Sometimes an odd-looking dog isn’t a mutt. We rescued a frightened but friendly dog abandoned at a rest area a few years ago and took her to our shelter. After a bath and veterinary checkup, we allowed her to live in the main area of the shelter because she was such a great dog and welcomed all visitors. Everyone wanted to pet her and she wanted everyone to do so.
Just when we thought she’d spend the rest of her life with us as a mascot, she got lucky and was adopted. But no one could tell what she was. With the brindle coat often seen on Pit Bull terriers, she was labeled a mix. But she didn’t have any physical characteristics of a pit, nor any personality similarities. Clearly, she was a different dog breed altogether, but what?
We were in luck when someone saw her on our web site and recognized her as a Plott Hound, one of several rare dog breeds in the U.S. that we had never heard of. But a little research revealed that Plotts are one of the oldest and purest breeds still around. Developed in Germany for bear hunting, they were brought to America around 1750 by John Plott, whose further breeding refinements produced a dog that is legendary for boar hunting. They are now the state dog for North Carolina, where they first landed. They are also known for their intelligence, loyalty and affectionate natures.
Another rare dog breed we have worked with is the Catahoula Leopard Dog, a breed that originated in the South, particularly the state of Louisiana, and is now their state dog. Also known for their intelligence, they are suited to just about anything asked of them, such as hunting, herding, agility, therapy dog, and they make great family pets, too.
There are too many rare dog breeds to even mention all of them here, but an Internet search will bring up many web sites that list and describe them and how to locate reputable breeders. It’s also useful to look at animal rescue sites, since many dogs are abandoned or surrendered, whether they are rare or common … or just mutts.
The thing is, a rare dog breed is going to cost plenty to purchase. As we in rescue say, why breed when you can rescue? It’s not fair to let a healthy, smart dog die in a shelter while hundreds of puppies are born daily to replace them, commanding high prices in the process. A common estimate is that fully 25% of dogs at shelters are pure breeds, and quite often are one of the many different dog breeds that were purchased by someone whose expectations weren’t met, or perhaps their lives took an unexpected turn that didn’t allow dogs.
An advantage of adopting a rare dog breed from a shelter is that it’s much less costly than buying one from a breeder. And it saves a life. More than likely, a rare dog found at a shelter started its life at a breeder’s. Sometimes it just means the owner is no longer able to care for the dog, and for various reasons can’t return the dog to the breeder. Sadly, though, it can also mean the dog has been abandoned, or rescued from a bad situation.
If pedigree is important to you, however, you will pay for it. Rescue groups typically refuse to pass on the animal’s papers and require spaying or neutering (which renders the papers useless with registries anyway).
But if you enjoy saving a life and have always wanted to own a rare dog breed, do some research, then check with local rescue chapters first. Just the right dog might be waiting for you!
Dr. R.J. Peters is a retired health professional who established a pet rescue shelter in 2002. Learn why pets need insurance, too, at Every Pet Matters.