11 Fascinating African Dog Breeds That Steal the Show at Every Dog Park

African Dogs breed

The continent of Africa evokes images of jungles, deserts, big animals, safaris, and the cradle of civilization. There are many African dog breeds that were created to protect people living in remote areas where lions or baboons might look for food.

Most African dog breeds have developed fur coats that keep them cool in regions like the sweltering Sahara desert and southern parts of Africa.

These dogs are brave and strong and have adapted to the wildness of the continent. Fossils and cave etchings show that domesticated dogs have been in Africa since as early as 4,500 BC.

African Dog Breeds

Let’s embark on a journey through the vibrant landscapes of Africa as we uncover the unique charm and fascinating stories of its native dog breeds.

1. Rhodesian Ridgeback 

african dog
DOG’s SIZE24-27 inches tall
WEIGHT70-85 pounds
FUR AND COLORShort coat in light wheaten; light wheaten, black nose; light wheaten, brown nose; red wheaten; red wheaten, black nose; red wheaten brown nose; wheaton; wheaton black nose; wheaten brown nose — shades of brown
LIFE SPAN10-12 years

The Rhodesian Ridgeback breed, formerly known as the African lion dog, is good with children, dignified, affectionate, even-tempered, stubborn, protective, very trainable, and needs mental stimulation.

Rhodies do well with experienced dog owners. They track and bay (a sound that alerts hunters to a scent). The Rhodesian Ridgeback is so brave that they have no qualms confronting lions.

Ridgebacks are powerful and fast athletes from southern Africa. The African lion dog was developed by crossing the Khoikhoi African hunting dog with Dutch colonists’ Greyhounds and terriers.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is known for the ridge on their back — a stripe of hair on their back that grows backward. The Rhodesian ridgeback has great guarding instincts for a pup with such a cute appearance.

2. African Wild Dog

african dogs
GROUPNot recognized by American Kennel Club
DOG’s SIZE30 inches tall
WEIGHT40-70 pounds
FUR AND COLORshort coats in mottled tan with hues of yellow, brown, red, black, white with black markings, a black mask
LIFE SPANNot available

The African wild dog is exotic-looking with cartoonish, big, rounded ears. Sadly, they are one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

There are some in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa (Tanzania and northern Mozambique). The wild dogs normally form packs of 10, but packs can be as large as 40. They hunt mid-size animals like gazelles and run 44 miles per hour.

Their scientific name is Lycaon pictus, meaning “painted wolf” in Latin and Greek.

3. Azawakh 

which breed originated in south africa
DOG’s SIZE23.5-29 inches high
WEIGHT33-55 pounds
FUR AND COLORshort coat in fawn, red, brindle, sandy, white, black, blue, brown, gray, cream
LIFE SPAN12-15 years

Azawakh dogs, one of the rare dog breeds, are from the Azawakh Valley between Mali, Burkina, Faso, and Niger. They are West African sight dogs that are very affectionate, independent, and loyal, and they make good watchdogs.

This adorable canine with floppy ears resembles a Greyhound and is a great companion and guard dog. They hunted boar and antelope and are lure coursers in the US.

The Azawakh breed dog is an ancient hunting dog that’s very fast and has great vision. They need mental and physical stimulation. Azawakhs have little body fat (jealous!) and need a jacket in cold weather. Also, it’s important to know that medications are stored in body fat, which is processed differently by sighthounds.

They’ve been pursuing gazelle across the hot sands of the Sahara for over a thousand years.

4. Boerboels 

african dog breeds
DOG’s SIZE22-27 inches tall
WEIGHT150-200 pounds
FUR AND COLORShort, dense coat in brown, brindle, cream, tawny, reddish brown, and red
LIFE SPAN9-11 years

Boerboel dogs are intelligent, calm, obedient, affectionate, good with children, have a protective nature, and need mental stimulus. This breed is a guard dog that protected remote South African homesteads from dangerous animals like leopards, lions, and baboons. Their name is pronounced “boo r bull.”

They are very agile for their weight and descend from Mastiff types. The Boerboel needs early training and socialization. They also should be introduced to other pets when the Boerboel is young. They are large sized, so they have to learn to obey when they are young. A Boerboel makes a good therapy dog.

Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers of South Africa in the mid-1600s brought large bull and mastiff-type dogs to protect their homes. Those dogs interbred with European guard dogs and produced the Boer Dog, which was used by Boer settlers as a big-game hunter and livestock protector.

Boerboel means “farmer’s dog.” The Boerboel, a South African dog, is a gentle giant unless threatened.

5. Aidi (Atlas Mountain Dog)

south african dog breeds
GROUPNot recognized by AKC
DOG’s SIZE21 – 24 inches tall
WEIGHT50-55 pounds
FUR AND COLORFluffy double coat in black, white, black and white, tawny, pale red.
LIFE SPAN12 years

The beautiful Aidi breed looks like a Collie and is very protective, playful, energetic, a good scent canine, agile, alert, and a great watchdog. Aidis thrive with early socialization and training during puppyhood.

They have a thicker coat than most African breeds, and it’s weatherproof, which is helpful in the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. They are calm at home and protective when necessary.

Aidis are shepherd dogs from the Atlas Mountains in North Africa that protect livestock in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Aidi lived in Morocco, where it was used to protect African families and property from wild animals. It’s believed that the Aidi dog originated in the Sahara. They need exercise if they aren’t working.

6. Sloughi 

african dog breed
DOG’s SIZE24-29 inches
WEIGHT35-50 pounds
FUR AND COLORShort coat in sandy, cream, mahogany, red
LIFE SPAN10-15 years

The sweet-faced Sloughi canine breed is energetic, reserved, noble, graceful, and affectionate. One of the hound dog breeds they are also known as the “Arabian greyhound.”

The Sloughi is an ancient coursing sighthound that was used to hunt game in the North African deserts. They are aloof with strangers. Sloughis have a high prey drive, so they may chase small dogs.

Sloughi-type hounds were companions to Egyptian nobles, Berber kings, and nomadic chieftains. This African breed is able to chase prey across huge swaths of the desert because they have long legs. Some historians believe that Berber cavalrymen who were with Hannibal when he crossed the Alps introduced the Sloughi to Europe.

Because they are such a rare breed, the Arabian greyhound isn’t one of the most popular dog breeds.

7. Pharaoh Hound

african dogs breeds
DOG’s SIZE21-25 inches tall
WEIGHT45-55 pounds
FUR AND COLORShort in chestnut, red, golden hues, rich tan, tan
LIFE SPAN12-14 years

The elegant Pharaoh hound breed is friendly, easy to train, noble, smart, affectionate, energetic, and good with other dogs. Pharaoh dogs are coursing hound hunting dogs that blush when happy or excited, which earned them the nickname “Blushing Dog of Malta.”

They are also the National Dog of Malta. Pharaoh hounds are fast and graceful and make great pets.

2,500 years ago, Phoenician sailors from today’s Lebanon sailed around the Mediterranean trading luxury goods. Historians think that they traveled with Egyptian hounds and left them around the ancient world, even in Britain.

Pharaoh hounds were bred to hunt rabbits in Malta. They are an extremely rare African dog breed.

The Pharaoh Hound Club of America reports that when ferrets with bells around their necks find prey in small spaces, intelligent Pharaoh hounds follow the bell sound to find the prey.

8. Chinese Crested

african breed dogs
DOG’s SIZE11-13 inches tall
WEIGHT8-12 pounds
FUR AND COLORHairless and silky, short or medium coat in apricot; black; black, white, and tan; blue; chocolate; cream; palomino; pink and chocolate; pink and slate; slate; white; black and tan; black and white; brown; pink; red; sable; silver; white and black; white and chocolate
LIFE SPAN13-18 years

The Chinese crested dog breed is affectionate, alert, friendly, lively, playful, and very trainable. You usually see them without fur, but on their American Kennel page, there’s an adorable video of one with lots of lovely fur.

The hairless Chinese crested dog has the “crested” hair, fur socks, and fur on their tail. They are perfect for people allergic to canine dander.

The other Chinese crested are called “Powderpuffs” and have a silky coat.

This African dog breed is ancient. Historians think that an African hairless dog was brought to China from Africa. The canine was large and bred down to toy size.

Chinese trading ships brought Chinese crested dogs with them to catch rats. Sailors traded them and called them Chinese Ship Dog. They traveled to South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, etc. The Chinese crested breed standard was refined in China.

9. Basenji

african dogs breeds
DOG’s SIZE16-17 inches tall
WEIGHT22-24 pounds
FUR AND COLORShort in black and white; black, tan, and white; brindle and white; red and white; black brindle and white; blue cream and white; cream and white; mahogany, tan, and white; sable and white markings
LIFE SPAN13-14 years

The adorable Basenji breed is independent, energetic, intelligent, and needs mental stimulation. Basenjis can’t bark and make a sound that’s a combination of a yodel and a chortle.

They need a lot of exercise, and people say they are catlike. They groom themselves compulsively like kitties. The AKC says this brindle dog breed trots like a racehorse. They have lean bodies and white markings.

Sometimes, a Basenji is aggressive with small animals.

Basenjis are one of the oldest AKC breeds. Paleontologists report that the first domesticated dogs looked like Basenjis. They were given to pharaohs as gifts and are seen on ancient Egyptian relics.

African tribesmen used Basenjis to hunt. The Basenji had hardly changed from ancient times to the end of the 19th century when they made their way to the West. They are known as the Congo terrier.

The beautiful Saluki breed is another ancient dog breed with Egyptian roots and is considered Egyptian royalty. They may date back to 7000 BC. Salukis are sighthounds (hunting dogs) that were adored by Egyptian pharaohs, Alexander the Great, and kings. This is another of the African breeds that look just like their ancestors.

The Saluki breed is gentle, affectionate, energetic, needs mental stimulation, and has a coarse coat. They don’t like cold weather but do enjoy an active family. They love their family but don’t have the same fondness for other people.

10. Abyssinian Sand Terrier (Hairless African Dog)

desert dogs breeds
GROUPNot recognized by the AKC
DOG’s SIZE15.5 to 20.5 inches tall
WEIGHT21-39 pounds
FUR AND COLORbald in black, grayish black, bronze, elephant gray, pale sandy, mottled
LIFE SPAN12-15 years

The Abyssinian sand terrier breed is calm, loyal, brave, protective, affectionate, and good with children and dogs. In ancient times, hairless breeds were reputed to have magical healing powers. People used them as hot compresses for aches and pains and as bed warmers in the winter.

Historians think that Abyssinians were used to breed some other hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested dog. Some Abyssinians have no hair. These canines are from the same homeland (now Ethiopia) as Abyssinian cats.

11. Coton de Tulear

13 african dog breeds
GROUPNon sporting
DOG’s SIZE9-11 inches tall
WEIGHT9-13 pounds
FUR AND COLORDouble coat, wavy, and long in black and white
LIFE SPAN15-19 years

Coton de Tulears are intelligent, playful, friendly, affectionate, trainable, and good with children and dogs. The Cotton de Tulear breed, AKA “Royal Dog of Madagascar,” is a great companion that the AKC describes as charming.

They make unique vocalizations and can walk on their hind legs. Dog lovers adore them and find them witty. They may have landed in Madagascar after a shipwreck.

These precious little fluffers were named after the seaport town of Tulear. Madagascar’s aristocrats passed laws to prevent commoners from having Coton de Tulear dogs. They didn’t even want anyone taking Coton de Tulear canines off the island.

They wanted to keep this adorable breed for themselves and did until the 1960s. The Coton de Tulear is a rare breed. They are low shedding and low grooming.

Breeds that are Not Recommended 

African Wild Dogs are Africa’s wolves, and wild canines shouldn’t be kept as pets.


Do Most Kennel Clubs Recognize African Dog Breeds?

Kennel clubs have recently begun recognizing African dog breeds.

Which Dog Breed Is Cat-Like?

The Basenji breed is cat-like because they groom themselves constantly, don’t bark, are tidy, and are aloof.

What Is an African Dog Like a Greyhound?

The Azawakh


African dogs, inhabitants of the world’s second-largest continent, evolved to endure the heat of the huge and hot continent. Many African breeds are courageous and athletic. African dogs have unique color patterns and personalities. African dogs include some of the oldest sighthound breeds of all.

African dogs are different from European dog breeds because African dogs evolved naturally to adapt to their environments, as opposed to most European dogs, which were bred for a purpose.

If you want an African canine, look for a veterinarian who is familiar with African dogs.

Before searching for breeders, you can check Petfinder and pure-breed rescue organizations because many pure-breed (and mixed-breed) dogs need homes.

Elise Margulis
Elise Margulis is a talented animal writer and a devoted pet parent residing near Manhattan in a cozy suburb. With a Chow mix and a rescued Siamese as her loyal companions, she's been animal-obsessed since childhood. Penning informative articles on pet nutrition, health, and animal welfare, she's also an avid advocate for adoption and animal rights. When she's not writing, she serves as the editor of two local online news sites. Working from home with her fur babies, she advocates adoption and animal welfare through volunteering and social media. A true animal lover and vegetarian for over 31 years, she's on a mission to raise awareness and make the world a better place for all creatures.

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