Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Top 20 Exotic Dog Breeds (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

two bergamasco

There’s nothing mundane about owning a Golden Retriever, English Bulldog, or a Frenchie. They’re super popular dog breeds for a reason. But are you looking to break the mold and shake things up a bit?

Perhaps you’d be best suited with a more exotic dog breed.

There are normally not any extra requirements for maintaining a healthy exotic pup. They might just be a bit harder to find in your neck of the woods — and pricier. But if you’ve got the resources and the desire to pick up a unique pooch, here are our picks for the top 20 exotic dog breeds.

Divider 8

Top 20 Exotic Dog Breeds:

1. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog
Image Credit By: Eudyptula, shutterstock

The Catahoula Leopard Dog hails from Louisiana and is the first exotic dog to be bred in the United States. Aside from their unique coat, they have a propensity to be extremely kind and loving with people, making them a wonderful option for a family pet.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

brown tibetan mastiff
Image credit: Liliya Kulianionak, Shutterstock

The Tibetan Mastiff is the ultimate guardian dog and has been for many, many years. As a matter of fact, no one knows how old this dog breed actually is. But it’s postulated that they are the progenitors of every other mastiff breed. They’ve been known to guard and protect monasteries, villages, and even royalty.

3. Azawakh

Azawakh_aneta jungerova_shutterstock
Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

The Azawakh is an ancient sighthound that’s believed to be one of the oldest purebred lineages on earth. They’re originally from West Africa where they used to chase antelope, hare, and wild boar around the borders of Mali and Niger. And the only thing they’re more passionate about than hunting is their own loving families.

4. Bergamasco Shepherd

Bergamasco dog stands on the green grass
Image Credit: volofin, Shutterstock

How do you feel about owning a four-legged mop? The Bergamasco has got a fur coat unlike any other. It’s long and matted into natural dreadlocks, giving this pooch one heck of a hairdo. But don’t worry! Surprisingly, they don’t really require brushing or coat grooming. And they very rarely shed, making them great for allergy sufferers.

5. Xoloitzcuintli

Horizontal portrait of one dog of Xoloitzcuintli breed_TatyanaPanova_shutterstock
Credit: TatyanaPanova, Shutterstock

Also known as the Mexican Hairless Dog, this breed has such a robust history. In Aztec lore, these dogs were actually created by the god Xoloti from a sliver of bone that mankind had previously been made from. And they were sent down to be protectors and guides for man as they traveled through the danger of this world. Pretty wicked, huh?

6. Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff
Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

This is a behemoth breed weighing up to 150 pounds! But this wrinkly beast is a complete cuddlebug. And although it’s against their core nature, they are often used by army and police forces as guardians of the peace. But given the chance, Neapolitan Mastiffs will welcomely accept an open lap and a few good head scratches.

7. Brussels Griffon

brussels griffon
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Now, you’re either going to find this pup extremely cute or a bit creepy. And that’s because the Brussels Griffon has an extremely human-like face with similar expressions. Fortunately, they’re still around because they almost went extinct after World War I and II. Thankfully, a group of kind-hearted breeders kept the lineage alive.

8. Portuguese Water Dog

portuguese water dog in the forest
Image credit: Brook Robinson, Shutterstock

Do you love curly-haired dogs such as poodles or cocker spaniels? If so, the Portuguese Water Dog is right up your alley. These pups were actually fishermen — or fisherdogs — back in early Portugal. They would herd fish into awaiting nets, fetch lost equipment, and help out the fishermen with their daily tasks.

9. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Dandie Dinmont Terrier on the meadow
Image Credit: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

These little terriers hail from Scotland and are among the smallest of Scottish terrier breeds. What makes them unique is their body shape, they have a tubular shape which has been historically exploited to hunt down badgers, rats, and other vermin in tiny little hidey-holes.

10. Leonberger

Leonberger in snow
Image Credit: Pikist

It’s official: the Leonberger is the world’s largest lapdog. These gentle giants are a cross between a St. Bernard, Newfie, and Pyrenean Mountain Dog. So, if you’re looking for a big ole’ puppy to love and don’t mind the buckets of slobber, the Leonberger is just perfect for you.

11. Lowchen

Credit: WatersPix, Shutterstock

These cute little pups almost look like little lions. As a matter of, that’s exactly what their name translates into in German! They are a very old breed that has graced the halls of both German and French nobility for hundreds of years.

12. Chinese Crested

havanese chinese crested
Image Credit: Pikist

This “hairless” breed isn’t completely bare, having tufts and sections of fur normally around their tail, feet, and head. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t require special care — especially in colder environments. But if you live in a warmer climate, the Chinese Crested dog can easily thrive.

13. Catalburun

Tarsus Catalburun Turkish Pointer dog breed
Image Credit: leo Sano, Pexels

If you’re looking for a truly unique pup, you may be interested in the Catalburun. At first glance, you’ll see a typical pointer but something’s just a bit off. And that’s because the Catalburun has a split nose! Most people have never even seen one as they rarely leave their home country of Turkey.

14. Caucasian Ovcharka

south russian ovcharka in slovenie_Monica Martinez DoAllo_shutterstock
Credit: Monica Martinez Do-Allo, Shutterstock

This massive breed is the true definition of a guardian dog. They’re working dogs who are prized for their ability to protect families and livestock. They are deeply loyal to their loved ones and family — people and pets alike. However, intruders should more than think twice when coming up against the Caucasian Ovcharka.

15. Swedish Lapphund

Swedish Lapphund
Image: Saher sartaj, Shutterstock

The Swedish Lapphund is a seriously hard-working pup. They’ve been busy herding reindeer for thousands of years in the most northern part of Finland. They’re so hard to find, it’s rumored that less than 10 are currently in the USA.

16. Otterhound

Otterhound in field by fence
Image credit: Lourdes Photography, Shutterstock

The Otterhound resembles other dog breeds, but there’s a major thing to note — there’s only about 1,000 of them left in the world. Originally bred to hunt otters, their numbers took a steep decline when otter populations dropped and otter protection laws were passed.

17. Swedish Vallhund

swedishvallhund and Friend Pointy Ears
Image Credit By: wild.life.of.kobe, instagram

These little tykes might seem like a small new designer dog. But they’ve actually been around for over a thousand years! They used to be Viking dogs, and they’re one of the ancient lineages for modern-day Corgis!

18. Mudi

Mudi dog breed
Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

If a phenomenal coat is what you’re looking for, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one more intricate and unique than the Mudi’s. Its black and white pattern and spotting — paired with sky blue eyes at that — truly is a beauty to behold.

19. Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen

Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen
Image Credit: Paul Steven, Shutterstock

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen looks like somebody took a Basset Hound and Dachshund and smushed them together. And then managed to somehow make it even more adorable than you thought possible.

20. New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing dog
Image Credit: InBetweentheBlinks, Shutterstock

This may be the hardest dog on this list to actually get a hold of. And that’s because this dog breed lived in total isolation for over 30,000 years! As a matter of fact, there’s only a scant handful of them living outside of their natural habitat — the Papua New Guinea mountains.

Divider 5

Exotic Dog Breeds

Whether you end up with one of these rare breeds above or another unique canine species, you can anticipate being asked at least a few questions on every dog walk. Choosing an exotic breed can not only be interesting and fun, it can also add to the development of otherwise less popular dog lineages. Happy dog shopping!

Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database