Although many people would expect that such a beautiful country as Korea has plenty to offer, most don’t know about its unique dog breeds.
South Korea is a small country, totaling only 38.691 square miles to America’s 3.8 million square miles. Its size and history are a couple of reasons that there are not as many unique Korean dog breeds, especially compared to China or Japan.
That doesn’t make them any less unique, though. Seven breeds are considered Korean. Most of them are not well-known outside of Korea’s borders. Several of them are facing extinction, even as organizations around the country work to bring back their bloodlines.
Although most of the dog breeds in Korea were not native initially, many believe that the first of these came over to the country in the 13th century from Mongolia. At this point, they are firmly considered to be a part of Korea’s national history.
Most of these dogs have bloodlines that have ties to common ancestors of wild dogs, such as coyotes and wolves. So, what are these Korea-specific breeds? They are the Korean Jindo, the Korean Mastiff or Dosa dog, Sapsali, the Nureongi dog, the Pungsan dog, Donggyeongi dog, and the Jeju dog.
The 7 Korean Dog Breeds:
1. Korean Jindo
The Korean Jindo is the most well-known of the Korean breeds by far. The story of Baekgu, a loyal dog who traversed 186 miles over seven months to find his master launched these pups into the global scene. After this, the government in South Korea listed them as their 53rd national monument, and protections were put up to enhance the breed.
They are typically white, brown, or cream-colored. Jindos are a Spitz-like breed who specialize in pack hunting, with or without a hunter at their lead. They weigh 40 to 55 pounds and stand at a maximum of 22 inches from their shoulder.
With a Korean Jindo, you can expect unflagging loyalty, bonding especially close to one person in particular. They are highly active pups and need plenty of exercise to remain satisfied. They are gentle dogs, kind and affectionate with their owners. They have a high prey drive and don’t do well living around other animals unless they receive high-quality and early socialization.
2. The Korean Mastiff (Dosa/Tosa Dog)
The Dosa Dog is among the rarest breeds in the world. They remain unrecognized by kennel clubs in America and the U.K. for this reason. They are a large breed dog with features and a size typical to other mastiffs.
The Dosa is not an ancient dog breed, with breeders estimating that they trace their origins back to the early 1900s.
The Dosa dog has a wrinkly face and a sweet nature. They make excellent companion dogs because they naturally behave well around other animals and children. They are often used as a show dog in Korea.
The Korean Mastiff weighs between 132 and 154 pounds and stands around 28 inches tall from the shoulder down. They have just as big of a heart. Don’t forget about the drool!
3. Sapsali Dog
The Sapsali is a lucky Korean charm, bringing about good fortune since their theoretical beginning in the first century A.D. During the time of war in Korea in the 1900s, the Sapsali reached the brink of extinction. However, they have now become protected through national monument status.
During ancient times, the Sapsali were the dogs of royalty. They have a lion-like appearance due to their shaggy fur. Their laidback temperament and good-natured, comical ways keep them a favorite family breed to this day.
They need plenty of exercise and consistent grooming to keep them looking clean and free of tangles.
The Sapsali is a medium-sized dog, weighing between 40 and 55 pounds. They stand at around 20 inches, but their fuzz makes them look much bulkier.
4. Nureongi Dog
The Nureongi dog is a Spitz-like breed, slightly smaller than the Jindo but similar in appearance.
No one knows the exact origin of these dogs, but some believe them to be an ancient Korean landrace, ancestors to the Jindos. They are athletic and used to be used as hunting dogs because of their agility and intelligence.
The Nureongi dog weighs 40 to 55 pounds and stands around 20 inches tall, similar to the Sapsali. However, they have low-maintenance, dense coat. With pointed ears and an ever-friendly face, what isn’t to love?
5. Pungsan Dog
A dog that looks similar to the Jindo is the Pungsan dog. They tend to be a bit fluffier than their counterparts.
The Pungsan dog came to South Korea by way of a gift from the leader of North Korea. In return, North Korea received a gift of the Jindo. They are well-loved in North Korea and have become a staple of similar standing to the Jindo.
The Pungsan dog is ever alert and ready to go. They are pack hunters and work well within hunting conditions without any human help. They make for a wonderful companion dog because of their loyalty and intelligence.
Even with all of this, combined with a level temperament, they are rare to see outside of Korean borders.
Pungsan dogs are another Spitz-like breed, with a square-shaped body and erect ears. They are a similar size too, weighing between 40 to 55 pounds and standing about 20 inches tall. They have a muscled and agile form.
6. Donggyeongi Dog
The Donggyeongi is a protected breed in Korea. These dogs are famous for their short-bobbed tails. Their history involves significant roadblocks, though, since the Japanese nearly destroyed them during their colonial period in Korea. They are an ancient Korean breed, but too closely resembled the Komainu in Japanese figurines.
Since no dog breed likes to be without a purpose, these dogs excel at hunting. They have a small but muscular frame that gives them great agility. In a pack, they function seamlessly.
The Donggyeongi dog weighs between 40 to 55 pounds but stands a bit taller than average at about 22 inches. They can be brown, black, cream, and sometimes white. Their ancient bloodline maintains a wild streak in them that can make them challenging to train in a household setting.
7. Jeju Dog
Jeju is one of the larger Korean islands, located beyond its southern tip. The Jeju dog is a native to the island and is an extremely rare breed even within Korea.
They were practically brought to extinction in the 1980s when only three were left as survivors. After that period of war, the Korean government-generated revitalization efforts to restore the bloodline. They have met with success, since there are now more than 100 pure Jeju dogs in the country.
Most of the dog breeds covered have been similar in size, but the Jeju dog is one of the largest native pups. They are taller and muscled, weighing around 55 pounds and standing at a maximum of 25 inches from the shoulder.
These are another Spitz-like dog that looks similar to a white or gray wolf. They are wary of strangers and always alert to their surroundings. The combination makes them excellent guard dogs.
Korea is home to some of the world’s most exotic and rare dog breeds. They have recognized this over the last 40 years and have instated restoration groups for many of them. Hopefully, these pure and ancient bloodlines will continue long into the future as a mark of their history.