What is a Landrace Breed?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Do you know what a Landrace dog breed is? They may not be all that popular in North America, but chances are you’ve heard of these dogs before.

You don’t have to be an expert in dog genetics to understand the basics about dog breeds. The term “breed” is used to describe a group of dogs that have distinct characteristics which identify them as a group and set them apart from other groups. The FCI currently recognizes over 400 different dog breeds and, if you had to, you could probably name quite a few of them yourself. Though you know the basics about dog breeds, have you ever heard the term “landrace breed”? If not, keep reading to learn more.

From Village Dogs to Landrace Dogs

According to an article published in The New York Times, there are more than a billion dogs on the planet, but only 250 million of them are kept as pets. What does that make the rest of those dogs? It is important to realize that while the domestic dog (Canis familiarus) is genetically different from the wild wolf (Canis lupus), not all dogs have been fully domesticated. About 750 million dogs on the earth are somewhere between being domestic and being completely wild – they are commonly referred to as village dogs.

Related: What is a Sighthound?

According to genetics experts, village dogs are the result of natural selection in an environment that is affected by humans. So, while humans may not have directly controlled the breed’s development through selective breeding, they were indirectly involved in certain ways such as the following:

  • Providing food or shelter
  • Restricting animal movement
  • Taking care of sick animals
  • Eliminating natural predators
  • Helping with animal births

Whether passive or direct, these practices have an impact on the course of nature and in the development from village dogs (dogs that are semi-wild) into landrace breeds. But what exactly is a landrace breed? It is an intermediate step between a village dog and a formal breed. Many landrace breeds come about largely as a result of environmental factors such as terrain, altitude, temperature, abundance of resources, and predators with some selective breeding by humans.

Landrace Dogs vs. Pure Breeds

The primary distinguishing factor that defines a landrace breed is its connection to a specific region. These dogs possess certain traits that enable them (and their humans) to survive in certain conditions. One of the oldest known breeds is the Basenji, a landrace breed that originated in central Africa. Other landrace breeds include the following:

  • Korean Jindo
  • Taiwan Dog
  • Scotch Collie
  • American Carolina Dog
  • Indian Pariah Dog
  • Thai Ridgeback
  • Welsh Sheepdog
  • Dingo
  • Basque Shepherd Dog
  • Native American Dog

If landrace breeds are, to some degree, selectively bred by humans then what sets them apart from pure breeds? The biggest difference is that landraces are adapted to a specific region while pure breeds are developed for a specific purpose. That purpose might be related to the region (such as livestock guarding breeds adapted to cold climates), but the breed itself has defined characteristics set forth by some kind of formal breed association. Pure breeds are genetically isolated from other breeds due to selective breeding whereas landrace breeds are genetically isolated due to geographical isolation.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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