You Won’t Believe the Crazy Tasks These Dog Breeds Were Originally Used For

Though it’s hard to imagine them as anything but the family friends they are today, certain dog breeds have quite the colorful past. Read on to learn about some of the crazy tasks dog breeds were originally used for.

1. Bichon frise

Bichon Frise dog

They lived on ships. | Eudyptula/iStock/Getty Images

Bichon frises came about just before the 14th century. They originally lived on ships to both keep the sailors company (if you’ve ever met a bichon frise you know what good company they provide) and to be used as bartering once the sailors reached their destination. In the late 1800s, though, bichon frises were used as circus dogs because they’re such natural performers, according to Mental Floss.

Next: This breed was used to hunt badgers. 

2. Dachshund

Dachshund on grass

They hunted badgers. | Dixi_/iStock/Getty Images

Dachshunds were originally used to hunt badgers. When you look at their long, narrow bodies, there’s really no one better suited to wriggle into a badger hole to chase the little guys out. Badgers, by nature, are pretty nasty, so it also helped that dachshunds are very brave.

Next: This dog was named after the man who bred them.  

3. Doberman pinscher


They were used for intimidation. | Koljambus/iStock/Getty Images

Doberman pinschers were named after the man who originally bred them: Louis Dobermann. Louis was said to be the town dogcatcher, policeman, and tax collector. He felt he needed an intimidating dog to protect him from the townspeople he fell out of favor with. Thus, the Doberman pinscher was created.

Next: This breed is known for their incredible sense of smell.  

4. Bloodhound

Bloodhound dog

They’re one of the best scent trackers. | Adogslifephoto/iStock/Getty Images

According to Mental Floss, bloodhounds are thought to be the oldest and best scent trackers. They originated in an 8th-century Belgian monastery to do what they do best — track scents. For years, they’ve been popular among hunters and also French kings.

Next: This breed was bred to protect their owners’ properties.  

5. Bullmastiff


They protected properties. | Anat0ly/iStock/Getty Images

Bullmastiffs were originally used to protect the properties of large estate owners. It used to be the case that poachers would illegally hunt on particularly large pieces of private land. So the groundskeepers would use bullmastiffs to track down the poachers and keep them detained until the police arrived.

Next: Collies were bred for this purpose.  

6. Collie

collies Shetland Sheepdog

They herded sheep and other livestock. | Yanjf/iStock/Getty Images

Collies are working dogs through and through. They were originally bred to keep sheep and other livestock on their owner’s property. “These days, their gentle temperament and natural instinct to look out for small creatures make them great family dogs,” says Mental Floss.

Next: This breed was used for rescuing lost travelers.  

7. Saint Bernard

St. Bernard Dog

They helped to locate lost travelers. | Swisshippo/iStock/Getty Images

Saint Bernards were used by 17th century Hospice of Saint Bernard monks to help guard the compound and also locate lost travelers in the Swiss Alps. Their strong bodies and thick coats make them perfect for going on rescue missions in deep snow, and their incredible sense of smell helped, too.

Next: You’ll never believe what poodles were bred for.  

8. Poodle


They were hunting dogs. | Fotojagodka/iStock/Getty Images

Though today they’re known more for their looks and how they perform in dog shows, poodles were once used to retrieve birds that were shot down by their owners — often from a bog or swamp. That’s why they often have such short haircuts — their owners had to keep their hair short so they wouldn’t be weighed down by bog water.

Next: This breed hunted rats in mines.  

9. Yorkshire terrier

yorkshire terrier

They hunted vermin. | Yevgenromanenko/iStock/Getty Images

Yorkshire terriers, or Yorkies as they’re often called, were originally bred to hunt rats in mine shafts. Miners needed a feisty, small dog who wouldn’t mind fighting rats in the near dark. That’s why, today, Yorkies still have a little bit of grit to them.

Next: This breed could date back to ancient Egyptian times.  

10. Dalmatian


Egyptian pharaohs might have kept them. | GlobalP/iStock/Getty Images

Dalmatians can very well date back to 2000 BCE, as pictures of dogs that look an awful lot like a Dalmation adorn the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Later, they could be seen on the coaches of royalty and other public figures. In more recent years, you can see them riding around with firemen, who value “their loud barks because they helped clear bystanders out of the way,” says Mental Floss.

Next: This breed originated in the 17th century.  

11. Affenpinscher

Affenpinscher dog

They hunted rodents. | F8grapher/iStock/Getty Images

In the 17th century, affenpinschers were used in Germany to hunt vermin. With their small size and determined personalities, affenpinschers were perfect for tracking down rodents in city sewers. Today, they mostly act as family companion dogs, but sometimes their hunting instincts still shine through.

Next: This breed was made to be the ultimate herders.  

12. Corgi

Welsh Corgi Pembroke

They’re herding dogs. | Anna-av/iStock/Getty Images

Corgis were originally bred to be the ultimate herders. With their low, fast bodies, corgis are perfect for herding most types of farm animals. “They could handle cattle, sheep, and perhaps most adorably, even ducks and geese,” says Mental Floss.

Next: This little terrier could fight off mountain lions.  

13. Airedale terrier

Airedale Terrier

They were protectors. | Boprey/iStock/Getty Images

Though they’re often used as therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes today, Airedale terriers were originally bred to fight off everything from rats to mountain lions, according to Mental Floss.

Next: Another breed that was named after the original breeder. 

14. Jack Russell terrier

Jack russel terrier

They hunted foxes. | Alexei_tm/iStock/Getty Images

Jack Russell terriers were actually named after the 19th century English clergyman who first bred them: John (Jack) Russell. John originally bred these dogs to hunt foxes. Today, they make great companion dogs, but they still have the high energy necessary for catching foxes.

Next: This breed was used to guard ancient Chinese temples. 

15. Lhasa apso

Lhasa Apso

They were guard dogs. | GlobalP/iStock/Getty Images

Though today Lhasa apsos are known for their luscious locks, they were once used as guard dogs for Chinese temples and palaces. “It was bred as an interior sentinel in the Buddhist monasteries, to alert the monks to any intruders who entered,” says Wikipedia.

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