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The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris when considered a subspecies of the wolf or Canis familiaris when considered a distinct species) is a member of the genus Canis (canines), which forms part of the wolf-like canids, and is the most widely abundant terrestrial carnivore. The dog and the extant gray wolf are sister taxa as modern wolves are not closely related to the wolves that were first domesticated, which implies that the direct ancestor of the dog is extinct. The dog was the first species to be domesticated and has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes.

Their long association with humans has led dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behavior and they are able to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canid species. Dogs vary widely in shape, size and colors. They perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship and, more recently, aiding disabled people and therapeutic roles. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of "man's best friend".

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A healthy 13-year-old mixed-breed dog shows hybrid vigor.
A mixed-breed dog (also called a bastard, mutt (shortened from muttonhead), mongrel, tyke, mixed mutt, cur, or random-bred dog), is a dog that is a mixture of two or more breeds, or a descendant of feral or pariah dog populations. Except for extreme variations in size, dogs interbreed freely, mixed-breed dogs vary in size, shape, and color, making them hard to classify physically. Historically, all purebred dogs have been selected from a mixed-breed population. See Golden Retriever for an example.

All possible body shapes, tongue color, ear types, and tail styles can appear in mixed breeds. Extremes in appearance, such as the flattened face of the English Bulldog or the extremely curled tail of the Pug, seldom survive even the first crossbreeding. Mixed breeds also tend to have a size between that of their parents, thus tending eventually toward the norm.

It's important to note that all dog breeds are man-made creations. Dogs were traditionally bred for specific functions. Most existing dog breeds began as mixed breeds, either by random occurrence or by deliberate crosses of existing breeds.

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American Eskimo Dog
Credit: Robert Southworth
A Featured picture of the day.

The American Eskimo Dog is a breed of companion dog originating in the United States (probably in New York City) in the twentieth century. It is derived from the German Spitz, the Finnish Spitz, and almost certainly the Pomeranian and Keeshond. The spitz family of Nordic dogs is one of the least altered by human husbandry and reflects most nearly the prototypical dog, from which stock all others have been derived. Archeology suggests that Neolithic dogs living with humans would today pass for spitzes.


Types of Dogs

Working dogs
Working dogs are those who perform jobs for people, as distinguished from companion dogs. Working dogs are of many types.
Main article - Category
Hunting dogs
Any dog or breed who assists humans in hunting. There are several categories of hunting dogs.
Main article
Pastoral dogs
Any dog or breed who assists humans with livestock.
Guard dogs
Dogs used to protect people or property.
Sled dogs
Dogs whose job is primarily pulling sleds.
Main article - Category
Companion dogs
Dogs whose primary function is as a companion and friend. Many toy breeds.
More groups

Dog breeds also can be grouped into similar types such as molossers, spitz types, pit bulls, or lurchers.

Selected breed

Irish Setter
The Irish Setter, also known as the Red Setter, is a breed of gundog and family dog. The term Irish Setter is commonly used to encompass the Show-bred dog recognized by the AKC as well as the field-bred Red Setter recognized by the Field Dog Stud Book. It is friendly, active, and intelligent (if somewhat stubborn). Originally, the Irish Setter was bred for hunting, specifically for setting or pointing upland gamebirds. Famous Irish Setters include Big Red and King Timahoe, pet of Richard Nixon.

Did you know...

Bummer and Lazarus

  • ...that the stray dogs Bummer and Lazarus (pictured) were so popular with the people of San Francisco in the 1860s that they were given special exemption from the leash laws?
  • ...that Manuel Benito de Castro assumed the Presidency of Cundinamarca, with the condition that he would be allowed to leave Congress at a certain time to feed his dog?
  • ...that the namesake for Hondo Dog Park in Hillsboro, Oregon, won an award for valor just weeks before being killed in the line of duty?
  • ...that most of the dogs seen in the 2007 Thai film, Ma-Mha, were strays rescued from shelters and trained specifically for the film?

...that the most common breeds for use as guide dogs are Labrador and Golden Retrievers?

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