Dogs are fondly called ‘man’s best friend’, and in these past few years, most of us can see how the culture of dog breeding has gotten more popular over the years. You can also go ahead and call South Africa a ‘dog country.’ With over 9.1 million reported dogs, the country has gone on to claim the top spot in the list of African countries with the most number of dogs. But which breed of dogs can you readily find in the country? This article will enlighten you on the 10 most popular dog breeds in South Africa.
The 10 Common Dog Breeds in South Africa
There are several types of dog breeds that you can find in South Africa. However, there are those that you will always find more often than not. According to several verified reports, the under-listed are the top 10 dog breeds in South Africa. In no particular order, the dog breeds you are most likely to find in South Africa include – but are not restricted to – the following;
- The Boerboel
- The Rhodesian Ridgeback
- The Africanis
- The Sloughi
- The Azawakh
- The Aidi
- The Basenji
- The Coton De Tulear
- The Chinese Crested Dog
- The German Shepherd Dog (GSD)
For the sake of clarity, we will group them into three categories: small dogs, guard dogs, and dangerous dogs.
Small Dog Breeds in South Africa
1. Basenji (pronounced Buh-SEN-jee)
Other Names: African Bush Dog, African Barkless Dog, Congo Dog, Congo Terrier
This frisky dog was first discovered in drawings on ancient Egyptian tombs and walls between 6000 and 3000 B.C. However, it wasn’t until 1937 that the first breeds of Basenji were brought into England. The first litter was born in 1941, and less than three years later, it was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
How to Train the Basenji Breed
Known as the African barkless dog, the Basenji is very playful and has an attitude. They are very close to their owners but like to maintain their own independence. You get the best out of a Basenji when you engage them in activities that sharpen their minds because they are very smart dogs with highly developed mental capacities. The Basenji responds well to instructions and is always very eager to please. They like to be around other Basenjis and are generally gentle with children. They are mean to smaller animals like birds and rodents and so should not be left unsupervised with smaller pets.
- Basenjis do not bark, rather they make a sound like a yodel or a low howl.
- They have smooth, muscular, and tiny bodies.
- Their eyes are usually almond-shaped.
- The tails are high and curled either to the left or to the right.
- Their short, shiny coats come in different colors from pure black to copper and red. They could also come in a trifecta of colors like black-white-black or black-tan-white.
- The males are usually about 16”-17” tall, while the females are about an inch shorter at 15”-16” tall.
- Male Basenjis typically weigh between 10 kg and 12 kg, while female Basenjis weigh between 9 kg and 11 kg.
Other Names: African Hunting Dog, African Dog, Bantu Dog, Hottentot Hunting Dog, Hottentot Dog, Zulu Dog
The Africanis is an indigenous South African dog. The earliest depiction of these dogs happens to be in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. They are very playful and socialize well with humans. The Africanis dog is particularly good with children and is also very intelligent. They are a healthy dog breed with a high immunity level. You do not need to worry about feeding them properly because they eat a variety of foods and so getting them something to eat is much easy. These dogs have a very calm temperament and are not easily provoked.
How to Train the Africanis Breed
If it is going to be your first pet, then we would recommend the Africanis dog breed because it is easy to train. This dog breed is loyal once it identifies an authority figure. That means your first assignment while training the Africanis is to establish your leadership. Harsh training is never recommended (for any dog breed for that matter). For the Africanis dog breed, it is ‘trust before loyalty’. You must gain their trust first and then they can follow your lead.
It is best to get your Africanis dog as a puppy because then, you can easily train it to be social and friendly. This does not mean you cannot train a much older Africanis dog. As a matter of fact, it only takes a few weeks to train this dog breed and you would have established a bond. To maximize the results of training the Africanis dog breed, you should watch out for their expressions and connect to their body language. They are friendly with children and other pets.
- The Africanis’ coat has a very rare wiry texture.
- Some species have ridges down their backs.
- It has a life expectancy of about 9-12 years and a litter size of about 2-8 puppies.
- The Africanis sheds its coat hair but not much.
3. Coton De Tulear
Other Names: Coton
This fluffy, pretty canine has its origins in France and Italy. It was brought into Madagascar by French soldiers but didn’t get to Europe or America until about 20 years ago. It was not your regular dog as it was only owned by the wealthiest citizens of Madagascar and is referred to as the ‘Official Dog of Madagascar.’
How to Train the Coton De Tulear Breed
Cotons are very affectionate and gentle dogs. They get along with children and other animals and develop very intense bonds with their masters. This could lead to clinginess, as they never want to be away from their owners. Cotons love to play and are fond of doing doggie tricks, like standing on their hind legs and others. They learn very fast, so they are relatively easy to train, but they can also be mischievous and heady.
- It has a wooly, fluffy top coat that needs daily grooming.
- Its forelegs are very thinly muscled.
- It has a lifespan of about 14-16 years and can produce 4-6 puppies per litter.
- Cotons generally weigh about 5.5 kg – 7 kg and are only 10 – 12 inches tall.
4. Chinese Crested Dog
Other Names: Crested, Puff, Curtis, African Hairless Terriers (non-haired variety)
These funny-looking species originated from somewhere in Africa. It is also well known that the ancient Aztecs kept them as bed warmers and also ate them as food. The Chinese came to Africa to trade and took some of these dogs aboard to hunt game with, and it was in China that these dogs became popular, hence the name ‘Chinese Crested.’ The Chinese Crested dog was first exhibited in America in the year 1885 at Westminster, New York.
How to Train the Chinese Crested Dog Breed
These dogs are very alert, charming, playful, and affectionate. During training, however, this could pose a huge problem as they are easily cowed. They need a very firm but gentle hand or they might grow up to be very timid. They also have to be exposed to activity and loud noises when they are still puppies. You need to establish a very firm leadership with these dogs or they become irritable and naughty. These dogs are perfect for apartment life, but have a tendency to get overweight and should not be overfed.
- There are two varieties of Crested dogs; the hairless and the powder-puff variety.
- These dogs are very delicate and the hairless variety, in particular, is very prone to sunburn, tooth loss, and decay.
- They have the same physical anatomy, except for the fact that the hairless variety only has hair on its head, legs, and tail.
- They have very pointed ears.
- The powder-puff variety has a long, soft, and fluffy coat.
- The skin or coat could be any color, they can also be spotted.
- Both the hairless and powder-puff varieties can be born in the same litter.
- They are allergic to wool and lanolin.
Guard Dogs in South Africa
5. German Shepherd Dog
Other Names: Alsatian, Deutscher Shaferhund, GSD, German Shepherd Guard
A German breeder named Captain Max Von Stephanitz produced a German Shepherd dog (GSD) from Wurtemberg, Thurginia and Bavania. These special dogs were then presented at Hanover in 1882. Back then, two varieties were popular, the longhaired variety and the shorthaired (which is mainly used for show purposes now) variety. The first GSD was brought into America in 1907 and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908.
How to Train the German Shepherd Breed
These dogs are among the smartest and most easily trained dog breeds. They are used as working dogs and perform a number of roles, from simple house/property guarding to search and rescue, and also guarding the blind. A well-trained GSD is indispensable. They however require owners who understand canine instincts. If these dogs believe they are superior to their owners, they might get out of hand and begin to attack indiscriminately. They should be socialized while they are still puppies and should not be treated like humans because they are not.
Generally, GSDs are good with children, the elderly, and the disabled. You will find a lot of these dogs in the military. They also make good show dogs.
- The GSD is well proportioned and very strong.
- It has a sturdy, muscular, and slightly elongated body with a light, solid bone structure.
- Its ears are pointed, upright, and turned forward.
- Its tail is bushy and hangs very low when the dog is at rest.
- Currently, there are three varieties of this dog: The double coat, plush coat, and longhaired coat.
Other Names: Arabian Greyhound, Arabischer Windhund, Sloughi Mogrebi, Arabian Sighthound, Leurier Moroccain
This particular dog is of Algerian sub-origins but could be seen all over the North African countries. Originally called ‘Arabian Sighthound’ because of its excellent sight, they were bred by the indigenous nomadic Berbers. These dogs were seen as luxury dogs and were only owned by kings and chiefs. The current Sloughi is a hybrid of the two original varieties: The large mountain Sloughi and the wiry desert Sloughi.
How to Train the Sloughi Dog Breed
Sloughis are affectionate and gentle with a tendency of being clingy to their owners. They are also intelligent and curious about their environment. These dogs are very wary of strangers but are not openly aggressive. They can also get along with children and other animals if raised together. Sloughis need their owners to establish themselves as their pack leader and thus, need firm handling. Their sharp hunter’s instincts can be triggered by any running animal so they must be taught to suppress those instincts when around children or other pets. Finally, Sloughis hate the cold and are most comfortable in warm, calm, and quiet environments.
- Male Sloughis can grow up to 28 inches long, while females can reach about 26 inches at most.
- The male Sloughis are quite heavier with an average weight of about 25-30 kg. Females, on the other hand, weigh between 16-23 kg at most.
- They are very sensitive to anesthetics and could suffer from progressive retinal atrophy (night blindness).
Other Names: Chien de L’Atlas, Chien de Montagne de L’Atlas, Atlas Sheepdog, Atlas Mountain Dog, Atlas Mountain Hound, Kabyle Dog, Atlas Schaferhund
This dog breed has Moroccan origins. It is also very likely that they possess Saharan roots. Aidis were originally used as guard dogs and even though it was named ‘Atlas Sheepdog,’ research has shown that it has never worked as a sheepdog. In 1969, its name was then corrected to Aidi.
How to Train the Aidi Dog Breed
The Aidi is a very powerful and agile dog that is always ready for action. It is also a good flock-guard and is happiest when kept busy, especially when watching over herds of animals. This means that it is probably not a good idea to leave an Aidi idle. On the other hand, the Aidi is a very sensitive dog and should only be raised by an owner who is kind and firm. Aidis do not fare very well in confined spaces and need to be allowed to roam freely.
- They are hairy and muscular.
- They have heavy, hairy tails.
- They have medium-sized ears and their jaws are very strong.
- The coat is usually heavy, thick, and weather-resistant, and can come in colors black, white, black-and-white, brown, and pale red.
- Their average height is between 21-24 inches and they weigh between 23 to 25 kg.
8. The Azawakh
Other Names: Tuareg Sloughi
The Azawakh is a distant cousin of the Sloughi. They were originally bred in the Sahel region of Africa by the nomads in Southern Sahara. They were used mostly as hunting and guard dogs. The dog was officially recognized by the United Kennel Club in January 1993.
How to Train the Azawakh Breed
This dog is generally reserved and almost proud in its gait. Its laid-back nature belies its natural alertness and agility. It is also very quick and attentive due to its innately developed hunting instincts. The Azawakh needs a calm but firm leader with an even temperament. They also need long, brisk daily walks so that they can run free because they are hunting dogs and need to be kept agile.
- The Azawakh is a very lean and slender dog with a long neck.
- It has exceptionally long legs which help it attain speeds of up to 37 km/hr.
- Its skin is very tightly drawn over its body.
- Apart from its belly that is hairless, the rest of its body is covered in short fine hair.
- Azawakhs have a life expectancy of about 12 years and can be up to six in a litter.
- They can typically get to a height of about 23-29 inches and at optimum weight, they are about 17 – 25 kg.
Dangerous Dog Breeds in South Africa
9. The Rhodesian Ridgeback
Other Names: Ridgeback, Lion Dog, African Lion Hound
This giant formidable dog is believed to have originated in the Matebele Kingdom (renamed Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). It is said to be a crossbreed between 16th-century ridgeback dogs and other foreign breeds like the Mastiff, Deerhound, and possibly, the Great Dane. This dog was famously used to hunt big game, like lions, in the past – hence the name Lion Hound.
How to Train the Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed
Ridgebacks are very loyal, brave and patient, and are extremely good-natured. They also have a piercing type of intelligence and are vigilant and observant. On the other hand, they are very dominant and ferocious and need consistent training from a very dominant, firm owner. These dogs possess a lot of stamina and need lots of mental and physical stimulation. This breed is definitely not for soft or tender-hearted people because if they sense that they are more dominant than you are, they can become very unstable and cause serious harm to people around, and other animals.
- They have very strong, tall front legs.
- The coat is short and heavy with a ridge of hairs growing in the opposite direction. This ridge is located right in the middle of its back.
- The coat colors could come in red, wheaten, and very rarely, black.
- Its tail is long, with a thick base and a slight upward curve.
- The male ridgebacks are about 25-27 inches tall while the females are about 2 inches shorter on average.
- The male ridgeback weighs between 36-41kg, while the females weigh between 29-34 kg.
10. Boerboel (pronounced Boo-bull)
Other Names: South African Mastiff
The information surrounding the origins of the Boerboel is still uncertain. It has been confirmed, however, that a German named Jan van Riebeeck, brought a ‘Bullenbijter’ to the South African Cape coast. This Bullenbijter closely resembled a Mastiff and was known to be one of the largest and strongest dogs ever discovered. The current Boerboel is said to have a very solid resemblance to the Bullenbijter. The Boerboel is believed to be a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff. They were imported into South Africa in 1820 and were used to guard the South African diamond mines.
How to Train the Boerboel Breed
The Boerboel is an obedient and reliable dog with very strong watch-guard instincts. It is also extremely affectionate towards its owner and loves to play. Nonetheless, it is a very big and dominant dog and needs a strong leader. As a big dog, it growls and bites when displeased. To prevent Boerboel attacks, these dogs should be taught that every human near them is of a higher hierarchy. The Boerboel does not take well to strangers and only recognizes its owners.
On the other hand, if properly trained, they are good with children, other pets, and even birds. They are also patient creatures when they are not on guard and will not easily chase small animals. The Boerboel is a great family dog.
- They have short, broad, deep square-shaped heads with well-developed jaws.
- They also have well-developed leg muscles.
- The Boerboel is a very healthy breed, typically weighing between 70-90 kg for both males and females.
- They do not grow very tall, however; males are generally taller at 25-28 inches, while females are between 23-25 inches tall.
Which Breed Of Dog Is Referred To As The South African National Dog?
Yes, South Africa does have a national dog breed and it is the Rhodesian Ridgeback. It is the only dog that is officially recognized as having a complete South African origin. As a matter of fact, it is depicted on the Kennel Union of South Africa’s (KUSA) official emblem.
Which is the Most Expensive Dog in South Africa?
South Africa is home to some of the world’s most diverse dog breeds and so it might be a little tricky determining the most expensive of the lot. Guard dogs like the German Shepherd could cost up to $6000, while luxury pets like the Chinese Crested Dog could cost about $5000. The most expensive puppy in the world, however, is the golden-haired Tibetan Mastiff puppy, valued at an insane price of over $2 million. The most expensive adult dog in South Africa is said to be the Samoyed from Siberia at $14,000.