5 Uncommon Dog Breeds: Discovering the Rare and Unique

Even the most knowledgeable of dog breed extraordinaire will have trouble finding these uncommon canines! Here are five dog breeds you’d be lucky to see outside of a dog show.

Jan 3, 2024By Chelsea Pinkham
uncommon dog breeds

Popular dog breeds are a direct reflection of values and culture. In the nifty fifties, fashionable Poodles were all the rage; in the 80s, the mellow Cocker Spaniel was the most common family dog. But popularity isn’t always a good thing! Puppy mills and backyard breeders prey on breed trends, as we’re seeing with French Bulldogs and other popular breeds today. So what about the least popular dog breeds? Are they better off obscure? Some have difficult-to-pronounce names, outdated jobs, or bizarre physical features- all are worth getting to know!

Irish Red and White Setter

irish red and white majestic
Image credit: Hepper

Ranking at 167th place out of 200 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds, the Irish Red and White Setter is far less common than its popular counterpart, the Irish Setter. While the Irish Setter is a more commonly recognized breed, the Irish Red and White actually came first. These eager-to-please and excitable canines were developed in the 1600s in Ireland as bird dogs, roughly 200 years before Irish Setters were created using Irish Red and White bloodlines.

Compared with the Irish Setter, the Red and White bears an incredibly similar breed standard; the Irish Red and White is slightly shorter than the Irish, but both boast the telltale “crimped” ears and magnificently feathered fur. The dogs’ temperaments are essentially identical; similar to a Golden Retriever in their friendly and outgoing nature, but both erring on the sensitive side.

irish red and white in field
Image Credit: Orvis

The only differences? While the Irish Setter comes exclusively in its characteristic deep red color, the Irish Red and White is, well, you might have guessed it- red and white. Because the Irish Setter was once a widely popular breed, it was sadly exploited by backyard breeders and puppy mills, leading to a higher likelihood of congenital issues and deviation from the breed standard. Not only was the Irish Setter’s popularity bad news for the Irish Setter itself, but the public’s widespread preference for these pure red dogs pushed the Irish Red and White Setter to the brink of extinction by the early 19th century.

Nederlandse Koiikerhondje

koiiker earrings
Image Credit: Canva

“Nederlandse Koiikerhondje” is not only a mouthful of words, it’s a breed most people have never heard of. Repeat: Nay-der-lands-say Koi-ker-hond-jay. If you’ve read over that name two or three times, you’re not alone; the Nederlandse Koiikerhondje ranks in 170th place out of 200 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds, placing this dog in even lower popularity than the Irish Red and White Setter. Luckily, you won’t need to memorize the tongue-twister of a name, because the breed is commonly referred to as the “Koiiker”.

Developed in the Netherlands, the Koiiker is a proud member of the sporting group. Hundreds of years ago, these tiny dogs were bred to assist in duck hunting. At just 16 inches tall, the Koiiker is one of the tiniest breeds belonging to this group. But don’t let their small stature fool you! These feisty little dogs are full of life, excitable, clever, and enthusiastic.

cute attentive koiiker
Photo Credit: Dogtime

Koiikers are not only recognized by their orange-and-white fur, but also by their characteristic black “earrings”. These black tufts of fur adorn their ears, giving them an unmistakable appearance. Like many rare breeds, the Koiiker also once faced possible extinction as a breed, but this dog’s savior story holds extra significance. It was a Dutch Baroness who began to collect and breed the dying breed in 1939, as a form of resistance to Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Preserving the Koiiker was a form of preserving Dutch culture, as this historical breed held a rich significance for the country.

Ibizan Hound

ibizan hound leaping
Image credit: Canva

Ranking 172 out of 200 American Kennel Club-recognized dog breeds is the majestic Ibizan Hound. Preserving this exceptionally rare dog is a high priority for enthusiasts of the breed; after all, these leggy hounds are one of the oldest purebred dogs known to humankind.

The Ibizan Hound has been around since before the Roman Empire, and before the art of writing had spread across the world. These swift, agile, tenacious dogs descended from sighthounds brought from Egypt to Ibiza. Their unparalleled ability to chase down and catch rabbits saved human lives in times when food was incredibly scarce.

lean beautiful ibizan
Photo Credit: Canva

The Ibizan Hound bears a striking resemblance to ancient Egyptian sighthound breeds, seen in early sculpture, carvings, and paintings. From guardians of the tombs to admirable hunters, Ibizan Hounds have been friends to humans for thousands of years.

Cesky Terrier

cesky photoshoot
Image Credit: Canva

Weighing in at 191 out of 200 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds is the adorable Cesky Terrier. These, bright, merry, spirited little dogs simply never gained the traction that so many of their terrier relatives have.

Also called the Bohemian Terrier, this relatively young breed bears some resemblance to the Sealyham Terrier and the Scottish Terrier, both of which were used to create the Cesky. Its temperament is a bit more laid-back than the average Terrier, comparable to the West Highland White Terrier.

alert cesky
Photo Credit: Dogtime

Luckily, the Cesky Terrier was kept relatively obscure and was never bred in large enough numbers to be preyed upon by puppy mills and backyard breeders. Today, less than 600 of these dogs live in the United States.

Luckily, the Cesky Terrier was kept relatively obscure, and was never bred in large enough numbers to be preyed upon by puppy mills and backyard breeders. Today, less than 600 of these dogs live in the United States.

Norwegian Lundehund

lundehund dog
Image credit: Canva

When it comes to a contest for “least popular,” the Norwegian Lundehund would just about take the cake. These highly unpopular and little-known dogs weigh in at 198th place out of 200 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds. That means this breed is the third least-registered dog in the United States.

These teeny-tiny spitz-type dogs make fearsome hunters; that is, if you’re a tiny puffin! Norwegian Lundehunds were bred to hunt puffins on the coast of Norway, and with these special birds now a protected species, Lundehunds were largely rendered obscure as far as functional purpose.

lundehund agility
Photo Credit: Canva

These special dogs are bizarrely unique in a variety of ways. Lundehunds have six toes, extra paw pads, and an outrageously flexible neck.

Chelsea Pinkham
By Chelsea Pinkham

Chelsea is an animal advocate, rescuer, and aspiring rewards-based dog trainer. She is a Fear Free Certified Pet Professional with over a decade of animal experience. Chelsea has worked at animal shelters, sanctuaries and with many private dog training clients. She immerses herself in canine behavior education as she pursues her CPDT-KA dog training certification. In her spare time, she trains dozens of fun tricks for her and her partner’s rescued adventure cat, Iggy!