There are so many breeds of dogs that's it's hard to think of them all as the same species. In fact, there are estimated to be about 339 recognized dog breeds in the world. So, what does it mean to be a "recognized dog breed?"
While all dogs are the same species, Canis lupus familiaris, and share a common ancestor, the Canis lupus of Central Asia, they have changed and evolved from thousands of years of living with humans. Different dog breeds developed as their owners bred their dogs to encourage certain traits, behaviors, and physical characteristics. Some breeds of dogs have existed for a long time, but most are fairly recent, only a few hundred years old. Organized groups of people began to form who bred dogs, whether for a living or as a hobby. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), or World Canine Organization, is considered the authority on dog breeding, but there are other respected organizations like the American Kennel Club and the Westminster Kennel Club, who hosts the famous annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
These days, opinions tend to be mixed on dog breeding. Some argue that many dog breeds have changed too much with time and will only continue to change, negatively effecting future generations of dogs. Some people say that, given how many stray dogs and dogs looking to be adopted there are in the world, we should focus on finding them fur-ever homes instead of creating more puppies. On the other hand, people who like dog breeds would point out that dog breeding has allowed for so many different types of dogs to suit any family and any lifestyle, meaning every person can choose the dog who has literally be designed for them.
Dogs have been with us as companions for over 10,000 years. They enrich our lives, teach responsibility to our children, protect us when in danger, provide comfort and support to the disabled, and so much more. It's easy to assume that dogs will stay by our sides for the next 10,000 years, perhaps following us as we venture out into the solar system and beyond. What forms do you think our furry friends will take? We'll just have to wait and see!
Want to learn more about dog ownership? Check out our series "What's Pup!" over on the Best Brains YouTube channel!