In the American Kennel Club’s early history, all dog breeds were classified into one of two groups, which were the sporting group and the non-sporting group. Today’s show ring exhibits seven groups, five of which branched from the original two to bask in their own unique spotlights.
Sporting Dog Breeds
The original sporting dog breeds group was comprised of all dog breeds that served in some capacity in hunting. Some of these breeds were gun dogs that tracked down quarry for the huntsmen who followed on foot or on horseback, while others were used to hunt and control rodents and vermin.
One group that split from the sporting group is that of the hound breeds (scent hounds vs sight hounds). Hounds were developed to hunt independently. Some of the hound breeds, which are known as sight hounds, used their keen sense of vision to spot their prey and chase it down for the kill. Other hounds, known as scent hounds, are renowned their skill of tracking the scent of their prey for long distances. With only a few exceptions, most hounds now serve as family companions rather than hunters, but their hunting instincts remain strong. The most popular hounds today are the dachshund, the beagle, the Rhodesian ridgeback and the basset hound.
The aforementioned rodent patrol group also split from the sporting group, and we know these dogs as the terriers. Ranging from the tall Airedale to the small cairn, terriers are notorious for their tenacious and spunky spirit and their wiry coats. Today’s popular terriers include the West Highland terrier, the Jack Russell terrier and the bull terrier. Terriers have an unlimited supply of energy, and they require plenty of daily opportunities to exercise and work off some of that energy.
Today’s sporting group retains the traditional gun dogs, many of which are still utilized today by hunting enthusiasts. The dogs that make up the sporting group include the pointers and setters, which identify the target, the spaniels, which flush out the game or fowl, and the retrievers, which bring the prize quarry back to the hunter. Most of these breeds have high energy levels and require daily romps and physical exercise. The Labrador retriever and the Golden retriever are the two most popular sporting breeds, followed by the German shorthaired pointer, the English springer spaniel, the cocker spaniel and the Weimaraner.
The original non-sporting group consisted of all dog breeds that were not used in hunting. These were the dogs that served as prized companions, farmhands, guard dogs and shepherds.
One group that split off from the non-sporting group is that of the toy breeds. The primary role of a toy breed dog has always been to provide warmth and companionship to humans. Some popular toy breeds include the Yorkshire terrier, the pug, the miniature Pinscher, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, the Chihuahua, the Maltese, the Pomeranian and the Shih Tzu.
The working group also split off from the non-sporting group, and then the herding group branched off from the working group. The working group includes the breeds that have traditionally worked as draft dogs on farms and as guard dogs. Many working dogs are also utilized in search and rescue, law enforcement and as service dogs for the blind and disabled. Working dogs are medium to large in size. Some popular working breeds include the Rottweiler, the boxer, the Doberman pinscher, the Siberian husky, the Bernese mountain dog and the mastiff.
The herding group includes the breeds that traditionally worked to herd and protect livestock. Their strong herding instincts inspire them to herd family members and other household pets. Some popular herding breeds include the German shepherd, the Australian shepherd, the Shetland sheepdog, the Pembroke Welsh corgi and the collie. Working and herding breeds bore easily if they are not provided with tasks to do. They require daily mental stimulation and physical exercise.
The dogs that remain within the non-sporting group represent a diverse assortment of sizes, builds, temperaments, coat lengths and colors. These are the breeds that do not fit within the traditional roles that designate the other breeds to the other six aforementioned groups. Several of the non-sporting breeds remain popular favorites, including the English bulldog, the Boston terrier, the poodle and the French bulldog.