Rare breeds of dogs include the azawakh, Thai ridgeback, xoloitzcuintli and Norwegian lundehund. Rare breeds are often bred for specialized purposes or have populations that are concentrated in one particular part of the world.
The xoloitzcuintli, also known as the xolo or Mexican hairless, is a small primitive breed of dog that originated in Central America. They are known for giving off a great deal of body heat, which traditional healers used to treat asthma, arthritis and other ailments.
The azawakh is a variety of African sighthound. Like most sighthounds, the breed was traditionally used for hunting. However, they differ from most other sighthound breeds because they become fiercely attached to their owners and have a strong protective instinct.
Thai ridgebacks are smart, independent dogs that are used for many purposes in their native Thailand. This includes vermin control, pulling carts, guarding people and hunting cobras. They are named for the distinctive ride of hair on the spine.
Norwegian lundehunds were developed to hunt puffins and have a variety of unusual physical characteristics. They have six toes on each foot, which allows them to grip uneven terrain and rocky ledges. They can close their ear canals to keep water out, and they are extremely flexible, which allows them to move quickly and safely through narrow passages.
The Canaan dog is derived from feral dogs that live in the Middle East and North Africa. A focused breeding program was initiated by Rudolphina Menzel of the University of Tel Aviv, and the dogs were used for military missions during World War II. As of 2015, there are about 1,600 of these dogs worldwide, not counting the original feral population.
The Mudi is a livestock herding breed from Hungary. During World War II, they were nearly wiped out. A restoration program began in the 1960s, though they are still rare, even in Hungary.
The harrier hound is an old British breed, similar to the English foxhound. They were once more popular than beagles, but as of 2015, they are among the least popular breeds in the world. Their reduction in popularity is partly due to their role as hunting dogs, not companion animals. Unlike beagles, they are almost entirely owned for hunting purposes.