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These are the top 35 classic dog breeds that remain popular today

Different breeds have grown popular for various reasons, such as Welsh corgis, the Queen’s favourite dog breed, or Dalmatians, whose popularity skyrocketed when the 1996 film “101 Dalmatians” hit theatres.

Which do you like better, cats or dogs? If you chose dogs, you’re in the majority: 74% of adults said they prefer dogs, while only 41% of adults said the same about cats, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press. That’s not to suggest dogs are inherently better than their feline friends. Evolutionarily speaking, cats have actually been more successful, with superior hunting skills enabling survival even when food is scarce. On the other hand, science suggests dogs are smarter than cats because their cerebral cortexes contain twice as many neurons.

There may never be a clear answer, but for the majority who prefer man’s best friend, we've compiled a list of the top 35 dog breeds with the most timeless popularity. Using data from the American Kennel Club, we averaged each breed’s level of popularity in 1940 with its popularity in 2021. This analysis excluded any new breed introduced since 1940 and is based on data released on March 15, 2022, the most recent data available. Any ties were decided by the breed that ranked highest in 2021.

Different breeds have grown famous for various reasons, such as Welsh corgis, the Queen’s favourite dog breed, or Dalmatians, whose popularity skyrocketed when the 1996 film “101 Dalmatians” hit theatres.

Click through to find out if your favourite dog was just as beloved 80 years ago.

A Chow Chow that is wet after playing in water


#35. Chow chows

- Average rank over time: 46.5
- 1940 rank: 13
- 2021 rank: 80

Originating in northern China, chow chows have thick double-coats and characteristic blue-black tongues. Martha Stewart is particularly fond of this breed and has owned a number of them.

A Brittany running towards the camera with its tongue out


#34. Brittanys

- Average rank: 45.5
- 1940 rank: 64
- 2021 rank: 27

Due to its fondness for humans and family-friendly disposition, Brittanys have become one of the most well-known dogs in the United States. Brittanys were originally bred as hunting dogs and known as Brittany Spaniels until 1982, when the word “spaniel” was dropped.

A Newfoundland in the snow


#33. Newfoundlands

- Average rank: 44.5
- 1940 rank: 44
- 2021 rank: 45

Newfoundlands are known for their large size, which is enhanced by their heavy double-coat. They are also characterized by their sweet and gentle personality. While they may seem like the perfect pet, one of the Newfoundlands’ less desirable traits is their tendency to drool.

A West Higland White Terrier puppy standing in grass


#32. West Highland White Terriers

- Average rank: 44.5
- 1940 rank: 43
- 2021 rank: 46

Called Westie for short, the West Highland White Terrier descends from a group of terriers bred to seek out vermin. As a result, they may share ancestors with cairn terriers and Scottish terriers. Though they look like soft stuffed animals, their outer coat is actually wiry and coarse.

Two pugs looking up at the camera


#31. Pugs

- Average rank: 44.5
- 1940 rank: 56
- 2021 rank: 33

Pugs are said to have originated in China and were once a prized possession of the Chinese royal family. Their popularity grew over the years, eventually reaching Europe and, after the Civil War, the United States. Pugs are recognized as canine clowns but don’t expect them to hunt, defend, or retrieve anything.

A Siberian Husky mid-leap in the snow


#30. Siberian Huskies

- Average rank: 43
- 1940 rank: 67
- 2021 rank: 19

As their name hints, Siberian Huskies originated from Siberia. They were bred to have serious endurance and a thick coat to withstand severe winters. These wolf-like dogs have won the hearts of many pet owners with their high energy and extra friendly personality.

Three Irish Setters sitting in the grass


#29. Irish setters

- Average rank: 42.5
- 1940 rank: 14
- 2021 rank: 71

Characterized by their silky chestnut coats, Irish setters were originally bred to hunt birds. Although they love humans, their hunting instincts can make them a threat to smaller animals. They are active and energetic, so potential owners should be prepared to take them on lots of long walks or runs.

An Airedale Terrier at the beach


#28. Airedale terriers

- Average rank: 41
- 1940 rank: 20
- 2021 rank: 62

The largest of all terriers, Airedales typically weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. President Warren Harding’s terrier, Laddie Boy, was the first presidential pet to receive significant media attention.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever running through the grass


#27. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

- Average rank: 41
- 1940 rank: 34
- 2021 rank: 48

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever gets its name from the shallow estuary that’s surrounded by Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. In the 19th century, Chessies were used to hunt ducks in the Bay since their coat helps them repel water and stay warm.

A St. Bernard at a lake


#26. Saint Bernards

- Average rank: 39.5
- 1940 rank: 26
- 2021 rank: 53

Saint Bernards are extremely large dogs, typically weighing between 120 and 180 pounds. One Saint Bernard named Benedictine was said to have weighed more than 350 pounds. Though their size may be intimidating, Saint Bernards are a gentle, loving breed.

A dalmatian running through an obstacle course


#25. Dalmatians

- Average rank: 36.5
- 1940 rank: 24
- 2021 rank: 49

Dalmations have roots tracing back to Croatia and are named after the country’s Dalmatia region. Their original job was to guard horse-drawn carriages, including horse-drawn fire engines, which is why they’re associated with firefighters to this day.

A Yorkshire Terrier in a colorful patterned sweater


#24. Yorkshire terriers

- Average rank: 36.5
- 1940 rank: 60
- 2021 rank: 13

The Yorkshire terrier is a fiery yet affectionate companion despite its small size. The “Yorkie,” one of the most popular toy dog breeds in the United States, has gained many lovers thanks to their devotion to their owners, exquisite appearance, and adaptability to urban living.

A Basset Hound puppy lying on a couch


#23. Basset hounds

- Average rank: 35.5
- 1940 rank: 37
- 2021 rank: 34

Bred for hunting rabbits, the basset hound’s sense of smell is the second-sharpest of all breeds, bested only by the bloodhound. Basset hounds are descendants of French dogs. Their name is derived from the French word “bas,” which means low—a reference to their short stature.

A Scottish Terrier in a vest nestled amongst purple flowers


#22. Scottish terriers

- Average rank: 31
- 1940 rank: 4
- 2021 rank: 58

This breed was developed in the Scottish Highlands and brought to the U.S. in 1883. Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt owned a Scottish terrier named Fala. She was said to have received her own fan mail, and now has her own statue next to Roosevelt’s memorial in Washington D.C.

Two Pembroke Welsh Corgis running through the grass


#21. Pembroke Welsh corgis

- Average rank: 31
- 1940 rank: 51
- 2021 rank: 11

Corgis get their name from the Welsh word “cor ci,” which means “dwarf dog,” a feature evident in their short legs and long body. A large part of their popularity came from the fact that Pembroke Welsh corgis are the Queen’s favorite dog breed.

A Shetland Sheepdog in the woods


#20. Shetland sheepdogs

- Average rank: 30.5
- 1940 rank: 33
- 2021 rank: 28

Also known as Shelties, Shetland sheepdogs were bred in the United Kingdom as herding dogs. These long-coated pups look similar to their collie relatives but are much smaller, weighing only about 20 pounds.

A Chihuahua mid-leap


#19. Chihuahuas

- Average rank: 29.5
- 1940 rank: 22
- 2021 rank: 37

One of the smallest dog breeds, Chihuahuas typically weigh no more than 6 pounds. This breed has earned itself a lot of screen time, with roles in “Legally Blonde,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” and as Taco Bell’s former mascot, Gidget.

A Miniature Schnauzer in a red vest


#18. Miniature schnauzers

- Average rank: 27
- 1940 rank: 36
- 2021 rank: 18

The most popular of the three schnauzer breeds, the miniature schnauzer was developed as a farm dog that could track down and kill vermin. The traditional appearance of these schnauzers includes “cropped” ears. This type of surgery is now illegal in some countries, and a few U.S. states have considered legislation to ban it.

A French Bulldog playing with a flip-flop


#17. French bulldogs

- Average rank: 27
- 1940 rank: 52
- 2021 rank: 2

French bulldogs resemble little bulldogs with bat ears. Interestingly, French bulldogs were first bred in England before becoming famous in France. Although “Frenchies” are not service dogs, a French bulldog became a military hero in American history.

A German Shorthaired Pointer tilting its head at the camera


#16. German shorthaired pointers

- Average rank: 25
- 1940 rank: 41
- 2021 rank: 9

German shorthaired pointers were bred to be hunters and are still one of the most successful breeds in hunting competitions. Pointers often have a distinct speckled coat in white, black, or liver (a unique shade of brown).

A Golden Retriever with a stick in its mouth in front of the ocean


#15. Golden retrievers

- Average rank: 24.5
- 1940 rank: 46
- 2021 rank: 3

Golden retrievers were bred to be the perfect gundogs to help their owners, lords of the Scottish Highlands, to help them hunt geese. Their beautiful stature and coat, calm temperament, and friendly nature make golden retrievers popular as family dogs.

Two Collies sitting together outside


#14. Collies

- Average rank: 24
- 1940 rank: 10
- 2021 rank: 38

Collies are an athletic and loving breed. One of the most famous dogs of all time, Lassie, is a collie. She was portrayed by a dog named Pal in seven feature films, and in later iterations by Pal’s descendants.

A smiling Pomeranian puppy on a field


#13. Pomeranians

- Average rank: 18
- 1940 rank: 12
- 2021 rank: 24

This breed combines a tiny figure with a big personality. Although they weigh no more than 7 pounds, Pomeranians can be possessive and behave aggressively toward those who threaten their space. As a result, they may not be ideal for families with young children.

An English Springer Spaniel mid-leap


#12. English Springer Spaniels

- Average rank: 17
- 1940 rank: 8
- 2021 rank: 26

English Springer Spaniels were bred as hunting dogs and are active, obedient pups. Springer spaniels have won six Best in Show awards at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the third-most of any breed.

A Great Dane poking its head out a car window


#11. Great Danes

- Average rank: 16.5
- 1940 rank: 16
- 2021 rank: 17

Despite what their name suggests, the Great Dane was developed by the Germans. This breed often holds the record for the tallest living dog. At 7 feet and 4 inches, a Great Dane named Zeus held this title until his death in 2014.

Two Doberman Pinschers playing in the grass


#10. Doberman pinschers

- Average rank: 15.5
- 1940 rank: 15
- 2021 rank: 16

This breed gets its name from Louis Dobermann of Apolda, Germany. Dobermann bred a dog who could protect him while he worked as a tax collector. Though their history may have stereotyped them as aggressive, Dobermans can be socialized to be loving, friendly dogs.

A Boxer smiling in the grass


#9. Boxers

- Average rank: 15.5
- 1940 rank: 17
- 2021 rank: 14

The boxer’s ancestor is a German dog called the Bullenbeisser, which was used to hunt larger animals like deer and boar. Though they sprung from talented hunters, modern boxers make loving family dogs, as well as great service pets. This breed has also been very successful at the Westminster Dog Show, winning Best in Show four times.

A Cocker spaniel licking its nose


#8. Cocker spaniels

- Average rank: 15
- 1940 rank: 1
- 2021 rank: 29

Cocker spaniels are the smallest breed in the sporting group, typically weighing no more than 30 pounds. They were developed to hunt birds, specifically the woodcock, which is where they get their name.

A Labrador Retriever holding a stick in its mouth


#7. Labrador Retrievers

- Average rank: 15
- 1940 rank: 29
- 2021 rank: 1

Despite their name, Labrador retrievers developed in Newfoundland, Canada, as opposed to Labrador, Canada. With coats generally in either yellow, chocolate, or black, Labs are an active breed that loves people and other animals.

A Poodle running on a bright green lawn


#6. Poodles

- Average rank: 14
- 1940 rank: 23
- 2021 rank: 5

Poodles originated in Germany, where they were used to hunt ducks. Their name comes from the German word “pudelin,” which means “to splash in water.” Many 1950s American celebrities owned poodles, including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Lucille Ball.

A Boston Terrier puppy in a dog bed


#5. Boston terriers

- Average rank: 13
- 1940 rank: 3
- 2021 rank: 23

Even though terrier is in their name, Boston terriers are part of the nonsporting group. The other half of their name makes more sense: They were developed in Boston and became the official state dog of Massachusetts in 1979.

A German Shepherd running in the ocean


#4. German shepherds

- Average rank: 11
- 1940 rank: 18
- 2021 rank: 4

These large, muscular dogs are easily trained, making them an excellent choice for police K9 units. The German shepherd was affected by the anti-German sentiment that was aroused in the early 20th century. In Britain, German shepherds were renamed Alsatians after World War I began.

A Bulldog smiling up at the camera


#3. Bulldogs

- Average rank: 8.5
- 1940 rank: 11
- 2021 rank: 6

The bulldog’s name references its past, when it was used during bull-baiting in England. Considered a sport, bull-baiting involved a dog attempting to bring down tied-up bull. Due to their pups’ large heads, most bulldogs give birth through C-section.

A Dachshund on top of a broken tree trunk


#2. Dachshunds

- Average rank: 8
- 1940 rank: 6
- 2021 rank: 10

Known for having relatively short legs and a long body, the dachshund’s shape meant it could track scents easily, as well as fit into burrows. The first time the Olympics had a mascot was during the summer games of 1972 in Munich; the mascot selected was a dachshund named Waldi.

Three young Beagles playing with each other


#1. Beagles

- Average rank: 4.5
- 1940 rank: 2
- 2021 rank: 7

Beagles were first brought to the United States after the Civil War, when they were used for hunting rabbits. Their long ears aided them in picking up subtle sounds, and their white-tipped tails helped keep them visible. Though he may not look like one, “Peanuts” character Snoopy is in fact a beagle.

This article has been re-published pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.