All modern-day dogs descend from wolves, but what was the first breed distinct from wolves? The answer is hazy. Humans first domesticated dogs in prehistory, the time before writing. We have to look at evidence like art, archeology, and genetics.
Experts believe the following breeds to be some of the most ancient. These dogs are considered basal breeds. Basal breeds are dog types that diverged early from wolves and predated modern breed categories.
Basenjis, 6,000 B.C.
Though this breed is ancient, humans categorized the modern basenji as a distinct breed in 1895. Some experts believe that prehistoric cave paintings of dogs depicted basenjis. These canines were, like many ancient dogs, originally bred to help people hunt. Basenjis are small dogs with alert pointed ears. They’re energetic and highly intelligent.
Afghan Hounds, 6,000 B.C.
Afghan hounds also started as hunting dogs. They helped humans track and take down prey in the rough environments of what is now modern-day Afghanistan. Their graceful gaits and long, silky hair made them favorites at English dog shows starting in the 19th century. They aren’t the most affectionate dogs, and some owners have even described their temperament as catlike.
Alaskan Malamutes, 1,000 B.C.
Alaskan malamutes are perfect sled dogs. In some parts of the world, sled dogs are still superior means of transportation compared to cars, which might slip and slide in harsh Arctic weather. Though they’re named after a U.S. state, their origin is probably Siberia. Unlike many dogs, they still look wolf-like to human eyes. Like wolves, they function best in packs. Most Alaskan malamute owners don’t need dogs for transportation. However, these canines still have a grand time if their owners train them to pull a sled around the yard.
Samoyeds, 1,000 B.C.
Samoyeds have a wolf-like shape, but you might not notice it under their fluffy fur. These are Siberian herding dogs, originally put to work directing reindeer. They’re cooperative and friendly. If you’re looking for a guard dog, the Samoyed is not for you. However, if you’re looking for a canine who’s unlikely to show aggression, this breed could be ideal. Samoyeds’ faces often look as though the dogs are smiling. Though the breed is excellent as herding, they’re also good sled dogs.
Salukis, 329 B.C.
Salukis are thin, graceful sighthounds. Sighthounds hunt using their eyes, not their noses. Humans bred salukis in the Fertile Crescent, one of the earliest locations of civilization. Many people describe this breed as aloof but gentle. Training a saluki takes kindness and patience. If you try to dominate a saluki, you will most likely lose its trust.
Formal dog breed categories are relatively modern, but that doesn’t mean the breeds themselves are modern. Many dogs are almost identical to their ancient ancestors. Humans have worked with and loved their canine companions since before we developed writing, and we continue to love them today.