The African Dog Breeds – Which breeds originated in Africa?

African Dog Breeds

If all the dogs below are African Dog Breeds then how come they look so different from one another? You’d think that all the dog breeds from Africa would look quite similar to each other, as they all come from one area. But they do not.


The answer is easy!

The African continent is huge . You may be surprised at just how huge it is. Not only is it 3 times bigger than the United States but you could fit the UK into Africa a staggering 120 times! In fact, if you wanted to, you could fit the US, Europe, India, China and Japan all into it comfortably. It includes the countries in the north such as Morocco, Algeria and Libya, all the way south to Namibia, South Africa and the island of Madagascar.

Now, that’s pretty big! Around 30,2210,000 sq km to be precise!

There is a great difference not only in the climate but also in the landscapes between the 54 nations within Africa. Some areas are at high altitude (like the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, or the land-locked state of Lesotho), so they are cooler (particularly at night time). Other areas are close to sea level, so potentially hotter.

And so different breeds of dog have evolved to suit their various environments. A large number of the Sighthound Group are of African Origin.

But it’s NOT just the local environment that African dog breeds have evolved to survive in, to explain the big variation in shape and size.

There has also been a huge human influence in terms of cross-breeding, to produce dogs with specific qualities.

Once more dogs were introduced into Africa by travelers from Asia and Europe, these new dogs were interbred with the local dogs to produce an animal more suited to the environment and for various uses, such as hunting lions (Rhodesian Ridgeback), or for guarding and protection (Boerboel).

Most African breeds were believed to be very ancient due to hieroglyphics found in Egyptian tombs and mummified dogs which have been found buried with their owners.

However, thanks to modern technology and the use of DNA testing, it has been discovered that most of the breeds which had been believed to be ancient were actually not as old as first thought.

Only the Basenji was confirmed as a true African dog breed of ancient origin. The other breeds are now believed to have been bred more recently to resemble the ancient drawings and descriptions of more ancient breeds discovered in Egyptian Tombs.

List of African Dog Breeds



An ancient breed, this is a sight hound from West Africa. Tall and elegant, but so thin that you can see all their ribs and bones! Very fast, a tough and durable hunting dog used for chasing gazelles. They need a lot of exercise.

Africanis Dogs (African Wild Dogs)

Africanis via Wikipedia Commons

A general name for all the indigenous wild dogs of southern Africa, it is now taken to refer to a short-coated medium-size dog, muscular and athletic. They are also called the Bantu Dog, the Hottentot Hunting Dog, the KhoiKhoi Dog, or the Zulu Dog.

Some dogs will have a ridge of hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat on their back, which comes from the Hottentot hunting dog, (and is a feature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback). At times this is connected with a serious spinal condition called Dermoid Sinus. The term “Hottentot” is a colonial name for the Khoikhoi people.

Aidi (Atlas Mountain Dog)

Atlas Mountain Dog. A livestock guardian dog used by the nomadic Berber tribes of North Africa, the Atlas Mountains. This breed has also been paired with the sight hound Sloughi dog, where the Aidi would detect prey by scent, and then the Sloughi would take over. A very protective breed, the Aidi is loyal to his family. Best suited to rural living.

African Hairless Dog
(African Hairless Terrier, Abyssinian Sand Terrier)

African Hairless via Wikipedia Commons

A very rare breed from the Western State province of South Africa. It was thought to be extinct at one point, and some authorities believe it is related in some way to the Chinese Crested breed.

Armant (Egyptian Sheepdog)

Armant (Egyptian Sheepdog)

These dogs are named after the town of the same name in Egypt. They were originally used as guard dogs, and need a firm and authoritative owner to keep them under control. They have also been called the Egyptian Sheepdog.



A very ancient breed, used by African hunters. They have keen eyesight and are very fast. This is a barkless dog; they do not bark, but make a yelping sound if they want to vocalize.

Bichon Frise

Originating on the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. These are small dogs that make excellent companions.

(South African Mastiff)


This is a BIG dog, bred to protect African farmers from intruders, whether human or animal. They are powerful and fast, with a deep chest, yet make very good family dogs. They develop an idea of who their “family” is, and defend each and every one of them (even the cat).

Unfortunately this innate desire to defend can cause over-reaction, and this breed needs early socialization and a firm owner who takes the time to train the dog properly.

Chinese Crested Dog

Chinese Crested

A hairless breed of dog that nevertheless has hair on it’s head, paws and tail. They are lively, alert and playful. Obviously, they don’t shed dog hair, and also don’t develop that “doggy” smell. A great apartment dog!

Coton De Tulear

Coton de Tulear

Originally from the island of Madagascar, and named for the town of Tulear, this small breed is charming, energetic, and loves clowning around with their owner. They form a very strong bond with their master, and will follow them around from room to room in the house. They make a great companion.

Perro De Presa Canario

Perro De Presa Canario via Wikipedia Commons

The Perro de Presa Canario is from the Canary Islands, which lie off the coast of Africa but belong to Spain. They are descended from the old Molosser type of dog, current day Mastiffs. They were bred to be livestock guardian dogs, and so are protective of who they perceive to be in their family.

They are calm and docile at home, but suspicious of strangers. They nearly became extinct in the 1970s, but started to make a come-back in 1982 when a group of local breeders on Tenerife formed an association to protect and promote the breed.

Pharaoh Hound

 It has been suggested that the Pharaoh Hound is descended from the dogs shown in the tomb paintings of Ancient Egypt, hence the name. BUT modern DNA studies suggest that the breed is not an ancient African dog breed, but a moderately recent development from various other breeds.

Pharaoh Hounds actually come from the Mediterranean island of Malta. In Maltese it is called Kelb tal-Fenek, which means “rabbit dog”; it is traditionally used for hunting rabbit in the rocky terrain of the Maltese Islands.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
(African Lion Hound or African Lion Dog)

Rhodesian Ridgeback

A large dog with long legs, a relatively recent breed developed in current-day Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) to play the roles of guard dog against human and animal intruders, household pet, and lion hunter. They are named for the ridge of hair on their back that grows in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat from the withers down to the hips.

It is thought that this stems from one of the original breeds, the fierce little Hottentot Hunting Dog, used to develop this hound. They can tolerate extremes of temperature, from cold weather at night to the heat of the day.

Ridgebacks are calm, confident, and rarely bark. They are gentle giants, and make very good family pets, and are very tolerant of children. They need a good run each day, but after that they are happy to laze around the house in a quiet corner. They have a short coat, and need only minimal grooming.



A very ancient breed used for hunting Gazelle. They are very fast runners, and need a fair amount of exercise every day. They will tend to chase anything that moves, and should either be kept in a big well-fenced yard, or taken out on a leash. The Saluki has an independent nature, and is not an easy dog to train, but is very rewarding to own!


Sloughi via Wikipedia Commons

The Sloughi dog breed originates from North Africa, and was used by the Berber and Bedoin tribes for hunting. Like the Saluki, they are sight hounds and will tend to chase anything moving. Inside the home, however, they are calm and well-behaved, and make great family pets if you have the space and time to exercise them.

Story of the African Dog

We have found this amazing book, The Story of the African Dog, telling the history of the African Dog from its earliest presence at the fire of Stone Age humans, through the evolution from wolf to protodog to domestic dog and subsequent migration into the African continent with nomadic Neolithic herders.  You can read more about this really interesting book and buy online at Amazon here.

African Dog Breeds

If you think we have forgotten a breed in our list of African Dog Breeds, please let us know, using the Contact Me link.

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