The American Kennel Club recognizes over 200 breeds of dog, and many more breeds exist in other parts of the world that haven’t come to America yet.

In short? There are lot of varieties of our favorite animal in existence and keeping abreast of them all can be challenging.

Wired recently ran an excellent video series looking at how the American Kennel Club separates breeds, with expert insights from Gail Miller Bisher, a dog expert.

We’ve handpicked breeds from each “type” and distilled the most interesting findings in the process.

But first…

Dog shows separate breeds into seven major categories

You’ve got herding dogs, hounds, non-sporting, toy, working, terrier, sporting

We’re going to kick off with the first two in this article.

Type #1: Herding dogs

This type contains 31 breeds and these dogs would have traditionally herded livestock. Bisher calls out the Australian Cattle Dog as a fearless example of this tradition.

Location has a massive bearing on the characteristics of a breed. Bearded Collies and Border Collies both herald from Scotland, but the former has a thick coat to deal with harsh Scottish winters, while the latter has a far thinner coat and originated on the border between Scotland and England, where conditions would have been warmer.

Shetland sheepdogs, meanwhile, embody the trait that many herding breeds have, which is the desire to please their owner. They’re trainable and a familiar face at shows.

The Belgian Malinois is a popular police and military dog while Corgis come from Wales and are famously popular with the Queen of England.

Did you know: Corgis were bred to be short of stature to avoid being kicked by cows. They also have a flat head to minimize the impact of a blow, should it occur.

Type #2: Hounds

With 32 breeds, hounds are the largest dog type categorized by the American Kennel Club.  

Famed for their hunting ability, you get broadly two varieties: scent hounds, who rely on their incredible sense of smell, and sight hounds who have uncommonly good vision.

Sight hounds, like the Sloughi, traditionally accompanied humans in hot desert-like conditions, and were capable of spotting prey invisible to a human eye.

By contrast, the signature long ears of a Bloodhound aren’t just a cosmetic feature, but actually help the animal pinpoint and follow a scent. Nose to the ground, the ears act like a curtain around the animal that helps it to hold on to its prey, even from a far.

Greyhounds and Whippets can be confused, but they’re distinct (though they do share a need for speed). Indoors, Greyhounds often enjoy the good life, and can be content with very little exercise at all, but if they’re in the great outdoors they’re tearaways, so keep them on a leash.

Demonstrating how important location is to shaping these breeds, the Otterhound possesses webbed feet. Why? Because he originated in the wetlands of Britain and needed to navigate water.

Dogs like the Borzoi are far larger and have traces of Greyhound in them, meaning they are extremely fast – but also strong. They can take down wolves, elk and other large game.

Still, if you think that’s impressive, how about the Rhodesian Ridgeback? It was used to ward off lions in Africa but has become popular in America in the past decade.

Hounds can be aloof, but they’re good companions, and if you want a low maintenance animal that’s quiet to boot, the famously bark-sky Basenji is a good bet.

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