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Ancient doggos: the dog breeds long forgotten

Found within castle ruins in South Wales was a depiction of an unfamiliar type of dog that tells us our beloved breeds have not always been the same.

Currently, the world canine organisation officially recognises 370 dog breeds, although there were once many more curious breeds that time seems to have forgotten.

Take the lion-like Molossian of Greek/Macedonian lineage that was thought to have been the breed of choice for Alexander the Great. Or perhaps the curious case of the Turnspit dog that was bred specifically to power “hamster-like” wheels for its owners.

Turnspit. Image: Alamy

After more than 30,000 years of coexistence, dog breeds have been constantly changing, mostly in the pursuit of attributes that make certain dogs better suited to specific tasks.

From hunting dogs to lap dogs, breeds have been constantly evolving along with the fashion and needs of each era – with some being lost in time.

In Hawaii for example, a type of dog called a Poi was exclusively vegetarian and treated more like a farm animal than a canine. Whilst in the Pacific Northwest, the Salish was bred for its thick pelt that was used for clothing.

Hawaiian Poi. Image: Honolulu Magazine

Michael Worboys, a professor at the University of Manchester says that the breeding requirements were far more flexible than today, allowing for attributes to constantly change over time. He told the BBC:

“People had all sorts of names of the different types of dogs. They talked about varieties, they talked about strains.”

“They kind of bled into one another. So there were greyhounds, but they kind of merged into foxhounds, which did a different type of work.”

There are still some breeds today that are on the verge of fading into extinction, one of which is the Sealyham Terrier, which became fashionable in the 1930s and 40s. That particular doggo fell out of favour with the emergence of more modern breeds like the cockapoo – the combination of a poodle and a cocker spaniel.

Hopefully one day we can resurrect all of these fantastic ancient doggos in full Jurassic Park style.