Believe it or not, there was a time when the ancestors of modern humans and canines were in direct competition with one another, fighting over some of the same resources. Over time, however, one or both of these species figured out that forming a partnership might be a more beneficial survival technique, and thus, the domesticated dog was born. This change took place somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, according to Smithsonian.com, as gray wolves and dogs split from a mutual ancestor. While scientists aren't clear whether humans managed to capture wolf pups and tame them, or if the canines themselves decided it would be wise to "adopt" a human, what is clear is that dog has been man's best friend for thousands of years.
Once this relationship was established, however, humans soon learned that breeding different types of dogs could lead to improved attributes. Today that might mean working to create miniature purse-sized versions of traditional breeds, or messing with genetics to make a dog look "cuter," but in the past, breeding was often about survival. It was intended to create working dogs that could guard the homestead, fend off poachers, protect the flock from wolves, herd cattle or pull a heavy cart to market. While many of the big dogs bred to do these jobs don't necessarily have to work so hard these days, these breeds are now so beloved that they live on as family pets or household watchdogs. Think you can name them all? Take our quiz to prove it!
The mighty Great Dane ranks among the tallest dog breeds with a shoulder height of 28 to 32 inches on average. These laid-back pups can also weigh up to 190 pounds, according to Vetstreet. Great Danes come in a range of colors, from pure black to snowy white and every shade in between. This breed appears in the 1965 flick "The Ugly Dachshund" as an over-sized Dane who thinks he's a Doxie.
Bred by mating Bulldogs and Mastiffs, and measuring between 24 and 27 inches tall, the Bullmastiff is the perfect combination of speed, strength and smarts. Back in the 1800s, it was known as The Gamekeeper's Night Dog because this breed was primarily used to fend off poachers on British farms, according to the American Kennel Club.
The St. Bernard was bred back in the 1700s by monks tasked with rescuing travelers crossing the St. Bernard Pass in the Alps, according to Smithsonian.com. These monstrously-sized dogs weigh 120 to 180 pounds on average, and have long shaggy coats that keep them warm no matter how cold it gets.
Newfoundlands measure 26 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weigh 100 to 150 pounds on average. They have webbed feet that make them tremendous swimmers, as well as a thick heavy coat that protects against both cold and water. A Newfoundland named Seaman accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous travels, where it was tasked with hunting and guard duties.
The strong and sturdy Cane Corso was bred to serve as watchdog and hunting companion. Hailing from Italy, this breed measures 23 to 28 inches tall and weighs in excess of 100 pounds. The Cane Corso Association of America calls this breed with its short, ruff coat intelligent, affection and protective of its loved ones.
Native to the mountainous region between Spain and France, the Great Pyrenees was bred to protect sheep, and was later used for WWII smuggling operations, according to Animal Planet. Weighing in at over 100 pounds and ranging from 25 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder, this breed was named Royal Dog of France by King Louis XIV in 1675.
With males weighing as much as a small male human, it's no surprise that the Tibetan Mastiff has long been an effective guard dog. Its broad, square head gives it a formidable look, while its double-thick coat keeps it warm and protected in all kinds of conditions.
Despite its name, the Black Russian Terrier is only 15 to 30 percent terrier according to the American Kennel Club. The rest is a mix of Rottweiler, Newfoundland and other large breeds. This black shaggy pup was bred to serve the Russian Army in the 1930s, where it would be used to patrol borders or guard prisoners. males measure up to 30 inches tall and weigh as much as 130 pounds.
If you've ever seen an Irish Wolfhound, you've probably been shocked at its size. These gentle and friendly dogs average 32 to 35 inches high and 115 to 180 pounds, according to the Irish Wolfhound Club of America. Like many very large dogs, they have a fairly short lifespan of 6 to 8 years. Wolfhounds come in a wide range of colors, from pure black to silver, gray, brindle or red.
Native to China, the Chow Chow was bred for hunting, watchdog duties and sled pulling. It has an unusual blackish-blue tongue and stands as tall as 20 inches. Known for its aggressive nature, the Chow Chow is easy to recognize thanks to its wrinkled face and lush lion's mane.
Yup, the slobbering crime-stopper Hooch was a Dogue de Bordeaux. This breed has a wrinkled browline, like it's thinking hard, as well as a tan or fawn-colored coat. Once used to pull butcher carts to market, this dog has proportionally the biggest head-to-body size of any breed, according to the American Kennel Club.
Its abundant, shaggy coat gives the Old English Sheepdog a bear-like look. Weighing in between 60 and 100 pounds on average, this breed dates back to 1700s England, where it was used to herd and protect sheep from wolves and other predators.
According to the Chinook Club of America, the Chinook was bred as a sled dog in the early 1900s around New England's White Mountains. This official state dog of New Hampshire typically weighs between 50 and 90 pounds, and has a brown coat, black mask and muscular, athletic build.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is perfectly bred for working. Weighing in at 75 to 120 pounds, and measuring 23 to 28 inches tall at the shoulder, this black, brown and white canine hails from the Swiss Alps. Its sturdy build allows it to pull as much as 10 times its own body weight, according to Animal Planet.
The Leonberger, with its mane-like ruff, was bred to resemble the lion on the crest of the city of Leonberg, Germany, according to the Leonberger Club of America. Originally pure white, this dog is now primarily brown and black and can weigh as much as 170 pounds.
Weighing in at 75 to 110 pounds and measuring as tall as 32 inches, the Scottish Deerhound comes in shades from blue-gray to brindle, but always has either black or very dark fur on its ears. This dog dates back to 16th century Scotland, where it was used to hunt and kill deer, coyotes and wolves, according to the Scottish Deerhound Club of America.
Weighing in at 70 to 115 pounds, the solid white Kuvasz is a Hungarian native. Its light fur helped it to stand out from the darker-colored wolves as it guarded sheep on farms and pastures.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog dates from the area we now know as Turkey, and has been around since the Bronze Age, according to the American Kennel Club. It weighs as much as 150 pounds and is very muscular, with fur as long as 6-inches to create a thick, warm coat.
It might be a low-energy breed, but that doesn't stop the Neapolitan Mastiff from being a powerful guard dog. With a weight between 110 and 150 and a height up to 31 inches, this dog has loose skin and a saggy, wrinkled face. This Italian breed comes in various shades, from black to mahogany or tan, and has a trim, short coat.
The name Rottweiler comes from the cattle town of Rottweiler, Germany, where these strong black and mahogany dogs were bred to protect butchers and their wares as they pulled carts of meat to market. Now popular with military and police forces, the Rottweiler weighs in at 80 to 135 pounds, according to Animal Planet.
Hailing from Hungary, the Komondor is easy to recognize thanks to its ropes of twisted white fur, which protect them from animal bites and cold weather. Its white coloring allows them to blend in with sheep and launch sneak attacks on predators, according to the Komondor Club of America.
German Shepherds are very popular among police officers who can handle the demands of training these tough animals. This breed which can reach 26 inches in height and weigh up to 90 pounds, was popularized thanks to Rin Tin Tin, a canine movie star from the silent era.
Standing 25 to 27 inches tall, the Afghan Hound has luxurious long hair and lush ears to keep the animal warm in the mountainous region where this breed was developed. Pablo Picasso loved this animal so much that he owned one, and painted it, in a '60s work called "Femme au Chien."
Bloodhounds are shy and affectionate, with endearing expressions and huge floppy ears, according to the Bloodhound Club of America. Weighing 80 to 100 pounds and measuring 24 to 27 inches tall, they have powerful noses and come in shades of red, tan or black.
The high-energy Chesapeake Bay Retriever was bred to retrieve water fowl shot by hunters in Maryland and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay. It has an oily coat that protects it from cold and moisture, and generally comes in brown or tan.
Nobody has ever really greeted tax collectors with a smile, which may explain why a German taxman named Louis Doberman used to take a tough dog along as he worked. This breed is now named for him, according to Animal Planet. Doberman Pinschers are popular security and police dogs, and have a coat with a black and red pattern.
Giant Schnauzers were bred to herd cattle back in the 1850s. Standing between 23 and 28 inches tall at they shoulder, this large breed weighs between 55 and 85 pounds.
Bred to kill otters that were feasting on fish in English ponds, the Otterhound is a strong, sure swimmer. It has a rough coat, and comes in shades of gray, tan or black and weighs 80 to 115 pounds. There are only around 800 examples of this rare breed around the globe, according to the Otterhound Club of America.
Irish Water Spaniels weigh in as 45 to 68 pounds and have a super curly coat that gives them a puffy appearance. They are great swimmers, bred to retrieve ducks and other waterfowl. If you ever see one of these dogs, you might be surprised by their tail, which is tapered like that of a rat, and doesn't seem to fit this dog's fluffy body.
Weighing 70 to 85 pounds, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy to distinguish thanks to a strip of hair along its back that grows in reverse, creating a raised ridge that gives the animal its name. Native to South Africa, these flax-colored dogs were bred to accompany hunting parties, according to the American Kennel Club.
Weighing in between 75 and 85 pounds, the Alaskan Malamute has a fluffy curling tail and a coat that is black and white or gray and white. While it pulls sleds like a Siberian Husky, the Malamute is built for handling heavier loads, and tends to travel more slowly than the speedier Husky.
The Pointer weighs in between 45 and 75 pounds and measure as tall as 28 inches at the shoulder. Trained to point out birds to eager hunters, this breed has short fur in a variety of shades, from black to brown, white and orange.
The American Kennel Club describes the Tornjack as an affectionate family dog who is suspicious of strangers. It can weigh up to 110 pounds and has a very thick white coat with black or tan markings.
Hovawarts are popular therapy or search and rescue dogs weighing in between 65 and 90 pounds. Native to Germany, they come in three distinct colors, including blonde, black or black and tan.
A slim hunting dog with a powerful sense of sight, the Saluki stands up to 28 inches tall and weighs as much as 45 pounds. It ranges in color from black to white and every shade in between, and has been associated with royalty since at least 7000 BC, making it one of the oldest-known dog breeds.
Akitas weigh 70 to 180 pounds and stand as high as 28 inches, according to the American Kennel Club. They have a dark mask and relatively small, pointed ears, as well as an alert disposition. Helen Keller was given an Akita pup on a visit to Japan in 1937, and brought it home with her, introducing this breed to the States for the first time.
Scottish Duke Alexander Gordon helped to refine the Gordon Setter breed in the 1750s. The largest of all setters, according to Animal Planet, this breed weighs 80 pounds on average and has a silky black and tan coat.
Its black mask and hooked tail makes the Estrela Mountain Dog, which is named for a mountain range in Portugal, easy to identify. Popular with police forces, this dogs stands as tall as 29 inches and can weigh in excess of 130 pounds.
A beloved pet for many U.S. families, the Golden Retriever weighs 55 to 75 pounds on average. Bred to fetch waterfowl for hunters in 19th century Scotland, this dog comes in three basic shades, including dark, medium and light golden hues.
Weimaraners stand 23 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and have soft, velvety ears and a solid-colored silver coat. Slender and active they were popular in the mid-20th century, and even President Eisenhower was a proud owner of this breed.