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8 Rare Dog Breeds New to America

By Dr. Marty Becker

8 Rare Dog Breeds New to America

Dog breeds from left to right: Lagotto Romagnolo, Small Munsterlander, Pyrenean Shepherd, Portuguese Podengo Pequeno.

I see an awful lot of interesting breeds in my travels. And I'm noticing more and more of them right here in the good old U.S. of A.

It's not surprising that we veterinarians are seeing some pretty rare and unusual breeds from other countries. When our clients travel overseas, it's only natural that they meet and fall in love with that handsome Italian, the petite French chienne, the sophisticated German hunter or the exotic and fleet-footed track star from Portugal. The next thing you know, they're bringing them home to meet the family.

I'm talking dogs, of course.

SEE ALSO: 3 New Dog Breeds Debut in 2014

Welcome to America

There are lots of wonderful breeds and mixes that we already know and love in this country, but the lure of the new and different is often difficult to resist. And there's nothing wrong with that, but it's also important to do a background check on your new love, just as you would with a more well-known breed. Ask breeders about potential health problems and what your expectations should be for the breed's temperament and activity level. After all, you want your foreign love affair to blossom into a long-term relationship.

Meet some of the exciting rare breeds that are making North America their new home.

Berger Picard: Pronounced bear-ZHAY pee-CAR, this engaging and scruffy French herding dog with the humanlike gaze and goofy grin first won American hearts when he starred in the 2005 movie Because of Winn-Dixie. The Berger Picard often has a sense of humor and likes to give hugs.

Kooikerhondje: The name doesn't mean cookie hound but instead is Dutch for "decoy dog." In his homeland, the spaniel-like Kooiker (coy-ker) is famous for his ability to lure ducks. He weighs about 30 pounds and is highly active.

Lagotto Romagnolo: No, this is not the name of an Italian sports car. The Lagotto, as he's known for short, is a curly-coated Italian breed that excels at hunting truffles. He's usually energetic, smart and fun-loving, but don't forget that his coat must be trimmed regularly.

Mudi: Farmers need dogs who can do a little bit of everything - herd flocks, kill rats, watch over the property - and Hungarian farmers have combined all of those skills into the medium-size Mudi. He has a pleasant disposition but is highly active, so know what you're getting into. The Mudi's wavy or curly coat comes in several different neutral tones.

Portuguese Podengo: Talk about a versatile dog! This primitive-looking breed, which hails from Portugal, comes in three sizes (small, medium and large) and two coat types (wire and smooth). He's a hunting dog who uses sight, scent and hearing to track his prey. The Portugese Podengo tends to be highly athletic and may communicate with a singing yelp.

SEE ALSO: 5 Best Dogs for Your Golden Years

Pumi: This medium-size Hungarian herding dog is covered in corkscrew curls and has one of the cutest expressions you'll ever see on a dog. Don't let him fool you, though: He's generally highly active and intelligent and needs plenty of activity to keep him out of trouble.

Pyrenean Shepherd: Another French herding breed, the Pyrenean Shep, as he's called for short, is noted for being a one-family dog who's not really interested in making friends with one and all. He concentrates on his family and his job, the two things that are most important to him. Because of his athleticism and focus, the Pyr Shep is popular with agility competitors.

Small Munsterlander: He's not a cheese or the family dog of television's Munster family but a versatile German hunting dog with a super nose. When he's not seeking upland game, he's loving on the kids in the family or offering kisses to everyone he meets. Although he's plenty active and can often run for hours, the Small Munsterlander is capable of going into couch potato mode when he's indoors, as long as his need for activity has been satisfied for the day.

While it's always fun for veterinarians to meet and get to know new breeds, we also face the challenge of learning about their health and temperament so we can give them the best care possible. I'm excited to learn more about these dogs as they find their way into homes and hearts here.

(photo credit: Eva Maria Kramer and Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography/

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