Primitive Dog Breeds

The class of primitive dogs represent a large group of Primitive and Spitz type dog breeds, which are separated into seven sections by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Nordic Sledge Dogs, Nordic Hunting Dogs, Nordic Watchdogs and Herding Dogs, European Spitz, Asian Spitz and Related Breeds, Primitive types, and Primitive types – Hunting Dogs. These are the most ancient dog breeds in the world. They represent a missing link between domesticated dogs and their wild ancestors. With such evident connections to their wild relatives – wolves, it is no wonder these dogs kept some of their “wild” habits, such as strong prey drive, need for roaming and exploring, resourcefulness, etc. As such, they are independent, suspicious, clever, unpredictable, and stubborn – in other words, they are not always easy to control. That’s why many people often label them as stupid, which is, of course, absolute nonsense. They are actually all beautiful in their own respective way!

Primitive Dog Breeds can be found literally in every continent on this planet. Their several millennia long evolution has often been tied to the human migrations. This way they have reached all parts of the world and adapted to all kinds of surroundings. This resulted in a great diversity of dog breeds in this category. However, despite their diversity, all primitive dogs are actually descendants of two ancient canine strainsSpitz type dogs and Primitive type dogs. These two groups of dogs have had different evolutionary paths with roots in the different regions. That’s why these two classes are quite distinct and special in their own way, but there are some breeds that possess physical and behavioral characteristics of both types. We will explore them all and give you a detailed insight into their characteristics and habits. Plus, we will encompass some of the breeds left out of the official FCI selection, such as Canadian Eskimo Dog, Dingo or Shih Tzu.

Primitive Type Dog Breeds

Tahl-tan Bear Dog, primitive type dog from North America is now extinct

Tahl-tan Bear Dog

The Primitive type dogs represent a relatively small group of ancient and often isolated pariah breeds. The evolution of these primitive dog breeds had started almost 15.000 years ago in the southwest Asia, when many people from these lands began their migrations towards Africa accompanied by their pariah dogs. The first dogs arrived in North Africa and Middle East approximately 5.000 years ago. These are said to be Phoenician Hounds, which are actually considered today to be the legitimate ancestors of the Pharaoh Hound (oldest Primitive type breed) and other Mediterranean breedsPodenco Canario, Cirneco dell Etna, etc. The evolution of these breeds has started when Phoenician sea traders have spread their dogs all over Mediterranean coastal lands and islands. However, some of these first pariah dogs eventually moved into Central Africa, where they evolved into many indigenous breeds, such as the Basenji, East African Dog, Bantu Dog, Zulu Dog, Baganda Dog, etc. Unfortunately, today only Basenji left in pure form of all these African dogs.

However, not all of ancient pariah dogs migrated westwards, another branch of them accompanied humans who journeyed eastwards. This way these dogs have reached Southeast Asia (Thai Ridgeback), Australia (Dingo), and even North America (Carolina Dog) over the land bridge known as Bering Strait crossing. Many of these Asian dogs interbred with wolves of North America and thus lost their pure form, but some of these dogs reached “untouched” south and southwest of North America. The extinct breeds from Canada and USA, such as Tahl-tan Bear Dog or Basketmaker Dog, were actually direct descendants of these dogs. Today, their only living descendant in North America is the Carolina Dog. Although judging by the course of these migrations, it might seem evident that primitive dog breeds from Central and South America actually evolved from these Asian dogs, their true origin is still uncertain. Some experts believe that dogs like Mexican Hairless Dog and Peruvian Hairless Dog are actually descendants of African pariah dogs, which were brought to South America either by Asians, North Africans or Polynesians.

Primitive Type Dogs In General

Today, all the remaining Primitive type dogs are more or less small in comparison to their Indian Wolf progenitors. Scientists believe that this evolutionary change has been caused by ecological and environmental factors of their habitats. Some of the oldest pariah breeds partially evolved through self domestication. These dogs, such as Pharaoh Hound or Canaan Dog, kept their natural look and habits till now. Others, such as Basenji or Peruvian Hairless Dog, which are of the same origin, have been drastically altered by the human factor in their breeding process. Amazingly, some of these feral dogs, such as New Guinea Singing Dog and Dingo, are still at an early stage of domestication. During their long history, these primitive dog breeds have been usually used for hunting and watching. Although these dogs evolved in so many ways, they kept a few things in common. They are aloof, sensitive, alert, and independent. However, they are usually easy to train with the proper approach. Also, keep in mind that these dogs are not used to cold weather!

Spitz Type Primitive Dogs

The Spitz type dogs represent a group of versatile breeds that evolved for thousands of years throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the Arctic regionsAlaska, Siberia, Canada, and Scandinavia. They are descendants of dogs that had moved into the Arctic regions and interbred there with wolves thousands of years ago. Later on, they had spread south of the Arctic circle into the warmer regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, which resulted in acquiring of new genetic material. These intermingled dogs returned afterwards to their previous habitats, thus blurring further distinctions between breeds. These migrations were also the reason some of the Primitive type dogs from south, such as Basenji or Canaan Dog, have developed anatomical similarities to these dogs. But, the majority of Spitz dogs remained above or around the Arctic circle with the exception being the breeds originating from China, Japan, and Central Europe.

Spitz type dogs are used to live in harsh climates of the Arctic circle

Spitz type dog

In Asia, breeds from Mongolia and Siberia were first brought to China and Korea, and later on into Japan. Some of these Asian Spitz type dogs such as the Chow Chow, Akita Inu or Shiba Inu are known to be the most ancient dog breeds in the world. The ancestors of these breeds were also brought through trade and migration into Europe, especially Scandinavian countries, where they evolved through selective breeding into today’s modern Spitz type dogs with small ears and dense coats. Some European breeds were developed from dogs brought from northern Russia. In North America, there is a possibility that some breeds such as the Canadian Eskimo Dog, Alaskan Malamute or Greenland Dog were, intentionally or accidentally, intermingled with wolves. This cannot be proven for sure, however, when you take into account the look of these dogs, their habits or their usual behavior, there is enough proofs that this might be in fact true.

Spitz Dogs And Humans

It is quite evident by their migrations that Spitz type dogs have been inhabiting the cold and hostile wilderness around the Arctic circle for thousands of years. Actually, their predetermination (waterproof and dense coat with undercoat, well-furred ears and paws, etc.) to successfully cope with harsh winter climates was the main reason Inuit people have discovered them to be very helpful for various tasks. That’s why these Spitz dog breeds have had a very interdependent relationship with humans during the long history of the strain. In fact, Spitz type dogs have had a more influential relationship with humans than any other group of dogs. These primitive dogs have always been so important for survival of the tribes of people living in the cold Arctic regions. They have been adapted through selective breeding for hunting, herding, and sled pulling. On top of that, they’ve been bred to be nice, affectionate and protective with humans and their children.

Spitz Type Dogs Today

Since then, over several millennia dog breeds in this group evolved in so many ways and they’ve been used for all sorts of jobs and sports, such as big game hunting (Karelian Bear Dog, Russo-European Laika or Norwegian Elkhound), small game hunting (Norwegian Lundehund, Norrbottenspets or Finnish Spitz), herding and watching (Norwegian Buhund, Icelandic Sheepdog or Swedish Lapphund), sled pulling (Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed or Canadian Eskimo Dog), dog sled racing (Siberian Husky or Greenland Dog), guarding (Akita Inu, Chow Chow or Shar Pei), etc. As you can clearly see, the list is quite long and versatile, which just proves how useful these primitive dog breeds actually are. Spitz type dogs, together with Primitive type dogs, are literally the oldest human companions. As such, they are highly prized and loved all around the world. So, if you are looking for a perfect pet, you are in the right place – join us on a lovely journey into the beautiful world of primitive dogs!

Nordic Sledge Dogs

Nordic Hunting Dogs

Nordic Watchdogs And Herding Dogs

European Spitz

Asian Spitz And Related Breeds

Primitive Types

Primitive Types – Hunting Dogs

Other Primitive And Ancient Dogs

One thought on “Primitive Dog Breeds

  1. einheit

    I can see how the so-called American Akita would be classified as primitive, but I think it could be argued that the Akita Inu is a relatively recent attempt to recreate what was felt should be the ideal Akita, free of all mastiff influences.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.