10 African Dog Breeds
With so many different European and American dog breeds, it’s easy to think that all dogs were bred and refined in one of these two continents. But this couldn’t be further from the truth – like all animals, dogs are a cosmopolitan group with breeds originating in all parts of the world. And Africa, being one of the largest and most diverse continents, is home to many different dog breeds, all of which come with their very own qualities and quirks. If you’re considering adding a canine companion to your family, you may be interested in some of these unique-looking African dogs.
Large, strong, intelligent, and protective of its family, the Boerboel makes for a fantastic guardian dog. This South African dog is also very intelligent and easy to train if you have a firm hand. This is a territorial breed that is best suited for experienced pet parents, not novices. In fact, the Boerboels are the most powerful breeds in the world, with a bite force of about 800 psi.
That being said, the Boerboel is also a calm and steadfast breed so they make for wonderful pets when trained well – they’re incredibly loyal, love their human families and are generally friendly even towards children. Still, because they are so big and powerful, as well as confident and territorial, Boerboels are best at guarding and protecting the home. For this reason, they should only be adopted/bought by people with yards and houses; they simply do not do well in apartments.
Speaking of yards, it’s important that a Boerboel has plenty of private space to walk, run and play in because they’re not the friendliest of dogs in the world. They don’t like challenges from other canines so visiting parks where there are other dogs may be challenging. A nice, big yard where your Boerboel can feel at peace though? Perfect.
If you love cats as much as you love dogs, the Basenji may be the ideal pet for you. Hailing from central Africa, this smart, confident and independent dog is one of the most unique breeds in the world. They’re small, don’t bark and are fastidious when it comes to grooming – basically, they’re a cat in a dog’s uniform! On a more serious note, the Basenji is a gracious and beguiling pet with a sweet face that you cannot help but love, even when they’re mischievous. Speaking of which, they’re known as escape artists so you always have to be on a lookout when walking with your Basenji. They should never be off the leash when outside as most cannot resist the urge to run off on a chase.
Interestingly, the Basenji is one of the ancient dog breeds. They were often gifted to the Egyptian pharaohs, and they can even be found depicted in ancient Egyptian artifacts, as well as in Babylonian and Mesopotamian art. And while this African dog has been around for thousands of years, it’s not one of the highly popular breeds today. This is mostly because the Basenji can be a handful at times – catlike, this is a breed that although very smart, is not very easy to train. They’re self-reliant and see no need to listen to humans.
With that said, the Basenji is also known as a “cult breed” – they may be small in numbers, but they’re revered by their owners. And why wouldn’t they be? They’re beautiful, gracious and truly unique. And while they don’t bark, they’re known to show subtle human-like emotions with their expressive, pretty eyes. If you find the Basenji as beautiful as we do, and are considering getting one, know that they can be wonderful companions if you start with obedience training classes early on. They make for great pets if you’re single or married without children.
Originally bred to hunt game in South African region, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a unique breed resulting from crosses between Africanis and several European breeds, including Grayhound and Terriers. Their hallmark is the ridge of backward-growing hair right in the middle of their back, which is how they got their name. This is a resilient canine with an even temper and affectionate nature. They’re also fierce hunters who, besides hunting game, were also used to hunt lions. Yep, you read that right – that’s how fast and brave this African dog is!
Today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a fairly popular family dog because they’re loyal, friendly and protective. Still, this is not a dog for a novice dog owner – they can be strong-willed to the point of being domineering and stubborn, so they need an experienced and firm hand in training. Because they have a very strong prey drive, Rhodesian Ridgebacks should never be off the leash when walking, and when at home outside, they should be in safely enclosed areas.
As you can guess, they don’t do very well in small apartments – they need yards where they can run freely, exercising their natural instincts. That said, they can be trained to behave well in apartments if they’re provided with daily outings like long walks.
The Sloughi is a lean, graceful, beautiful dog of the sighthound family. Its origins are not quite clear, but since they can largely be found in Morocco and Algeria, they are considered a North African breed. This is a classic sighthound, meaning they’re athletic and fast, brilliant at hunting game. They are high-energy dogs who need a lot of exercise every day to be healthy, both physically and mentally. This makes them the ideal canine companions for active folks. But because they have a high prey drive, you’ll have to watch out for cats, squirrels and other small animals when walking or running.
This elegant dog is intelligent and loyal so they’re not hard to train, especially if you start with the obedience training classes early on. That being said, they don’t like harsh training methods – positive reinforcement coupled with a caring, sensitive trainer (owner) works best for this breed.
While friendly and affectionate with their owners, Sloughis are reserved when it comes to strangers, both human and animal. They’re not aggressive though – they just don’t care for making new friends that much.
Abyssinian Sand Terrier
If you’re looking for a truly unique-looking African dog, you may like the Abyssian Sand Terrier, also known as the African Hairless Dog. This interesting, small-ish breed dog is completely hairless except for cetain body parts – the skull and towards the end of the tail. In other words, they’re really easy for grooming. They can grow 15.5 to 20.5 inches in height and typically weigh 21 to 39 pounds.
The Abyssinian Sand Terrier is a rare breed, not seen outside the continent of Africa often. Still, they’re not impossible to obtain outside of Africa, and if you decide to add them to your family, you’ll be pleased to hear they’re affectionate with both adults and kids. This is a brave and confident dog first and foremost who will protect your home like a true guarding dog.
This rare Ethiopian dog is an energetic breed, so they need lots of exercise regularly and consistently to be healthy and happy. Despite being highly active, they should be kept inside the house as they’re hairless and can get cold quickly.
The Azawakh is a tall, handsome dog who originates in West Africa. With a fine, short coat that comes in various colors, including clear sand, red, black, brown and more, this is one elegant-looking, beautiful dog. In fact, this ancient dog breed is so lean and lanky, you can see their entire musculature beneath their skin! But don’t let the Azawakh’s slender body fool you – they are fast, tough and sturdy dogs with high prey drives.
While rare outside of Africa, the Azawakh makes a great pet. They are affectionate, intelligent and independent, so pretty easy to take care of even if you’re away from home often. Because they’re very smart, Azawakhs are easy to train, however, harsh training methods do not work on them as they’re highly proud and dignified. If you intend to get this breed, make sure you start the training classes early on, with a positive and gentle trainer.
Although athletic and energetic, the Azawakh does pretty well in the apartments. Sure, a nice yard where they can play alone works best, but this is a smart breed that can easily be trained to be well-behaved even in smaller apartments.
Coton de Tulear
Looking for a fluffy canine companion? You can’t get any fluffier than the Coton de Tulear! This small, adorable pup, also known as the Royal Dog of Madagascar, is the perfect family pet. Their hallmarks are the abundant white coat that is soft as cotton (hence the name!), and an incredibly charming personality. Indeed, it’s hard to find a more happy and charming dog than the Coton.
These are playful, affectionate dogs who love spending most of their time close to their human family. In fact, Cotons love their owners so much, that they’re known to suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. Despite the clinginess, Cotons are good dogs for first-time pet owners as they’re smart, friendly and easy to take care of. Yep, even though their coat looks like it’s high-maintenance, it’s not – in fact, grooming the Coton de Tulear is a breeze!
Like most African dogs, this breed too is quite active and needs plenty of physical activity daily. With that said, they’re not extremely energetic – a moderate amount of exercise every day is all it takes to keep the Coton healthy and content. A word of caution though: because they’re very playful, Cotons require lots of mental stimulation daily; if bored, they can become destructive.
Sweet-tempered and noble, the Greyhound is one of the most popular Egyptian dog breeds. They’re incredibly fast thanks to their lean, narrow body and deep chest, so it comes as no surprise that they were originally bred to hunt rabbits and other fast prey. Besides being excellent hunters, Greyhounds are also excellent family pets – they’re friendly, smart and not too difficult to train, although they can be a little bit fearful, so a gentle approach a must with this Noble breed.
Speaking of training, because this is a sighthound breed, they require a little bit different training methods. They pursue prey by sight, not scent, so lots of fun visual cues are recommended. Also, Greyhounds should be socialized from a very early age because otherwise, they can become too aloof and suspicious with strangers and other animals.
Because they have a short, smooth coat, they need very little grooming – an occasional rubdown and baths are all it takes to keep a Greyhound clean and happy. What this breed does need in plentiful amounts is exercise. They do best in houses with yards, however, they’re not one of the extremely energetic breeds, so they also do well in apartments if provided with regular physical activities.
The Aidi dog, also known as the Atlas Mountain dog, hails from Morocco – Atlas Mountains region to be precise. This African dog breed is sturdy, powerful and protective, yet also very affectionate and docile with its family. The Aidi was originally bred as livestock guarding breed, but it’s also used for hunting thanks to their sharp sense of smell.
This is an energetic and agile breed that needs lots of exercise to be healthy. They do best in homes with big yards where they can run and play freely, and are not recommended for urban apartment-living conditions. Because they were developed to work, the Aidis are happiest when they have a job to do. And don’t worry if you don’t hunt or own livestock – the Aidi will be happy with a watchdog title too.
While courageous and protective, this breed is also quite sensitive – they don’t respond well to harsh training methods. But if trained properly and exposed to various people, animals and sights early on, they make for a wonderful family pet.
Despite their name, the Chinese Crested dogs have African roots. They were brought from Africa to China though, where after generations of breeding and refining, they became today’s small Chinese Crested dogs. This is a lively, sweet dog with the most unusual look – crested hairdo, feathery tail and furry legs – making it ideal for people looking for uniquely beautiful pets.
Personality-wise, Chinese Cresteds are best known for their playfulness and alertness. They’re also very affectionate with their human families, so they love nothing more than playing with their owners. However, this small pup can also be quite mischievous, especially if left alone for long periods with no toys or activities to do. Still, they’re not hard to train, especially if you use positive, gentle training methods (they do not respond well to harsher approaches!).
The Chinese Crested love their humans and can adapt to almost any living situation – they do well both in houses with yards, as well as smaller apartments. That said, because they’re mostly hairless, they should not live outside as they can get cold really fast.