Africa is known for unique animals like lions, elephants, zebras and giraffes. But did you know that there are distinct African dog breeds and many are becoming increasingly popular pets all over the world?
9 Amazing African Dog Breeds
Let’s take a look at the 9 most popular dog breeds native to Africa. The continent is quite large and is home to many exotic, extraordinary animals, so it’s no surprise that these dogs range greatly in appearance and temperament.
One thing is certain, however: African dog breeds are unique and beautiful, each in their own wonderful way!
Originating in central Africa, the Basenji is a type of small hunting dog with an alert, energetic and curious personality.
The breed stands about 16-17 inches tall and weighs 21-24 pounds on average. As for appearance, the breed is distinguished by its pointy ears, tightly curled tail and square, athletic body.
The Basenji is sometimes called “the barkless dog” because of the strange yodel-like sound it makes. This is caused by its unusually shaped larynx.
For thousands of years, Basenji-like dogs have lived with humans in Africa. Not surprisingly, the Basenji has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of modern dog breeds in the 19th century.
Today, the Basenji has consistently been in the top 100 dog breeds according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). It ranked 88th on the list in 2018.
2. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The most popular of the African dog breeds on this list, the Rhodesian Ridgeback ranked 42nd on the AKC’s list of top dog breeds in 2018. The breed has been increasing in popularity year over year.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback hails from South Africa and was created when the ridged hunting dogs of the Khoikhoi were mixed with European dogs in the late 19th century. This cross created a dog that was ferocious and fearless enough to fend off dangerous animals like lions, leopards and baboons, while also obeying its owners commands and serving as an obedient companion.
Standing 24-27 inches tall and weighing 70-85 pounds on average, the breed’s distinguishing feature is the ridge of hair running along its back in the opposite direction from the rest of its coat.
It possesses a strong, muscular build and, not surprising given its history, can run at extremely fast speeds.
The personality of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is affectionate, even-tempered and loyal, which is perhaps why the breed is such a popular pet today. Instinctually, however, they still have an independent streak and strong prey drive, making it a breed better suited for more experienced dog owners.
The Boerboel is another breed with origins in South Africa. One of the most powerful dogs in the world, the Boerboel was bred to guard the homestead. And at 22-27 inches tall and 150-200 pounds in weight, that’s a dog you don’t want to mess with!
Fortunately, with proper training and the right owner, the Boerboel is a confident and calm dog that serves his companions with the utmost faithfulness.
A distant relative of the Mastiff, the Boerboel has a broad and blocky head, thick muscles and powerful jaws. With its imposing size and strong instincts, this isn’t a breed for first-time dog owners. It needs a dedicated, experienced owner with a big home and lots of land to accommodate this large creature.
Fun fact: Boerboel combines the Afrikaans/Dutch words “boer,” meaning a farmer, and “boel,” a slang term for dog to create the name “farmer’s dog.”
4. Coton De Tulear
When the phrase “African dog breeds” comes to mind, most people think of athletic, powerful animals with willful personalities. A small, fluffy lap dog? Not so much.
But that’s exactly what the Coton De Tulear is. This sweet, small creature (they weigh no more than 18 pounds!) got its start on the African island of Madagascar and is named for the seaport town of Tulear.
The Coton De Tulear was a favorite among the local nobility, and for a time it was even illegal for commoners to possess this breed.
So where does the French name come from? For many years Madagascar was under colonial rule by France, and the language is still spoken there by many, especially the elites.
Charming and easy going with a wonderful sense of humor, the Coton De Tulear can now be found in homes across the globe and is the 80th most popular dog breed according to the AKC.
The Sloughi is a North African dog breed known for its hunting skills, speed and endurance over long distances. Found in Morocco as well as Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, the breed is largely unchanged from ancient times and has the nickname the “Arabian Greyhound.”
Standing 24-29 inches tall and weighing a mere 35-50 pounds, the Sloughi is a long and lean dog with a graceful gait. As for personality, it is smart and loyal albeit somewhat aloof.
Sloughis are very self aware and cautious and as such do not respond well to harsh training. Its owners should be gentle and patient – and have lots of room for the Sloughi to run.
Of all the African dog breeds on this list, the Sloughi was a recent addition to the AKC registry, receiving official recognition by the organization in 2016.
Africanis is essentially a general term for the locally adapted dogs of South Africa. Because of this, there are no formal breed standards for the dog.
It is believed that the Africanis is of ancient origin and descended directly from hounds and pariah dogs of ancient Africa. Medium in size, they boast a short coat, muscular build and longer-than-average tail.
Healthy and strong, the Sloughi has a natural instinct for guarding, passed down from centuries of protecting people and livestock.
Today the Africanis is recognized by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) as an emerging breed.
Originating in West Africa, the Azawakh is a tall and elegant dog that was originally bred to guard livestock and also hunt. It can be found in parts of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
What sets the Azawakh apart from other African dog breeds is its shockingly thin frame. The dog is so lean that its bones can clearly be seen from far away. But despite its appearance, the Azawakh is quite a healthy breed.
With its elongated, thin frame and elegant demeanor, you may think that the Azawakh is a delicate dog, but don’t be fooled. This tough, resilient breed can chase a gazelle across the Sahara desert for miles.
As far as personality goes, the Azawakh takes a bit to warm up to people, but once they do, they serve as sweet, loyal and affectionate companions.
Moving on to other African dog breeds, let’s look at the Aidi, a dog indigenous to North Africa. With a fearless personality, the Aidi lived and worked in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and served as a loyal protector over its owner and property.
At 20–24 inches in height and around 55 pounds in weight, the Aidi is a medium-sized dog with a lean, muscular frame. It is distinguished by its thick, weather-resistant coat and plumed tail.
Energetic and highly protective, the Aidi is said to make an outstanding watchdog. The breed hasn’t caught on outside of the continent, like the Rhodesian Ridgeback or Basenji, but who’s to say that won’t happen soon!
9. Chinese Crested Dog
Wait – why is a dog with “Chinese” in the title included in a list of African dog breeds?
Believe it or not, the Chinese Crested Dog is actually from the continent of Africa. It is believed to have originated in Africa and was called the African Hairless Terrier according to historical documents. The original African versions were thought to be of a larger stature in ancient times, and after generations of breeding in China, they were reduced in size.
Like most hairless dog breeds, the Chinese Crested comes in two varieties: with fur (Powderpuff) and without fur (Hairless).
Weighing a mere 8-12 pounds and standing only about a foot tall, the Chinese Crested is considered a toy dog and is consistently in the top 100 most popular dog breeds, according to the AKC.
Fans love the breed’s sweet, lively and affectionate personality and distinct appearance.
Conclusion: African Dog Breeds
As you can see from the list above, African dog breeds are quite varied in their appearance, temperament and history. And while a number of breeds are catching on around the world, others remain primarily in Africa.
Although the breeds differ greatly, they are each fascinating in their own unique way.
Looking for the perfect dog for you? Try out our dog breed comparison tool!