13 Remarkable African Dog Breeds Guaranteed to Turn Heads at the Dog Park
Take a virtual safari to learn more about the fascinating domesticated and wild dogs from the world’s second-largest continent.
Whether they're hunting with ferret partners like Pharaoh hounds or holding court as treasured pets of the elite such as Coton de Tulears, African dog breeds definitely get noticed at the dog park! While some are rare in the U.S., these multinational pups are prized throughout the plateau continent because of their specific purposes.
Jo Myers, DVM, of Salida, Colo. is a telehealth practitioner on Vetster. She says many African dogs fall under the broad umbrella of sighthounds—animals who hunt by sight rather than scent—and are lean, exceptional runners. Consequently, medications stored in body fat are processed differently by sighthounds.
"This can be of particular importance when your vet is deciding what type of anesthetic protocols are best for a sighthound compared to a dog with a more typical amount of body fat," Myers says.
She adds that while the vast majority of medical applications are the same for all canines, it's often helpful to find a veterinarian who's more knowledgeable about African dogs if you have your heart set on one. Search for a vet who might breed or show one of them, or who works with a breed-specific rescue group.
"Breed groups also have resources for veterinarians who work with higher numbers of these dogs," Myers says. "Additionally, most veterinarians are willing to learn more if you bring up that you have a special interest in this area."
Which is good to know, because when you review the list below, you might want one of each!
The spry and sassy Basenji is often referred to as the African barkless dog. However, as Myers says, "The idea of a non-barking dog is attractive, but wait 'till you hear them yodel. They've got pipes!" Like an air raid siren! Almost cat-like with their independent temperament, they're fond of their owners, especially those who keep these central African hunting dogs engaged with enrichment activities for their bodies and their sharp minds.
The boerboel (boo-r-bull in the Afrikaans language) is a massive South African dog who is loyal, loving, and protective. Also known as South African mastiffs or African lion dogs, these agile and courageous 200 pound gentle giants are still a relatively rare dog breed to find in the U.S. However, in 2016, a boerboel named Obilo debuted the breed in the famed Westminster Dog Show.
3 Rhodesian Ridgeback
Experienced dog owners who want a dedicated and affectionate hunting companion will love the Rhodesian ridgeback. In addition to focused training, these powerful and energetic South African dogs need skilled vets, as Myers says their distinctive cowlick of fur sticking up along their backs comes at a cost: developmental abnormalities are common as a result of this inverted tissue.
Slender, elegant, and speedy, a saluki joyfully glides across great distances, so make sure your fencing is secure. (40 mph is her average speed!) Underneath those flowing locks is a strong athlete and a special canine for active families—except in cold weather. She's not a fan, as one might expect of an ancient African dog breed once favored by Egyptian and Middle Eastern royalty.
5 Pharaoh Hound
Another Egyptian breed commemorated in hieroglyphics is the aptly-named Pharaoh hound. Noble, intelligent, and endlessly playful, they're also skilled African hunting dogs, especially with a little help from friends. The Pharaoh Hound Club of America indicates that ferrets with bells around their necks find prey in small spaces, and clever Pharaoh hounds follow those sounds for location.
6 Coton de Tulear
Madagascar isn't just an exclusive resort for various types of lemurs. It's also home to the floofy and pampered Coton de Tulear (pronounced ko-tawn day too-lee-are). Cuddly, energetic, and gentle with children, this rare breed is both low-shedding and (mostly!) hypoallergenic. Make certain to research breeders carefully if this lovebug is of interest.
Another rare breed, especially in the U.S., Aidis are superior African shepherd dogs from the Atlas Mountains, safeguarding livestock throughout Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. With a thick coat to help protect them from fierce predators, they take their work seriously. Devoted but rambunctious family members, Aidis thrive with early socialization and training.
Although she has a slightly murky origin story, few dogs know the Northern African deserts better than the ancient Sloughi (pronounced SLOO-ghee). This breed is a dedicated sighthound hunter with fleet feet—in fact, her nickname is 'Arabian greyhound'. She's likely to be standoffish with strangers but attentive to her humans.
Hailing from the West African countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, the Azawakh (pronounced ah-ZA-wahk) appeared in the U.S. in the late 1980s. While she might look like a greyhound, she actually has much longer legs and is a bit leaner (if that's possible!) Sweet-natured and gentle, this breed (and all dogs really!) needs daily positive mental and physical stimulation.
'African dog' easily describes this nomadic classic shepherding breed, as historians with the AfriCanis Society believe it's a true representation of the continent's indigenous canines south of the equator. This breed is one of the few dogs in the world to evolve without interference from people. Friendly and faithful, these athletic doggos are naturally tribe-oriented, and enjoy activities with their humans such as hiking and agility training.
This classic beauty's ancestors were Egyptian and Greek. The loving greyhound, a favorite of kings, queens, and presidents, is also the only dog mentioned in the King James' version of the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31). These sighthounds have mellow and kind dispositions, are easy to train and of course, welcome a solid running partner (if you can keep up!)
12 Abyssinian Sand Terrier
One of the more unique African dog breeds is the Abyssinian sand terrier. Also known as the African hairless dog, this scrappy canine shares his homeland of Abyssinia—now modern Ethiopia—with a cat of a similar name. Few facts exist for the Abyssinian, but apparently a specimen is housed in the dog gallery of Britain's Museum of Natural History annex, Tring.
13 African Wild Dog
Here's one African dog we won't be seeing at the dog park! Also sometimes referred to as the African painted dog or the African wolf dog, the World Wildlife Federation says this wild dog is one of the most endangered mammals, with barely 1,500 in existence. Primarily located in Mozambique and Tanzania, these ancient grassland, forest, and desert pack predators reach speeds of up to 45 mph. They can't be crossbred with any other canine, so keep a lookout for them during your next safari.