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Throughout the world, there are more than 400 purebred dogs. However, the American Kennel Club only recognizes and accepts breeds with a lineage, as well as those with an active breed group to perpetuate and develop the breed. For that reason, the AKC does not recognize many breeds. Once recognized by the AKC, the breed appears in the AKC Stud Book. Each breed is placed in a specific category, based on temperament, physical appearance and function.
When the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 (then called the Philadelphia Kennel Club), it haphazardly listed its original 29 different breeds. Breeds as different as the dachshund and the mastiff were lumped together on the list.
As the list of purebreds slowly grew, club officials realized they needed to organize the many different purebreds into distinct groups. In 1923, the AKC organized the breeds into five categories: Sporting Dogs (including hounds), Working Dogs, Toy Breeds, Terriers and Non-sporting Dogs.
Today, there are 163 breeds divided into eight categories: Sporting, Hound, Herding, Toy, Working, Terrier, Non-sporting and Miscellaneous.
Dogs in the hound group are primarily used for hunting. Some use their incredible sense of smell. Others have tremendous stamina and will continue to pursue game until they are no longer physically able. And still others use their sense of sight to find and pursue their quarry.
One distinctive characteristic of many hounds is their ability to produce a sound called baying. For those unaccustomed to this sound, it can be unnerving.
Dogs belonging to the Hound Breed group include:
American foxhound. As a hound developed to hunt foxes, the American foxhound thrives on outdoor activities. Not the best dog for small spaces, this breed needs a sturdy fence and plenty of room to run.
Afghan. With his slender body and long flowing haircoat, the Afghan is a beautiful dog. One of the sighthounds, the Afghan uses vision to track and follow quarry.
Basenji. A true African original, the basenji is also known as the barkless dog. Used to help tribesmen hunt, the basenji is still a popular hunting dog in Central Africa.
Basset hound. Made popular by the "Hush Puppy" shoe advertisements, the basset hound's seemingly sad, droopy face is one of the most widely recognized in the United States. These consummate hunters require energetic play to avoid behavior problems. They can be stubborn and if they don't feel like hunting, they won't.
Beagle. A wonderful family companion, the beagle is also a popular hunting dog. As with other hounds, the beagle needs plenty of exercise to keep him occupied and out of trouble.
Black and tan coonhound. Used to hunt raccoon and opossum, this coonhound is a slow methodical tracker that uses scent. As with other coonhounds, the black and tan has a natural tendency to drive his quarry up a tree and alert the hunter by baying.
Bloodhound. An excellent tracking dog, the bloodhound's nose is treasured by police and search and rescue personnel. The bloodhound does not easily give up and one report has a dog following his human quarry over 100 miles.
Borzoi. This elegant and regal dog is also called the Russian wolfhound. Used to hunt wolves, the borzoi is a sighthound, relying on his vision to find game.
Dachshund. With their short legs and long bodies, the dachshund is great at following badgers. Eager to dive into a hole, the doxie will follow his quarry for as long as it takes. Somewhat stubborn, this breed is also a great family pet.
English foxhound. Similar to the American foxhound, the English version also thrives on outdoor activity and excels in hunting foxes.
Greyhound. The greyhound is a sleek dog associated with the controversial sport of greyhound racing. Another member of the sighthound group, the greyhound loves to chase anything small and fast moving.
Harrier. Originally developed in England, the harrier is not a very common site. Bred as a hunter with lots of stamina, the harrier looks somewhat like a foxhound or big beagle. The term harrier is a Norman word for hound.
Ibizan Hound. As the name suggests, the Ibizan hound hails from the island of Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. This ancient dog has been found in the tombs of Pharaohs.
Irish wolfhound. This gentle giant was originally developed to hunt wolves in Ireland. The massive size of this dog leads him to enjoy the wide open spaces of the great outdoors.
Norwegian elkhound. This dog is descended from canines that served with the Vikings. Brave enough to track bear and moose, the elkhound makes an excellent watchdog. The breed is bold, courageous and athletic.
Otterhound. As the name implies, this breed was used to hunt otters and has a natural love of water. Though no longer widely used to hunt otters, the otterhound is a wonderful family dog.
Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Also known as the PBGV, this little dog has a big name. Once you understand what each part of the name means, you can understand the dog. Petit means small, basset means low to the ground, griffon means wirehaired and Vendeen refers to the area of France where the breed was developed.
Pharaoh hound. One of the oldest breeds, the Pharaoh hound is appropriately named. As a breed coveted by royalty, it was not uncommon to see a Pharaoh on his way to the hunt with a falcon on one hand and a Pharaoh hound on the other.
Plott hound. When German immigrant George Plott left Germany and settled in North Carolina, he brought his faithful dogs with him. After years of breeding, the Plott hound was developed. This dog is a natural hunter and readily trees game, just like other coonhounds. Considered the hardiest of all coonhounds, this dog is great for people who love coonhounds but don't care for their characteristic bawling voice.
Rhodesian ridgeback. The Rhodesian ridgeback is only one of two dogs with a naturally occurring ridge down his back. Developed in Africa, the ridgeback was used to hunt lion by taunting and harassing, giving the hunter a chance to approach and kill the lion. A strong minded dog, the ridgeback readily stands his ground and protects his family and territory.
Saluki. Another sighthound, the saluki is considered by many to be one of the oldest breeds of dog. He is also the fastest, reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. The Royal Dog of Egypt, the saluki excels at lure coursing and has a natural tendency to chase anything that moves.
Scottish deerhound. Also a sighthound, the Scottish deerhound is not a common breed but has many admirers. Hailing from Scotland, this breed is an excellent hunter but prefers human companionship.
Whippet. As a moderate-sized greyhound look-a-like, the whippet enjoys racing around a track just as much as he likes to cuddle next to his owner. One of the fastest dogs, the whippet can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.