What Are Mesocephalic Dogs?

Mesocephalic dogs are breeds that have medium-sized head and snout shapes. Examples include Golden Retrievers, Beagles, and Pomeranians.

Apr 4, 2024By Jessica Montes
what are mesocephalic dogs

If you’ve ever seen an adorable pup and complimented its squishy face or long nose, you’re noticing more than just its skull shape. You’re observing which cephalic index, or skull size, group they belong to. In this article, we’ll discuss mesocephalic dogs and what that means for their jobs, intelligence, exercise, lifespan, and popularity.

Exploring Mesocephalic Dog Breeds

Dog skull shapes
Photo by: Scientific Reports

The Greek word “meso” means middle. Therefore, mesocephalic dogs fall into the middle of the skull-shape spectrum. On the short, circular end of the range are brachycephalic pups who have round skulls and flat, often wrinkly faces. You’ll find Pugs, Chihuahuas, Boxers, Chow Chows, Frenchies, and Cane Corso in this group.

On the opposite end are the long-snouted dogs that make you say, “That’s a great nose!” These dogs are called dolichocephalic (pronounced doll-ee-koh-suh-fal-ic). Hound breeds like Greyhound, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds, and Irish Wolfhounds point their noses in pride in this area. Salukis, Borzois, and Dachshunds are also dolichocephalic.

Now, mesocephalic dogs cover all the skulls in the middle of both extremes. Their faces aren’t as flat or as long and narrow as the previous two groups. Some mesocephalic breeds include:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Standard Poodles
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Dalmatians
  • Border Collies
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Xolos (Mexican Hairless Dog)

Mesocephalic Dogs Were Bred for Several Jobs

Photo by: Kateryna Babaieva

As most of human history will teach us, dogs were bred to help people accomplish tasks. American Eskimo dogs helped with transportation. Poodles helped hunters catch waterfowl, while the Japanese Chin helped the aristocracy show off their wealth.

There are some exceptions, but brachycephalic dogs were often used for protection. Think of how intimidating Bulldogs, Mastiffs, and Cane Corso dogs look on someone’s front lawn. On the other hand, long-snouted dogs are hunters. Hounds were trained to catch every animal, from raccoons to otters to elk to wolves and even bears.

So, what are mesocephalic dogs known for? Because they cover all ranges of breeds, locations, and climates, pups with medium-length skulls have several jobs. Australian Cattle Dogs herd cattle and livestock on farms, whereas Siberian Huskies were used by indigenous groups as sled dogs and furry companions.

These Dogs Love Exercise

Dog ball
Photo by: Yuki Ghost

As a group with flexible skills, mesocephalic dogs are excellent for training. You can start off with simple tricks like “wave” before moving onto more athletic feats like jumping into your arms. You can enroll them in agility courses or set up a track in your backyard or at a park. With patience and pawsitive encouragement, your pup will jump over hurdles, leap through hoops, and speed through tunnels like a pro.

Mesocephalic dogs also don’t have the same breathing issues as flat-faced pups, so they don’t shy away from physical activity and outdoor playtime. In fact, most of them need at least one 30-minute walk a day and bursts of interactive play throughout the day to prevent boredom. If you have a herding breed, such as a Lancashire Heeler or Australian Shepherd, they can run for hours before tiring themselves out.

Small Mesocephalic Dogs Live the Longest

Lancashire Heeler
Photo by: Svenska Mässan

How long a medium-snouted dog lives depends on genetics, size, health, food quality, and lifestyle. On average, mesocephalic breeds live to celebrate their 10th or 15th birthday, though some may live shorter or longer lives.

If you want a dog that’s guaranteed to have a long life, look for a small, mesocephalic breed. A Scientific Reports study that examined a database of 584,000+ dogs in the UK found that smaller pups with medium-sized skulls had the longest lifespans. At the top of the list, Lancashire Heelers, a petite herding breed that was developed in Wales, lived an average of 15.4 years. In second place was the compact Tibetan Spaniel who reached 15.2 years old, and third went to the fluffy, snow-white Bolognese who lived 14.9 years.

Larger mesocephalic breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and Dalmatians, have slightly shorter lifespans but still enjoy a median of 13.2 years with their human companions.

Does Skull Shape Equal Smarts?

Photo by: Skyler Ewing

Many mesocephalic breeds are known for their high intelligence, trainability, and problem-solving abilities. However, intelligence can vary even within breeds; genetics, upbringing, and individual personality all impact how brainy a dog becomes.

Some breeds, such as the Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Poodle, are adored for their brainpower and often rank among the most intelligent dog breeds in competitions. They are highly trainable and excel in various canine sports, obedience trials, and working roles due to their quick learning and adaptability.

Other mesocephalic breeds might not rank as the most intelligent, but they still possess smarts and learn quickly with consistent training and socialization. For example, Siberian Huskies are known escape artists who can outsmart their owners, bypass gates or enclosed backyards, and find their own entertainment when bored. Even though this behavior can leave owners stumped and worried, we give this breed props for their problem-solving.

Mesocephalic Dogs: Loved By All

Border Collie
Photo by: Bluebird

Dogs are truly humans’ best friends, and breeds of all shapes, sizes, and skull shapes are worthy of unconditional love. But some medium-sized skull breeds take the cake. According to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) 2022 survey of the most popular breeds, four of the top five were mesocephalic pups! Second place went to Labrador Retrievers followed by Golden Retrievers in 3rd, German Shepherds in 4th, and Poodles in 5th place.

First place was awarded to the adorable, brachycephalic French Bulldog who put up a strong fight. Before Frenchies took over in 2022, Labrador Retrievers were the reigning champs for 31 years. With their big hearts, playfulness, and friendly nature, it’s easy to see why they were No. 1 for over three decades. No hard feelings, though. The four mesocephalic pups beat out nearly 200 other AKC-recognized breeds to earn their titles.

Other notable mentions are Rottweilers in 7th place, Beagles in 8th, and German Shorthaired Pointers rounding out the top 10.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.