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Group Designations

Each breed is assigned to a Group based on its past and present function, historical origins, and region of development.

Group 1. Guardian Dog

This group is divided into two types: Flock Guards and Mastiffs.

Flock Guards

One of the earliest tasks performed by domestic dogs was guarding the flocks for nomadic shepherds. The Flock Guards were selectively bred for natural protectiveness, hardiness, courage, and large size. As Neolithic tribes migrated from the high plateaus of Turkey and Iran to Africa, Europe and eastern Asia, their Flock Guards traveled with them. The Flock Guard dogs are characterized by heavy bone, a muscular build, ample and weather-resistant coat, and large size.


The Mastiff breeds were probably developed by selectively breeding the largest of the Flock Guard dogs for use as personal guard dogs and war dogs. Unlike the Flock Guards, most Mastiffs have smooth coats. Mastiffs are characterized by substantial bone growth and an overgrowth and thickening of the skin, resulting in wrinkled faces, dewlaps, and drop ears

Group 2. Scenthound

This group is divided into two types: Tree Hounds and Trailing Hounds.
Tree Hounds
Included in this group are the seven Coonhound breeds and the four Cur breeds. The Coonhounds are descended from Trailing Hounds brought to the United States shortly after the country was founded. The ancestors of the Coonhound breeds include the English Foxhound, red Irish hounds, the French Bleu de Gascogne hounds, and the German brindle Schweisshunds.

Hounds in America were utility dogs whose primary function was to help feed the family, but who also served as guard dogs and family companions. As the Tree Hounds evolved from the earlier Trailing Hound breeds, the dogs developed the ability to drive game up a tree, alert the hunter with a distinctive “bark,” and hold the game in the tree until the hunter arrived. Because of the vast size of American hunting grounds, the Tree Hounds needed superior stamina and a “cold” nose, that is, the ability to smell and track old, cold trails.

As more coon hunters became pleasure hunters and then competition hunters, the traits of the six individual Coonhound breeds became more distinct.

Curs were developed by early settlers in the southern and western United States as all-purpose dogs. Curs are excellent tree dogs, used to hunt squirrel, coon, mountain lion, and bear. They are used in Louisiana and Texas to hunt wild hogs. They also serve as stock dogs.

Trailing Hounds
The trailing Scenthounds are probably descended from Mastiffs bred by Celtic tribes in Europe and Britain. During the Middle Ages, Belgian monks developed a strain of black and tan hounds called the St. Hubert Hound, which was the basis of many of these breeds. Trailing Hounds are characterized by their strongly developed tracking ability, their hanging ears, their endurance, and their congenial dispositions which predispose them to working in a pack. Many Trailing Hounds are also famous for the baying sounds they make when hunting.

Scenthound Breeds ( list)

Group 3. Sighthound and Pariah Dog

This group is divided into two types: Pariah Dogs and Sighthounds.
Pariah Dogs
Pariah Dogs comprise some of the oldest breeds known to man. These breeds represent the first stage in the evolution of dogs from wild creatures to domestic animals. Pariah Dogs evolved primarily in the southern hemisphere where a limited food supply drove them to a closer association with people. These breeds lived on the outskirts of human settlements, scavenging and occasionally interacting with humans. In response to the warm climate, the Pariah Dogs developed short, smooth coats and large, erect ears. These breeds are believed to be the ancestors of the Sighthounds. The following breeds are considered Pairiah Dogs: Basenji, Cannan Dog, Carolina Dog, and the Xoloitzcuintli.

In the treeless deserts of North Africa, hunting was accomplished by sighting the prey and chasing it on horseback. As hunting evolved from a necessity to a leisure pastime, dogs became an integral part of the sport. The Sighthounds were bred with light bone and deep chests, enabling them to run swiftly for longer periods of time. Long heads evolved to minimize wind resistance and enable the dog to withstand higher temperatures. Early sea traders carried these Sighthounds to all corners of the known world where their remarkable hunting abilities and exceptional beauty made them valuable commodities.

Group 4. Gun Dog

Many Gun Dog breeds were already in use by hunters before the advent of hunting with firearms. Originally used to hunt a variety of game types, today’s Gun Dogs are primarily used to hunt birds. The dogs in this Group can be roughly subdivided into four often overlapping categories, based on their primary usage: Retrievers, Pointers, Setters and Flushing Spaniels.

The earliest Retrievers were the water dogs, characterized by shaggy, sometimes curly coats, and probably descended from crosses between the shaggy herding dogs of the East and dogs used for hunting. The land retrievers, developed later and primarily of British origin, have heavier bodies, wider heads, and shorter, dense, water-resistant coats.

The many breeds of Pointers, developed to identify the location of birds with a distinctive “pointing” stance, are descendants of the scenthounds. Pointers display their ancestors’ strong hunting drive and scenting abilities.

Early Setters displayed a trait of slightly crouching or “setting” upon locating game. This trait enabled falconers and hunters with nets to get closer to the birds when stalking their prey. Setters are characterized by fringes of hair on the ear, legs, and tail.

Flushing Spaniels are the descendants of Setters with the added ability of flushing out the game. The affectionate personality and attractive appearance of the Spaniel breeds led to the development of diminutive Spaniel breeds used exclusively as companions.

Group 5. Northern Breed

The Northern Breeds were essential to the survival of Arctic people. These versatile dogs pulled sleds, herded livestock, hunted, and provided companionship in the harsh climate of the north. All but one of the Northern Breeds are Spitz types, ancient breeds whose small pricked ears, wedge-shaped heads and heavy coats reflect the heritage of their wolf ancestors. Only the Chinook, a breed of more recent origin than the Spitz breeds, is more Mastiff-like in appearance with a broad head and a shorter coat, tawny in color.

Group 6. Herding Dog

The evolution of herding dogs followed very soon after the domestication of livestock. Early herdsmen quickly learned the value of dogs that could keep large groups of sheep, goats, or cattle tightly bunched, drive them in a desired direction, or cut a single individual out of a flock or herd. Herdsmen developed breeds with different temperaments, coat types and herding styles, based on the type of livestock and the terrain and climate where the livestock was kept. Herding dogs are characterized by great stamina, agility, intelligence, and an affinity for working in partnership with people.

Group 7. Terrier

Terriers are probably descended from small Spitz-type dogs. The majority of the Terrier breeds were developed in Britain and were bred to assist in controlling vermin. Terriers are characterized by feisty temperaments, weather-resistant coats, muscular bodies, and strongly independent natures.

The Feist breeds are descended from the terriers brought over by working class immigrants. These terriers probably included crosses between the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and the now extinct white English Terrier. Some of these dogs were crossed with Whippets or Italian Greyhounds (for speed) and Beagles (for hunting ability). Eventually, these tough little terriers evolved into today’s squirrel-hunting Feists.

Group 8. Companion Dog

Many of these breeds originated in one of the other seven Groups but have been specially adapted to serve as family companions. With the exception of the English Bulldog and the Dalmatian, the Companion Dogs tend to be “miniaturized” versions of their ancestors. Companion Dogs are lively, intelligent, and affectionate.