This article introduces you to some really terrific dogs that you’ve probably never heard of, all of which have now officially been recognized by the AKC.

If you’re a dog show watcher, you’ll soon be seeing them! Most are registered in the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class until they advance into more specific groups.

Founded in 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has set the conformation standards for purebred dogs in the US. For 125 years, they’ve celebrated the beautiful glory and diversity of all the wonderful canines we live and work with. For a breed to be recognized by the AKC, many years of careful genetic breeding must yield a very precise appearance, structure, temperament, and suitability for specific tasks.

Without further ado, here is our list of new breeds:

1. Azawakh

The Azawakh is a lean and elegant-looking sighthound that’s similar in appearance to the Greyhound. Bred to perfection in Africa’s Azawakh Valley, these dogs are very good at their job: using their keen vision to run down wild game and guard livestock. Azawakhs today are the result of centuries of breeding by tribesmen who depended upon them for companionship as well as survival. Azawakh’s may now grace the show rings, but in their native land they’re still doing the tasks they were bred for.

2. Berger Picard

Think you know sheepdogs? You probably haven’t met the most ancient French sheepdog, the Berger Picard. The Celts brought these herding dogs to Northern France in the 9th century. These bright, sturdy, and muscular medium-sized dogs have short but shaggy coats accented with pronounced beards and eyebrows with upright ears and endearing smiles. They’re accustomed to the show ring but are happiest in the field, herding sheep, goats and cows.

3. Cirneco Dell’Etna

The Cirneco Dell’Etna is Sicily’s only native breed and has lived and worked alongside farmers for more than 2,500 years. The Cirneco is a lean, short-haired sighthound with large erect ears; they have the amazingly acute vision and hearing necessary for spotting and running down wild game at high, sustained speeds. This hardy dog slowly declined in numbers until they were revived in the 1930’s. They’re rarely seen in US show rings, but if you’re traveling in Sicily’s Mount Etna region, you’ll find them as family companion dogs of high energy and affection.

4. Coton de Tulear

From mysterious origins on the island of Madagascar, the Coton de Tulear traces its roots back to wild packs of muscular little bichon-type dogs with extraordinarily fluffy white coats. Cotons thrived on the island despite its invasion by pirates and colonization by the French. They became the companion dogs of the Merina tribal nobles, earning them the nickname “The Royal Dog of Madagascar.” Today Cotons are affectionate and lively companion dogs that are at home in the show ring as well snoozing in your lap.

5. Peruvian Inca Orchid

One of the most ancient dogs in the world, the Xoloitzcuintli of pre-Incan times in South America and Mexico, is the ancestor of the Peruvian Inca Orchid. Since 750 A.D., these tall, lean sighthounds have been prized as hunters and companion dogs. Nearly hairless, even today Peruvians make excellent bed-warmers on chilly mountain nights. These sociable, athletic dogs were introduced in America in the 1960’s and quickly gained a following among US sighthound enthusiasts. Since they have a high prey drive and need lots of exercise, the Peruvian is perfectly at home in the field, on agility courses and now in the show ring.

You’ve only had a glance at a very few of the AKC’s newly recognized breeds. They come from around the world to remind us that regardless of their origins, size, or breed, the domestic canine has been our best companion for thousands of years.