10 Rare Dog Breeds That Really Stand Out from the Crowd

Take your pick from ancient lineages, athletic hunters, and adorable lap dogs.
By Kristi Valentini
November 23, 2020

Every dog park has its fair share of Labs, golden retrievers, and French bulldogs, but you'd be less likely to find these rare dog breeds in your neighborhood. These pups are scarce but incredible; hard to find because the breed either fell out of favor or never made it into the popular crowd. But fans of these unique dog breeds say the effort is worth it.

While today’s most popular dog breeds make awesome pets, there’s a whole pack of rare breeds waiting to be rediscovered. If you’re itching for a pup that’ll stand out among the pack, check out these unique breeds big and small.

Golden chinook stands on path and looks off to the right
Credit: rwtrahul / Shutterstock

1. Overall Most Rare Dog Breed in the World: Chinook

We’re calling it: Chinooks are the next “it” dog (at least they should be). These mellow pups were the brainchild of a New Hampshire musher who wanted to make an amazing sled dog. At one point, there were only 125 Chinooks left in the world and they’re still a rare dog breed today. Only about 150 puppies are born each year. Known for their affection toward children and easygoing attitude, Chinooks are ideal family dogs.

Spinone Italiano white-brown dog looking upward at the camera
Credit: taniavolo.ph / Adobe Stock

2. Rarest Hunting Dog Breed: Spinone Italiano

The Spinone Italiano is starting to get noticed in the U.S., but gained popularity in Europe long ago for their hunting prowess—Spinones both point to game with their muzzles and retrieve birds from the water.

This hunting breed from the Piedmont region of Italy has incredible stamina, an adorable scruffy look, and a lovable nature.

Otterhound looks over fence
Credit: LourdesPhotography / Getty

3. Rare Large Dog Breed: Otterhound

Looking for a big, friendly pup? The shaggy otterhound fits the bill, though you’ll have a heck of time finding one since there are fewer than 800 in the world. Rarer than the giant panda, otterhounds come straight from 12th-century England where they guarded fish ponds and hunted (you guessed it!) otters. If you’re considering this large dog breed as a companion, know this: Otterhounds love water (and have the webbed feet to prove it!) and thrive in a family that appreciates their slap-happy personalities.

Norwegischer Lundehund sits on a rock on a hillside
Credit: Marielle / Adobe Stock

4. Rare Small Dog Breed: Norwegian Lundehund

Norwegian Lundehunds are an intelligent and energetic breed that almost went extinct. Bred to hunt puffins hidden in rocky crevices along Norway’s cliffs, these small dogs have physical features unlike any other on earth.

Lundehunds have six toes and extra paw pads on each foot for better grip (jealous, rock climbers?). They can close their ears to keep out water and debris and they have flexibility like you wouldn’t believe—they can bend their head backwards to touch their backbone and spread their front legs out to the sides, both of which help them get in and out of small spaces.

black pumi dog outdoors
Credit: David Pool Photo / Adobe Stock

5. Rare Medium Dog Breed: Pumi

What do you get when you cross a labradoodle with a koala bear? A pumi! Well, not really, but that’s what this Hungarian herding breed looks like with its signature perky ears and curly hair. It’s rare to spot a pumi outside his native country, but we bet you’re thinking this medium-sized cutie-pie would be a cuddlebug. Think again: The pumi was made for working on farms and still prefers running around to spending time on the couch.

Portrait of golden dox dog smiling
Credit: Mike / Adobe Stock

6. Rare Mixed Dog Breed: Golden Dox

Not nearly as common as hybrid breeds like the puggle or the always-popular goldendoodle, the golden dox is just as easy to fall in love with. Also called a golden weenie or a golden dachshund, this hybrid dog breed is a golden retriever and a dachshund combo. As you can imagine, the breed is both sweet and spunky. A golden dox definitely needs some rough-and-tumble playtime, but is happy to snuggle up afterwards.

biewer terrier with a red bow in their hair sits on grassy lawn
Credit: Даша Швецова / Adobe Stock

7. Cutest Rare Dog Breed: Biewer Terrier

If this breed looks familiar, it's because they're a close cousin to the Yorkshire Terrier. The Biewer terrier’s unusual black, white, and tan coloring is a result of a rare, recessive gene in Yorkies. With a cheery face and childlike personality, Biewer terriers are adorable companions who love chasing down a toy, going on walks, and making new friends.

english foxhounds running in a pack on a hunting event
Credit: dageldog / Getty

8. Rarest Dog Breed in the US: English Foxhound

English Foxhounds were bred to sniff out and pursue prey all day and they require a lot of daily exercise. Nowadays, it’s unusual to see English Foxhounds as family pets. These sweet and sometimes stubborn pups are usually cared for by hunt clubs who keep packs on hand for recreational hunts.

tri-color afghan hound lying on concrete steps
While solid coat colors are most common, Afghans can come in combinations of colors like this multi-hued beauty.
| Credit: lvaloueva / Getty

9. Most Beautiful Rare Dog Breed: Afghan Hound

It’s easy to see why the Afghan hound gets a lot of second looks: Flowing locks, a tall stature, and wise eyes. This ancient breed looks like dog royalty and they act like it, too. Afghans are cool toward strangers and have a mind of their own, often taking off to follow the scent of prey (they’re hounds after all!).

Maybe that’s why you won’t find many Afghans at the dog park—because taking care of their long hair is a full-time job!

Close up portrait of Mexican hairless dog, purple-red color
Credit: Irina / Adobe Stock

10. Weirdest Rare Dog Breed: Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless Dog)

The Xoloitzcuintli may have the most interesting past of any breed. These strange-looking dogs were companions to the Aztecs. But by the early 19th century, the breed had mostly disappeared except for those found in isolated mountain towns. It's thought that the love of renowned Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera helped to spark the breed’s renewed popularity within the country. Nowadays, this hairless underdog is the national pup of Mexico!