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Breeds like the Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Maltese are certainly popular for a reason. But have you ever found yourself wondering what lesser-known breeds are out there?

In this article, we’ll introduce you to 6 rare dog breeds that make excellent family pets. You may not have heard of them, but each of these pups would be a fantastic companion for the right person and family.

1. Xoloitzcuintli

The Xoloitzcuintli is native to Mexico and has been traced back as far as 3000 years.1 Also known as the Xolo, these dogs are easily recognized for their large pointy ears and dark, hairless body. Some Xolos do sport a short, flat coat, but hairless dogs may be more common.

Many Xolos have a mohawk of coarse hair between their ears, creating a very distinct look. You may recognize the Xoloitzcuintli from the movie Coco, where the canine character Diego was based on this breed.

Xolos are known for their loyalty and affection toward their family members, but they tend to be aloof with strangers. They are active and intelligent but don’t require a large amount of exercise as long as they receive sufficient attention.2

2. Puli

You may recognize this breed from mop memes on the internet, but the Puli was originally bred as a sheep herding dog in Hungary.3

The Puli’s corded coat comes in shades of gray, black, and rusted black and requires a lot of maintenance to keep the cords clean and tidy. Like many herding dogs, the Puli is a high-energy and strong-willed breed. These dogs require a great deal of exercise though. Otherwise, they may be prone to mischief like chewing or barking.

Pulis are intelligent,  but they are independent thinkers, so you will have to keep the training interesting enough to hold their attention. Though they may be headstrong, Pulis make wonderful and devoted family pets for those willing to put in the work to train them.4

3. Basenji 

The Basenji breed originated in the Congo,  where Basenjis were commonly bred as hunting dogs for small game.5 This breed has an unusual shaped larynx and, as a result, they do not bark but instead, emit a characteristic yodel.

These slender, fine-boned dogs typically weigh between 20 and 24 pounds and have a square stature and a curled tail. Basenjis have large, pointed ears, almond eyes, and a wrinkled forehead which gives them a soulful expression. Their short coats shed very minimally and rarely require grooming.6

Basenjis are known for being independent and aloof, especially toward strangers. They are likely to become a loyal and devoted companion to one person in a family above all others. For this reason, Basenjis are great companion dogs for single people or small family, and may not be the best fit for a very large family.7

These dogs are agile and athletic but likely to be disinterested in playing fetch. They make wonderful hiking companions, and their instinctual prey drive makes them great candidates for lure coursing.

4. Lagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto Romagnolo is an Italian breed that could easily be mistaken for a Labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Dog at first glance.

This compact breed weighs 25 to 35 pounds and has a dense, curly coat and a confident, square stance.8 Their coats come in a range of colors and may be solid or patchy. They shed minimally and could be considered hypoallergenic, but because their coats are so thick, they require frequent grooming to keep mats at bay.9

Historically, the Lagotto Romagnolo was used as a waterfowl retriever and to hunt truffles in the Italian forest.10 These dogs are highly sought-after for their truffle hunting capabilities to this day.

With an easy-going temperament, affection for children, and a tendency to get along with other pets, the Lagotto Romagnolo makes a wonderful family dog. 

5. Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is easily recognizable for its unique, spotted brindle coat and light-colored eyes. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed originated in the state of Louisiana and is descended from Bloodhounds, Mastiffs, and Greyhounds.

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are a large breed, weighing up to 95 pounds, and were bred as general working dogs, often used as watchdogs, hunting dogs, and for driving livestock.11

These pups make great family pets because they are affectionate and deeply loyal. They do have watchdog tendencies, and strangers may find their size and their deep bark intimidating, but they are not aggressive.12

6. Stabyhoun

The Stabyhoun is a hunting dog breed that originated in the Netherlands. Weighing 45 to 50 pounds, these dogs are characterized by flopping ears and a sleek, medium-length coat of black, brown, or orange, with white markings. They may have roan, spotted, or ticked coat patterns.13

These water-loving pups are energetic, affectionate, and eager to please, making them wonderful companion dogs for active families.

Insure your New Pup

Here at MetLife Pet Insurance1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets. MetLife Pet Insurance is proud to stand by dog owners, and offer dog health insurance policies to a variety of breeds.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

1 Xoloitzcuintli, DogTime

2 Xoloitzcuintli Dog Breed Information, American Kennel Club

Puli, DogTime

4 Puli, American Kennel Club

5 Basenji, DogTime

6 Basenji, DogTime

7 Basenji, American Kennel Club

Lagotto Romagnolo, DogTime

9 Lagotto Romagnolo Dog Breed Information, American Kennel Club

10 Lagotto Romagnolo, DogTime

11 Catahoula Leopard Dog, American Kennel Club

12 Catahoula Leopard Dog, DogTime

13 Stabyhoun, DogTime