Some dogs are known for their sleek coats, others for their lack of fur, and a few for their petite size. Then, there are dolichocephalic (doh-lih-koh-sef-uh-lik) dogs that are recognized for their facial structure. Learn about what this unique skull shape means, its advantages, and the breeds that belong to this group.
What Does Dolichocephalic Mean?
Dolichocephalic comes from the Greek words "dolichos" (meaning long) and "cephalic," which means head. It describes dogs with long and narrow heads. They are often also called “long-snouted” dogs. This physical trait is a standout feature of several dog breeds and plays a crucial role in shaping their hunting and chasing abilities. It enhances their other senses as well.
You can figure out if a breed is dolichocephalic by looking for three facial features. First, they have elongated skulls that look triangular from the side and top angles. These canines also have slender noses and well-defined faces. Because of their appearances, these breeds might look elegant or noble. They differ from brachycephalic dogs that have flat faces and shorter skulls, like pugs, boxers, and Japanese Chins.
Types of Dolichocephalic Breeds
Dolichocephalic dogs share elongated facial features, but many of their similarities stop there. These canines come in all sorts of coat patterns, fur textures, sizes, and countries of origin. Fun fact: many dogs with the name “hound” in it are dolichocephalic. The American Kennel Club currently recognizes 32 hound breeds. Here are some:
- Basset Hounds
- Ibizan Hounds
- Scottish Deerhounds
- Multiple foxhounds
- Afghan Hounds
- Several coonhound varieties
Other long-snouted dogs include Dachshunds, Whippets, and Borzoi. Some ancient dog breeds, like Salukis, are also dolichocephalic.
Dolichocephalic Dogs Have Unique Abilities
The dolichocephalic head structure has advantages, especially for hunting and chasing. One benefit is an enhanced field of vision. With their eyes positioned forward, dolichocephalic dogs have wide peripheral vision, meaning they can detect movement from a distance. You might not know that these dogs’ vision helps them track prey and predict sudden movements during a chase.
Additionally, their longer snouts equal a larger olfactory system, giving these dogs an exceptional sense of smell. Their powerful noses allow them to detect scents over long distances. Dolichocephalic dogs and their owners can benefit from this strong sense by using it to track down game or hidden objects. Combined with their sharp vision, dolichocephalic breeds possess a formidable advantage in hunting scenarios and other various breed-specific dog sports.
Dolichocephalic Dog Behavior
Research has proven that a dog’s head shape predicts their behavior. Compared to canines with short or average-length skulls, long-snouted dogs are less interested in playing with objects like ropes and squeaky toys. While they chase things for fun, they aren’t as likely to retrieve an item you throw.
These breeds also show more fear towards strangers and typically stay in a “scared state” for longer periods of time. Researchers believe this is because of their vision. While dolichocephalic dogs can see objects and people from a distance, certain breeds may have poorer central vision. This would make looking at objects directly in front of them more challenging and extend how long it takes to figure out something is not a threat.
These Dogs Have a Need for Speed
Since dolichocephalic dogs were used for hunting and protection, it’s no surprise that they are comfortable reaching high speeds. In fact, six out of 10 of the fastest breeds in the world have long snouts. Doberman Pinschers and Whippets reach speeds of 30+ miles per hour. On the higher end, Salukis, an ancient sighthound breed with roots in the Middle East, can go as fast as 42 miles per hour.
Coming in as the fastest canines in the world are the sleek Greyhounds. They reach an impressive 45 mph and are the poster dogs for racing. While dog races experienced peak popularity in the United States during the 1980s, only two tracks in West Virginia are still in operation. Initiatives from animal rights organizations have pushed to end this sport after allegations of animal abuse.
Dolichocephalic Dogs Experience Some Health Problems
Dolichocephalic breeds experience some health problems common in dogs. They’re also more likely to develop diseases based on their skull shape. They can catch a case of fungal rhinitis, a nasal infection caused by a fungus found in some soils. Common symptoms include:
- Nose bleeds
- Green or odd-colored nasal discharge
- Excessive sneezing
- Discoloration of the nose
These symptoms can also be other illnesses, so a visit to the vet and a CT scan can usually confirm whether a dog has fungal rhinitis. Depending on the severity, treatment can involve minor surgical procedures to a more invasive process that removes fungus from the nose.
Another abnormal symptom to look out for is a sunken eye, also known as enophthalmos. This can happen because of trauma to the eye and is more common among dogs with long noses and smaller eyes. Dogs will typically close one eye completely or partially, and it may appear droopy. Consult a vet to properly diagnose your pet. If treatment is needed it can involve a mix of hot packs, fluid therapy via an IV, and cone collars to prevent further eye trauma.
Dogs With the Longest Noses
Borzois, also known as Russian Wolfhounds, are the anteaters of dogs. These dolichocephalic canines have some of the longest noses of any breed and often go viral for their appearances.
In September, photos of Lapsha, a Borzoi based in Canada, appeared across international outlets. Lapsha’s owners claim the six-year-old has a 12-inch nose! They regularly share this dolichocephalic dog’s day-to-day routine and nasal shenanigans on social media with her 108K followers.
Lapsha’s owners hope her foot-long nose can be verified and entered into the world record book soon. Although, she has competition. A Borzoi from the United States named Eris boasts 316K Instagram followers, and her pet parents self-report a 12.2-inch snout!