No dog is ugly, just special in his or her own way. These so-ugly-they're-cute dog breeds are celebrated for what makes them different, and we’re here for it.

By Ashley Flaws
June 17, 2021
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Jiggly jowls, wrinkly scowls, and tiny tufts of randomly placed fur are just a few distinct characteristics that make certain dogs breeds stand out as having faces "only a mother could love," but many of the dog breeds on this list have been beloved for centuries, stemming from ancient royalty.

There's certainly a lot to be celebrated about each of these pup's unique appearances-in fact, June 20 is designated Ugliest Dog Day, and the World's Ugliest Dog Contest is held annually in California to honor these homely pets who deserve homes. The unique aspects of these "ugly dog breeds" are what make them beautiful to those lucky enough to love them unconditionally. While the competition has been postponed this year, we can't help but highlight a few of our own contenders coming for your heart-and maybe even your home. 

pug standing on grass
Pugs are an ancient breed with a royal lineage; they've been companions to Chinese emperors, French Empress Josephine Bonaparte, and Queen Victoria.
| Credit: buchsammy/Getty

Pug

With protruding eyes and pronounced wrinkles, the pug is the stereotypical ugly yet cute dog, recognized by most and revered by some, including ancient Chinese emperors who held pugs in such high esteem they were bestowed upon outsiders as gifts. The pug today is the 29th most popular dog breed in America, according to the American Kennel Club, and is a family-friendly fixture found in many homes.

Chinese Crested dog posing on cement
Chinese crested are hardy dogs, with lifespans of 13-18 years - plenty of time to spend with this less-than-furry friend!
| Credit: Ekaterina Gorokhova / Getty

Chinese Crested

What he lacks in hair on the rest of his body, the Chinese crested makes up for along the crest of his head, often sporting a signature style with tufts of hair framing his fine-boned face. 

"Their appearance of the unique hair pattern, large erect ears, and oval, wide set eyes give them an exotic, inscrutable, and mischievous expression," says Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC).

But don't worry-looks can be deceiving. These laidback loungers are compatible companions for any home, not likely to cause trouble besides taking over your lap.

Tan and white bedlington terrier walks through grass
Credit: Sue Thatcher / Shutterstock

Bedlington Terrier

Lithe and lamb-like in appearance, the Bedlington terrier knows how to rock a Mohawk, but this doggie's 'do doesn't stop there. Klein says their thick, curly coats are often trimmed to form tasseled ears trademarked to the breed. One thing his 'do doesn't do? Shed! Bedlington terriers are a great pet for puffy-eyed owners who are more susceptible to allergies.

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

Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless)

The xoloitzcuintli, more commonly known as the Mexican hairless dog, is typically a bald breed, but some may be born with short coats or hints of hair on the head. Though they may not be hairy, they are hardy, with an average lifespan up to 18 years, which Klein attributes to their natural breeding over thousands of years in Mexico. They are another "ugly dog breed" with a prided pedigree, thought to have earned their name from the ancient Aztecs' god "Xolotl," and today are recognized as the national dog of Mexico.

Close up of tan pekingese
Credit: Батуленко Тетяна / Getty


Pekingese

Even without the lion-like locks they share with their king-of-the-jungle counterparts, the Pekingese is recognized as an inherently royal breed, historically luxuriating in the laps of Chinese emperors. Though their company has changed over time, their lovable lapdog status hasn't.

"Pekingese make loyal and dignified companions that develop a close bond with their own humans," Klein says.

bulldog panting with tongue hanging out
The bulldog's shortened snout can literally make it impossible to fit his full tongue in his mouth comfortably, which is why you'll often see them with tongues hanging out and goofy smiles.
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Bulldog

The frowning, focused face of many sports teams, these meaty mascots are well-known for their tough stature and loose jowls, but don't let their exterior fool you. Bulldogs may look grumpy on the outside, but they are goofballs at heart, good with kids and families-in fact, they round out the top five of the AKC's most popular dog breeds list.

Bloodhound laying on grass in front of a lake
Credit: Jeremy Woodhouse / Getty

Bloodhound

With a long face, droopy ears, and drooling mouth, lackadaisical-looking bloodhounds aren't immediately recognized for their athleticism, but their super sniffers-the best amongst their canine counterparts-often have them hot on a scent trail. Bloodhounds are even known to serve as police dogs to locate criminals or missing persons. That's Detective Fido to you!

White and orange japanese chin stands in front of red door
Companionship is what Japanese chin were bred for. They are perfectly happy to spend the whole day by your side-or in your lap.
| Credit: jenngarcia / Adobe Stock

Japanese Chin

Elegant and poised, much like a cat, the petite Japanese chin is better-suited for mature households with experienced dog owners who can understand that, much like their feline friends, Japanese chins prefer things on their own terms and have a stubborn streak. Low-energy lap dogs, their soft, silky coats beg to be stroked, much like their adorable smushy faces call for endless adoration. 

italian greyhound in park
Credit: everydoghasastory / Adobe Stock

Italian Greyhound

The Italian greyhound is essentially a mini version of the greyhound, weighing in at 7-14 pounds compared to the larger breed's 70 pounds, but what's lost in size is maintained in speed. Small but sleek in appearance, these sight hounds are quick on their feet and are happy to head out on hunting expeditions with you. However, much like their stature, their endurance is short, and they are just as happy cozying up on the couch. Those short bursts of energy are a far cry from their longstanding history as an ugly dog breed favored by royalty. Klein says these lanky pups were revered during the Roman Empire as a symbol of status.

bull terrier closeup looking left
Credit: Andrzej Tokarski / Adobe Stock

Bull Terrier

The bull terrier may be familiar to Target shoppers already (recognize their mascot, Bullseye?), but their oval, Humpty-Dumpty shaped heads are hard to forget for anyone seeing the breed for the first time. Their playful personalities also stand out for making mischief, so be sure to allow for plenty of opportunities to expend his energy.

Dog running in house
Credit: Sami Multasuo / Getty

Rat Terrier

As the name suggests, rat terriers have a penchant for preying on rodents and would find success with farm life, as well as with a more laidback lifestyle as a family pet in a house or apartment. Their purposeful appearance allows them to be adaptable in their athleticism.

"They are a small-to-medium sized dog that gives the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting speed, power, and balance," Klein says. 

wheaten irish wolfhound lying on grass
Compared to some other breeds, an Irish wolfhound doesn't need THAT much exercise. She'd be happy with a daily walk and space to run.
| Credit: slowmotiongli / Getty

Irish Wolfhound

Weighing up to 180 pounds, these large and in charge pups have an intimidating first impression but are gentle giants to those who know them. 

"Irish Wolfhounds were once fearless big game hunters being able to hunt down a wolf in a single take," Klein says. "Today, they are calm and delightful companions. While just the sight of them is enough to deter any intruder, they are too calm to be guard dogs."

Black affenpinscher dog stands in grass
Though the breed is most commonly seen with black fur, affenpinschers can be red, beige, black, grey, and a black and beige combo.
| Credit: Yvonne Van der Horst / Getty

Affenpinscher

Affenpinscher in German translates to "monkey-like dog," so it's no wonder this petite primate-like breed makes the list of ugly cute dogs with unique appearances. Independent and intelligent, this mustachioed monkey dog packs a big personality into a tiny package, best-suited for families with older children who can allow these pups the space they need.

Long haired chihuahua puppy lays on wood floor
Chihuahuas may be small, but they've got a personality fit for a pup five times their size. The official breed club even refers to them as "saucy."
| Credit: Ratchat / Shutterstock

Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are itty bitty, maxing out at six pounds and weighing as little as three-but don't tell them that. Klein says Chihuahuas come with a confident, big-dog attitude, despite their demure apple-like heads and alert ears standing tall and adorable. They aren't afraid to show a strange person or pup who's boss, so it's important to socialize them with people and pets early to help rein in their sassy side.