Here’s How Top Dog Breed Names Came to Be

We all love our four-legged family members. And that love is unconditional, regardless of where they came from. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not curious as to where and how a certain breed got its start. While the naming process of some breeds, like golden retrievers, is more obvious than others, you may be surprised to learn how some canine monikers came to be.

So, without further ado, here are the naming origins bestowed upon 18 breeds.

1. Basset hound

Puppy basset at the beach
They’re from France, originally. |

It’s nearly impossible to resist the basset hound’s signature trait — those adorably droopy, lovable ears. In addition, this pup is known for his low-slung stature, which is exactly where the name comes from. “Bas” is the French word for low, and the hound part of the name is obviously thanks to the breed’s hunting skills.

Next: This dog’s name is all in the nose.

2. Schnauzer

shaggy giant schnauzer standing isolated
They’re famous for their noses. | Lekcej/Getty Images

Ever hear someone refer to a person’s nose as a schnoz? Well, from what we’ve learned, that makes perfect sense, as does the reasoning behind this breed’s name. According to Reader’s Digest, “The German schnauzer is known for its distinctively long, squarish snout — and that’s where they got their name: The German word for ‘snout’ is Schnauze.”

Next: Its bark is sometimes bigger than its bite. 

3. Rottweiler

Smiling rottweiler in front of water
Rottweilers have protective tendencies. | Horsesdogscats/ Images

Rotties make wonderful guard dogs, and the origin of their name suggests exactly that. Back in the Middle Ages, butchers who lived in the city of Rottweil — a town now located in southwest Germany — employed the protective powers of cattle-herding dogs’ descendants. In turn, the breed became known as Rottweil butcher dogs, or Rottweilers, as we now know them today.

Next: This guy got his name from the Adriatic coast. 

4. Dalmation

Dalmatian peaking out of window
Dalmatians get their name from their region of origin. | Oliver Lang/AFP/Getty Images

The name of this breed mostly has to do with where people first spotted these dogs. The Dalmation was first sighted in the 1800s on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, more specifically, in the region of Dalmatia, Croatia.

Next: This cold-weather dog is used to harsh climates. 

5. Husky

Siberian Husky puppy
Huskies are full of energy and need a lot of exercise. |

The breed name husky comes from “Eskimo dog,” which makes quite a bit of sense. As we know, the Siberian Husky, the Greenland Husky, and other variations are cold-weather pups who not only endure but thrive in harsh climates. “Husky,” is a combination of two terms used in the mid-1800s — “hoskey dog” and “esky dog” — both of which people derived from “Eskimo dog.”

Next: A lesser known terrier makes the list 

6. Cairn terrier

cute cairn terrier dog
Cairn terrier in a field. | Gemredding/ Images

If you don’t know what a cairn is, it’s OK. After all, it’s not exactly a word most people use in their everyday vernacular. A cairn is a man-made mound of stones which serves as a memorial. They’re quite common in the Scottish Highlands, where the cairn terrier originated. These dogs were skilled hunters of rats, rabbits, and the like, many of whom took a liking to hiding out in these cairns. Thus, the name cairn terrier was born.

Next: You’ll definitely know the name of this terrier. 

7. Jack Russell terrier

Jack Russell Terrier in a boat
Jack Russell terriers get their name from an English man. |

Turns out, this dog was named after the guy who started breeding these little white terriers for the sake of fox hunting. Born in England in 1975, John Russell — we’ll just take the leap and assume that he was better known as “Jack” — bought a female white terrier named Trump, bred her, and thus, a long line of Jack Russell terriers was born.

Next: These sleek canines have a royal to thank for their moniker.

8. Weimaraner

Purebred Weimaraner dog outdoors in nature
Weimaraners come from Germany. |

Leave it to the royals to think up their ideal version of a dog they just have to have. We’re very glad they did, though, because we love the long, lean, gorgeous Weimaraner. Grand Duke Karl of Weimar — a city in Germany — was after a fast, strong-nosed dog that wasn’t afraid of hunting big game — and so the Weimaraner was born.

Next: This breed isn’t as prissy as some people assume. 

9. Poodle

Brown poodle running with a toy
Poodles are also from Germany. |

Despite the notion that poodles are all priss, these dogs actually have more retriever in them than most folks realize. Poodles got their start by swimming out after fallen waterfowl, thus earning the name “pudelhund,” a German name meaning “water dog.” That, of course, eventually morphed into what we know as the word “poodle” today.

Next: Whip it good. 

10. Whippet

Whippets resemble greyhounds. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

While you may have never heard of the breed, all you need to do is picture a small greyhound. That’s pretty much a whippet. But, why the name? Back in the early 1600s, this dog earned its name thanks to its lightning speed, which refers to the verb whip.

Next: The way this dog earned its name is slightly offensive. 

11. Chow chow

Chow-Chow drinking water
This breed is from China. |

These lovable little fluff balls got their name by default. Meaning, the reason we know them as chow chows today was because English-speaking people had trouble pronouncing the Chinese word for them, which was songshi quan, which means “puffy-lion dog.” However, when the breed was introduced to Great Britain in the 1880s, it was called chow chow, which was basically English slang once used to describe knickknacks and goods from China.

Next: Another Chinese-inspired breed

12. Shih tzu

Shih tzu in nature, colorful springtime image
Shih tzus originate from China, too. |

The name of this tiny breed was originally derived from the Chinese, who referred to these pups in their own language as “little lion.” Scratching your head yet? Don’t worry, we’ll explain. While these dogs are not lions in looks by any stretch of the imagination, shih tzus do resemble the king of the jungle as it was depicted in ancient Chinese art.

Next: This dog isn’t as much of a diva as he looks. 

13. Lhasa Apso

The long haired, bearded Lasa dog has heavy straight long coat and is a companion dog.
Lhasa apso dogs are from Tibet. |

Sure, these little guys may not look all that terrifying, but their protective demeanor is what earned this breed its name. Turns out, these luxurious dogs are watchful and yappy, which is why they were originally bred to serve as Tibetan palace watchdogs. “Lhasa” stems from the city of the same name and Tibet’s capital, while “apso” translates to “bearded.” It’s clear to see how this dog earned its name.

Next: This dog was named for its incessant howling. 

14. Beagle

Howling Beagle
Beagles are quite vocal. |

Although the exact origin of the small but mighty beagle is unknown, there’s not too much debate over how this breed’s name came to be. The French word “becguele” means noisy person or gaping throat. And given the beagle’s affinity for loud howls during hunting endeavors, his name makes perfect sense.

Next: A dog who loves to hunt 

15. Cocker spaniel

black and golden Cocker Spaniel dogs in back of car
Cocker Spaniel dogs |

Dating back to the 14th century, cocker spaniels were tracking dogs. In particular, these little guys were especially skilled at hunting down woodcocks. Thus, these spaniels became known as “cockers.”

Next: Another spaniel makes the list. 

16. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

spaniel dog running in summer
These pups have a royal history. | Carmelka/iStock/Getty Images

This spaniel is a bit more regal, as it’s not exactly a fan of working too hard. But, boy, are they cute. And we have King Charles II of Britain to thank for that, as the royal was very rarely seen without his little pooches in tow.

Next: This one’s fairly obvious — if you speak French. 

17. Bouvier des Flandres

bouvier des flandres
Bouvier des Flandres | Liete/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Known for being a skilled herding dog, the Bouvier des Flandres was admired for his hard-working tenacity on the farm. In turn, this French name translates to “cow herder of Flanders.”

Next: Even hot dog dogs got their start somewhere. 

18. Dachshund

Dachshund dog and flowers
Dachshunds are often called “wiener dogs.” | Kulianionak

Ah, yes, the wiener dog. And no, their size and shape wasn’t an accident. In fact, these hot dog dogs were intentionally bred to have long, close-to-the-ground bodies so they could fit their way inside badger holes. Unsurprisingly, the word “dachshund” in German translates to “badger dog.”

Read more: The 21 Easiest Dog Breeds to Own