By Samantha Drake
These dogs all have a red, white, and blue pedigree but tend to get overlooked in favor of the more popular American-made breeds. Here’s why you should get to know them.
Despite its name, the all-white or white-and-biscuit-colored American Eskimo Dog has no link whatsoever to Eskimo culture. This breed developed in the United States, first gaining attention as an entertainer in traveling circuses during the late 19th century, according to the American Kennel Club. The American Eskimo is a member of the spitz family, which includes the German Spitz, the white Keeshound, the white Pomeranian, and the Volpino Italiano, also known as the white Italian Spitz.
The breed has a thick, double coat, pointed ears, and a plumed, curling tail, and comes in three sizes. Officially recognized by the AKC in 1994, the American Eskimo is a relatively new breed that’s sometimes confused with the Samoyed, which is a much larger dog. But AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo says that’s happening less and less as the “Eskie” gets more popular. “I think people are starting to get to know them,” she says.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a great origin story. Its ancestors are two Newfoundland puppies that survived the shipwreck of an English brig off the coast of Maryland in 1807. The red male and black female turned out to be excellent retrievers and their rescuers bred them with local hunting dogs. The AKC has recognized the resulting Chesapeake Bay Retriever since 1878.
Loyal and affectionate with their people, the “Chessie” makes a wonderful companion and hunting dog. But the AKC notes that the powerfully built breed tends to be more “emotionally complex” than other hunting dogs, with a strong stubborn streak, and needs to be well socialized. The Chessie is “very protective—more so than many other breeds,” says DiNardo. Another distinctive feature is its wavy, waterproof coat that feels oily to the touch, she adds.
The Plott is named after a German immigrant family that moved to America; today, the breed is the state dog of North Carolina. A member of the hound group, the Plott was once used to hunt big game. Its job was to bring a bear or boar to bay or tree, which is a testament to the breed’s determination and courage. A newer breed, the AKC recognized the Plott in 2006. The breed is known for its coloring, which is most often a brindle variation.
“They’re very strong and very brave,” says DiNardo. “They also have a very loud, braying voice.” With its relentless hunting instincts, the powerful Plott is more likely to be used for coonhunting nowadays but isn’t for everyone.
Just recognized by the AKC in 2016, the American Hairless Terrier has a lot to offer. The breed makes a wonderful pet for families with older children and gets along well with other pets. The American Hairless Terrier is fearless and feisty but easy to train. The playful, affectionate breed also makes a good watchdog.
The hairless breed is the result of a rare mutation that occurred in a litter of Rat Terriers in Louisiana in 1972, according to the AKC. The American Hairless Terrier is a good fit for people with allergies who like a little dog with a big presence. “They’re feistier than other hairless dogs,” DiNardo acknowledges. “They have wonderful personalities, and they’re a nice size.”
The Rat Terrier is a melting pot of European terrier and feist breeds that were brought to this country in the 19th century and crossed with breeds including the Beagle, Toy Fox Terriers, Whippets, and Italian Greyhounds, the AKC says. So the Rat Terrier, which gained AKC recognition in 2013, is related to a lot of other breeds.
“The Rat Terrier is an all-purpose dog,” says DiNardo. The breed is a highly versatile companion dog that can hunt vermin and other small game above and below ground. The friendly, inquisitive breed has a short, smooth, easy-to care-for coat and a ready-for-anything attitude.
Once primarily a working gun dog, the American Water Spaniel has evolved into a companion dog and retriever. With its distinctively curling, water-resistant double coat that comes in shades of brown, the breed is an excellent swimmer. But the American Water Spaniel isn’t all work and no play. “They have very cheery personalities,” notes DiNardo, and the breed loves to be with its people. The breed is a unique alternative to a Labrador Retriever or a Golden Retriever.
Although the AKC recognized the American Water Spaniel in 1940 and it’s the official state dog of Wisconsin, the breed is very rare. DiNardo says there are only about 3,000 American Water Spaniels in the world. The American Water Spaniel’s origins are also a bit of a mystery, though the AKC says its ancestors likely include the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-Coated Retriever.
The Chinook may be the rarest American-made AKC-recognized breed of all, with no more than 600 alive today. The AKC recognized the breed in 2010 and registers only a handful of litters each year, says DiNardo. In fact, the breed’s numbers have dipped down so low that the Guinness Book of World Records named the Chinook the rarest dog three times since 1965 when only 125 Chinooks existed, the AKC notes.
Intelligent, calm, and friendly, this breed is built for power and endurance. Also, “they like the cold,” DiNardo adds. That might be an understatement. The Chinook originated in New Hampshire and was developed by Arthur Treadwell Walden, a polar explorer in the 1900s. Walden crossed a Mastiff type dog with breeds including German and Belgian Shepherds to create an American sled dog. The versatile breed, which loves to work and is very good with children, might be hard to find but is worth the effort.
The Treeing Tennessee Brindle has evolved from treeing dogs primarily from the Appalachian and Ozark Mountain regions, according to the breed’s founder, Rev. Earl Phillips. In the late 1960s, Phillips began promoting the Treeing Tennessee Brindle, also known as the Cur, for their hunting and treeing abilities, as well as the dog’s intelligence, courage, and loyalty.
The high-energy Treeing Tennessee Brindle is known for being able to tree and hold prey for as long as needed. “They’re bred to be able to do that for hours,” DiNardo notes. The Treeing Tennessee Brindle is still relatively rare and has been recorded in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service since 1995.
The American Leopard Hound is one of the oldest tree dog breeds and is believed to trace back to dogs brought to the New World by Spanish conquistadors. Highly intelligent and persistent, the American Leopard Hound has extremely strong tracking abilities and can track prey, including raccoon, bear, bobcat, cougar, and squirrel, for miles. It also excels in its ability to tree and hold its prey. According to the AKC, the breed’s feet are much tougher than those of most other breeds and generally don’t get sore.
The American Leopard Hound is rare enough that it hasn’t been recognized by the AKC yet but was added to the organization’s Foundation Stock Service in 2012. The breed comes in a variety of colors and three patterns: solid, leopard, and brindle. The American Leopard Hound is affectionate with its family; to outsiders, the breed is both “mellow and standoffish,” notes DiNardo.
The breed with the most American of names is also one of the latest to be acknowledged. The AKC added the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier to its Foundation Stock List in 2016. Like the Rat Terrier, the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier evolved from the various small- and medium-breed dogs that came to the United States with immigrants in the 1800s. In those days, the small hunting dogs were charged with keeping their homes and farms free of vermin.
The breed was named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who loved forebears of the little dog and used them to combat a rat infestation in the White House, according to the AKC. “Teddies” have an exceptional scenting ability and are used to locate black truffles in the Pacific Northwest. “You can probably train them to track anything,” says DiNardo.