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13 African Dog Breeds: A Complete Overview

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By Nicole Cosgrove

African Wild dogs in sunset

Africa has all sorts of amazing creatures we know and love today. Their canine contribution isn’t disappointing, either. African bred dogs have all kinds of unique color patterns, quirks, and coats. Like wolves, Africa has its own native type of wild dogs, too.

Africa is home to some of the oldest sighthound breeds of all. A few dogs on our list even provided company to Egyptian royalty. You can see their portraits in caves and tombs. The historical aspects of these breeds are interesting to learn—and the dogs today are just as cool! Let’s discover more about our spectacular four-legged friends. Here are 13 African dog breeds you should know:

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The 13 African Dog Breeds

1. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit By: dezy, Shutterstock

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an exquisite specimen. They are descendants of a now-extinct South African hunting dog called the Khoikhoi. These dogs are very independent and adventurous. While they make ideal companions, they can be willful, stubborn, and ornery.

Their coats range from different shades of gorgeous brown—all colors classify as “wheaten.” They have a curious ridge stripe of hair down their back that goes the opposite way of the coat. It’s a trait that not many dogs share, and it spawned the Ridgeback name. Ridgebacks are intensely athletic and domineering. They once tracked and trapped lions, if that shows the seriousness of their hunting skill.  They also call this canine the African Lion Dog.

These dogs will protect you with their life. So, if you’re looking for a family guardian, give these dogs a chance. They won’t disappoint. Their lovingness toward their pack members will always come first.

2. Boerboel

Image Credit: 947051, Pixabay

If you’re looking for a guard dog who will stand up for your family and monitor your home, let the Boerboel dazzle you. These large dogs once protected farms and houses from wild animals like baboons, leopards, and other massive predators and are one of the most known and popular South African dog breeds.

Boerboels do make excellent companions, but they’re usually very standoffish with strangers—sometimes to the point of aggression. When it comes to other pets, even canines, the Boerboel’s response to the extra company is up in the air.

If you have other pets, you should integrate the Boerboel as a puppy. These dogs have incredible body strength, so if they choose to act out toward another animal, they could do some damage. Despite their territorial reservations and overprotective nature, Boerboels are quite the buddy to have. They have soft, sweet affection toward those they love.

3. Chinese Crested Dog

Chinese Crested Dog
Image Credit: Milica Popovic, Pexels

Wait—aren’t we naming African breeds? The Chinese Crested didn’t find its way here by mistake. They evolved from Chinese Hairless dogs previously brought to South Africa by travelers.

These small dogs are mild, but don’t let that fool you. They can be as stubborn as they come. They don’t have a low volume either, as they bark easily from minor stimuli. So, classically, they carry stereotypical small dog behaviors. While Chinese Crested dogs are mostly hairless, they can have plumes of hair on their heads and ankles. There is also a “powderpuff” version in many litters, which has a full coat of hair.

They have some needy tendencies, and these dogs don’t enjoy being away from people. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, this dog is not for you. They have a desire to be your shadow and nothing will change their mind.

4. Azawakh

Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

The Azawakh is a sighthound breed from West Africa. These magnificent dogs are covered in lean muscle and fine shiny fur. They scream agility, excellence, and stamina.

The Azawakh is independent and capable, but they have staunch loyalty to their humans. They thrive on the attention and relationships they build with people. They may not be too friendly towards outsiders because it takes a lot to win their trust. But once you develop companionship, it’s for life.

With their aerodynamic figure, it should come as no surprise that they are incredibly speedy. Azawakh dogs are so inherently fast that their hunting taught them to chase gazelle in the plains and deserts. Azawakh dogs are a rare sight to behold. It’s such a unique sight that you may never see one in your lifetime.

5. Saluki

Image Credit: Pxhere

The ancient Saluki has the poise and grace of the ages. They are also called the “Arabian Greyhound”, and are as quick mentally as they are physically. They are one of the most famous dogs in Africa for their god-like reputation.

Salukis are very close to their humans, but the same fondness doesn’t extend far. Their aloofness and suspicion toward strangers make them unapproachable to most. But once the Saluki knows a person is no threat, they usually just ignore them. They are quiet, dignified, and dapper dogs. While it’s pretty hard to butter up a Saluki, once you have their approval, you’re all set. Consider their selective tendencies a test—and pass it.

Even though Salukis are speed demons, they prefer cuddling up with you on the couch. Minimal exercise needs make a Saluki a valuable dog for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time for outdoor adventures.

6. Sloughi

Sloughi standing in the garden
Image Credit: Bianca Grueneberg, Shutterstock

The slender Sloughi hails from North Africa. While their good looks and uniqueness may intrigue you, these dogs aren’t for novice owners. They’re quite stubborn and challenging, so leave it to the pros. However, Sloughis have many other attributes that make up for their obstinacy—like their deep love toward owners and their protectiveness with kids. They take their time getting to know people and will ultimately decide who to trust.

These dogs are quite smart, so it shouldn’t be any trouble training one—if they let you. But the Sloughi has its own ideas on how to sail the ship. You have to fight to gain control. But once you have asserted yourself as the alpha, the Sloughi will follow suit.

Sloughis need a load of physical exertion a day as well. If they can’t burn off the extra fuel, they become stir-crazy and even destructive. But if you lead an active lifestyle, this dog could be an ideal companion.

7. Basenji

Basenji outdoor
Image Credit: Verbitskaya Juliya, Shutterstock

From the heart of Africa, the Basenji was born. These springy little skippers are agile, capable, and quick. Their lean bodies allow them to jump, sprint, and flee on a whim. You need lots of room for the Basenji to run if you want a happy partnership. They require a lot of mental and physical stimulation to keep them occupied.

They are known as the “barkless” dog. So even if the Basenji are fast and frantic sometimes, they don’t vocalize their excitement. They also don’t stink—you read that right. They don’t have the mucky dog smell and clean themselves obsessively to the point of being compared to cats.

The ancient Egyptians loved these dogs. You will find tombs decorated with artifacts portraying these canines. The Basenji’s trademark is its wound-up, pig-style tail and distinct markings. These muscly, zippy dogs are one of the most popular African breeds, loved by so many.

8. Abyssinian Sand Terrier

Abyssinian Sand Terrier
Image Credit: Linda Hughes Photography, Shutterstock

The Abyssinian Sand Terrier is another hairless African breed. However, there is no definitive evidence these true African hairless dogs still exist for sure—and they’re rare at best. These dogs are very quiet, calm, cool, and collected. They don’t bark or create a stir, which is an excellent attribute for city-dwelling or apartment living.

We do know that Abyssinian Sand Terriers have a charming, calm nature. They tend to work well in homes that have other pets and children of all ages. Hairless dogs don’t pant like normal dogs, they sweat through glands like humans. So, if you were ever lucky enough to have one of them in your possession, frequent cleaning of their skin is necessary.

Unfortunately, this dog may be a thing of the past.

9. African Wild Dog

wild african dog
Image Credit: Christine Schmidt, Pixabay

Pack animals at heart, you can spot the African Wild Dog, or the painted wolf, at home with his family. There is a matriarchy where one pair of dogs rules the rest, but the whole pack is very close.

They are adorable creatures with interesting patterns and rounded ears. They’re much more vocal with one another than domesticated dogs, constantly talking in whines and growls. They have their own small communities where they live and hunt together with no helping hand from humans. Don’t get too excited just yet—you cannot own one of these majestic creatures. African Wild Dogs have had zero success in matters of domestication. They are far too pack-oriented and just plain wild. Also, African Wild Dogs cannot reproduce with dogs—it’s not possible.

These dogs are considered a threat by farmers and locals, but maybe these creatures are simply misunderstood. What is clear is that you can’t mention African breeds without giving appreciation to these native canines.

10. Coton de Tulear

coton de tulear pixabay 2
Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

Interestingly, rumor has it that the Cotton de Tulear came from a shipwreck in Madagascar.  So, it’s hard to trace its origin completely. But you may agree they closely resemble a Maltese or Bichon Frise. These little dogs provide a strong, almost human-like connection with their owners. They are very happy-go-lucky and lighthearted. Sometimes, they even seem hyper-aware and empathetic to emotion.

While they are little, the de Tulear is never demanding or snobbish. They seem to do fantastically well with people and pets of all ages and species. It doesn’t hurt that these little poof balls are adorable, too.

These friendly dogs have become quite a popular choice among dog lovers everywhere. They’re also perfect for any allergy sufferers in your home since they’re hypoallergenic.

11. Aidi

Image Credit: Akashskysmokie, Shutterstock

The adorable Aidi breed started in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. If you ever needed a watchdog, the Aidi has your back. They can sense things you cannot and constantly keep a watchful eye to detect threats. Since they have a strong inclination to protect, they would make perfect pets to keep the kids safe. They’re also very excitable and ready to romp around, making terrific playmates.

Aidis need socialization since they can become uninterested or reserved with strange people or animals. They tend to get along well with other canines, but they may need a little help with the beginning introductions.

They have incredibly thick coats, which shed quite a bit. But you have to admit—their neat color patterns make up for it.

12. AfriCanis

Africanis dog
Image Credit: YteWabbit, Shutterstock

Also known as African Hunting Dogs, the AfriCanis is indigenous to South Africa. These dogs come in every color you can imagine. And, like the Rhodesian Ridgeback, they share the occasional hair strip traveling backward.

The AfriCanis structure looks very similar to ancient dogs that you’d see in old Egyptian tunnels and shrines. Many claims state these are the original domesticated dogs of Africa, and certainly one of the most common. AfriCanis are resilient and healthy, typically. They do very well with families and could manage apartment living. However, most Africanis do best when they have plenty of room to run around.

These dogs are friendly, but they can be territorial. Socialization from an early age will help this breed adapt to different people and animals.

13. Greyhound

two elegant greyhounds
Image credit: pfluegler-photo, Shutterstock

The Greyhound seems to be one of the oldest breeds across Europe and Africa. The oldest Greyhound archeological finding predates 6,000 B.C. Ancient Egyptians revered greyhounds as gods and royalty. So, they had pretty good living conditions in olden times. Another fun fact? Greyhounds are the only dog breed mentioned in the Bible.

The Greyhound has ancient roots all over, but African natives consider them to be original African dogs since they’re so heavily influential in their history. Greyhounds are diplomatic, self-confident, and reserved. They do very well in families or as solo pets. Early socialization should happen to prevent territorial tendencies with outsiders.

Greyhounds are fast—this is no secret. But off the racetrack, you can find a Greyhound lounging around quietly. They aren’t inherently hyper or overbearing. If you want a chill-out type of dog, you could even adopt a retired racer.

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It’s pretty intriguing to see just how insanely different dogs can be on one continent alone. Of course, these dogs had the help of their human companions, but it’s still impressive. Some of these breeds have preserved their legacy, like the Saluki—one of the most antique dog breeds of all.

Africa has barkless dogs, hairless dogs, and wild dogs—dogs of all shapes and sizes. Which African dog breed is your favorite?

Featured Image Credit: Lyle Gregg, Shutterstock

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