Huskies as transport (you can’t commute on sleds in America), but they are valuable companions both for their striking looks and their friendly personality.

They can be hard to train because of their independent streak, but not if you have the right skills. 

10. Lhasa Apso

Portrait of Cute Lhasa Apso Dog Standing on Desk
  • Est. Years of Existence: 2,000 to 4,000 years, perhaps more
  • Origin: Tibet
  • AKC Recognition: 1935 (Non-Sporting Group)
  • Height: 10 to 11 inches
  • Weight: 12 to 18 pounds
  • Temperament: Confident, smart, comical
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Lhasa Apso got its name from Lhasa, a holy city in Tibet. The name is appropriate because the Lhasa Apso was initially bred in the confines of monasteries and for nobles as a guard and protector.

Records have shown that the Lhasa Apso has lived since 800 B.C. when the Lhasa Apso was like a diamond and considered good luck. 

While this breed is no longer as valuable as diamonds, to its owners it might as well be.

The Lhasa Apso is a delight to have, mainly because of its ‘bigger than life’ attitude.

Good luck trying to convince this breed of its small size. Lhasa Apso always behaves like a big dog.

11. Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute Standing Sideways on Grass Looking Forward
  • Est. Years of Existence: 3,000 years
  • Origin: Alaska, United States
  • AKC Recognition: 1935 (Working Group)
  • Height: 23 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 75 to 85 pounds
  • Temperament: Affectionate, playful, loyal
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest sled dogs currently in existence. It is also the largest and was owned by the Inuit Mahlemuts tribe who employed them to pull sleds.

While this breed is not as fast as other sled dogs like the Siberian Husky, it has more strength. 

Malamutes are very loyal to their families but aren’t the best watchdog option. This is because of their high level of friendliness.

Malamutes want to be friends with everyone, strangers included. However, due to their size and independent spirit, they are not for everyone.

12. Chow Chow

Chow Chow Dog Standing on Grass Looking Aside
  • Est. Years of Existence: 2000 to 3,000 years
  • Origin: China 
  • AKC Recognition: 1903 (Non-Sporting Group)
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
  • Temperament: Dignified, serious, bright
  • Life Expectancy: 8 to 12 years

Chow Chow’s existence can be traced back to the Han dynasty in Ancient China. That was over 2,000 years ago, making this big teddy bear dog breed an old one.

It was used as a hunting dog, even by an emperor, and also acted as a guard dog. It had different names in China before it became the Chow Chow thanks to some British Merchants. 

Notwithstanding its close resemblance to teddy bears, the Chow Chow is not a sweet and cuddly pooch.

It is just as serious as the Afghan Hound, and it moves around with dignity.

Bad training can make the Chow Chow get aggressive, so it should be with someone that can handle its temperament.

13. Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound Wearing Harness Standing
  • Est. Years of Existence: 2,000 years or more
  • Origin: Italy
  • AKC Recognition: 1886 (Toy Group)
  • Height: 13 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 7 to 14 pounds
  • Temperament: Playful, sensitive, alert
  • Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years

The Italian Greyhound looks a lot like the Greyhound that some might even consider a miniature.

This breed has existed for more than 2,000 years, and old artifacts bear pictures of the Italian Greyhound.

No one is quite sure what its main purpose was, but it has become a formidable hunter. 

Families who own the Italian Greyhound in our modern days can attest to its playful and affectionate nature.

It makes a good watchdog as well because it stays alert. The Italian Greyhound can be sensitive, so try not to yell at it. 

14. Pekingese

Cute Pekingese Dog Standing on Grass Looking at Camera
  • Est. Years of Existence: 2,000 years
  • Origin: China
  • AKC Recognition: 1906 (Toy Group)
  • Height: 6 to 9 inches
  • Weight: 7 to 14 pounds
  • Temperament: Affectionate, loyal, regal
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

The Pekingese was sacred in Ancient China, so much so that stealing one was considered a crime punishable by death.

There was even a legend tied to it, one that involved a lion, a marmoset, and Buddha.

The Pekingese is believed to have been in China for up to 2,000 years and was treated like royalty.

It is perhaps because of this that the Pekingese still acts dignified and more confident than its size suggests.

This breed is also playful and affectionate too, a companion growing in popularity. Once you’re used to its feeling of self-importance, you’d flow well with it. 

15. Pug

Female Pug Dog Standing on Grass
  • Est. Years of Existence: 2,000 years
  • Origin: China
  • AKC Recognition: 1885 (Toy Group)
  • Height: 10 to 13 inches
  • Weight: 14 to 18 pounds
  • Temperament: Charming, loving, mischievous
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Just like the Pekingese and the Shih Tzu, the Pug has been existing in China for years. It dates back to the Han Dynasty of B.C. 206, and the Emperors favored them.

The royal treatment Pugs received was to the extent they sometimes had guards protecting them. 

That the Pug retains its dignity today shouldn’t be a surprise to you if you’ve read this far.

What is probably amazing is how it manages to play around and not act aloof. It also enjoys being a lapdog, also a relic from its past days as a royal companion. 

Most Ancient Dog Breeds – Honorable Mentions

Besides the top 15 ancient dog breeds we’ve mentioned, some other dog breeds have also lived for very long.

Thus, while they didn’t make our initial list, they deserve some recognition. They include:

  • The Finnish Spitz: While its origin is unclear, the Finnish Spitz has been hunting in Finland for hundreds of years. 
  • Greenland Dog: These dogs have existed from 2,500 B.C to 800 B.C. and served as sled dogs. 
  • Japanese Chin: Though the name suggests otherwise, it is generally agreed that the Japanese Chin came from China. It came into Japan as a gift at around 732 B.C.
  • Norwegian Elkhound: This breed still has the physical traits of a wolf. It won’t be hard to think it is one at a glance. Evidence has proven that it existed since 5,000 B.C
  • Xoloitzcuintli: One of the oldest and rarest dog breeds today, Xolo is also called the Mexican Hairless because of its unique form. 
  • Tibetan Spaniel: The Tibetan Spaniel shares the same ancestry as the Japanese Chin and has existed for more than 2,500 years. 

Related Questions

What was the first dog breed?

Because there aren’t too many clear sources of the origin of dog breeds in general, experts have not unanimously agreed on which dog is the oldest.

While some argue in favor of the Basenji, others are more inclined toward the Akita Inu due to recent archeological findings. One thing is for sure, both breeds are old.

What are the five original dog breeds?

Experts face difficulties knowing which dogs were the first to get domesticated.

That said, they have been able to point out the Samoyed, the Peruvian Inca Orchid, New Guinea Singing Dog, Afghan Hound, and the Chinese Shar-Pei.

When were wolves domesticated?

Domestication of wolves began thousands of years ago, possibly when humans were still gathering food and hunting.

There have been discoveries that proved the timeless relationship between man and dog, one that has lasted for a long.

Two Eurasian wolf breeds emerged, according to experts. These wolf breeds were domesticated about 6,400 to 10,400 years ago.

What is the purest dog breed?

Pure dog breeds are those that have very few mixed-up genes over the years. They’ve remained the way they have been for a long time with little modifications.

Examples of these dogs are Afghan Hounds, Chow Chows, Basenjis, and Alaskan Malamutes. 

What is the oldest dog breed to live?

Some dog breeds are known to have a long life span, an example of which is the Australian Cattle Dogs. One of these dogs is named Bluey that lived for 29 years.

This is an exception, though, not the main rule. 

Final Thoughts

From ancient times to the 21st century, dogs have always been standing side by side with humans as friends, guards, workers, and hunters.

Some dog breeds from old times have gone extinct, others have successfully remained intact to date.

Notwithstanding, owning an ancient dog is the same as any other dog breed. You need to be committed to caring for it.

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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