Of the more than 300 breeds of dogs that exist worldwide, 150 are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the primary kennel club in the United States. Since its founding in 1884 the AKC registers purebred dogs—dogs whose parents and ancestors were of the same breed since the breed was first recognized. More than one million such dogs are registered annually. Kennel clubs in other countries, such as the Canadian Kennel Club, the Kennel Club of England, and the Japanese Kennel Club, use their own standards in recognizing dog breeds.
The AKC organizes the 150 breeds it recognizes into seven groups (plus a miscellaneous category), based on physical and temperamental characteristics and the purpose for which the breed was originally developed. The club classifies breeds as terrier, working, sporting, hound, herding, toy, and nonsporting.
The terriers often have wiry coats and possess a feisty personality, which reflects their original use in catching prey such as foxes, badgers, and rabbits. Working dogs, such as the boxer or Alaskan Malamute, are muscular, even-tempered, and obedient, a necessary quality in dogs that serve as working partners with humans. Many of the sporting dogs, such as pointers and retrievers, are active dogs that respond instinctively when spotting game. Hounds such as the beagle are known for their stamina, acute sense of smell, and baying bark, qualities that are an invaluable aid to hunters and trackers. Other tireless helpers of humans are herding dogs, recognized for their innate ability to drive livestock and keep farm animals from straying. The low-to-the-ground Pembroke or Cardigan Welsh Corgi can drive a herd of cows many times its size. Toy dogs, on the other hand, are known for their diminutive size and function as companionable house pets. The papillon, named for the French word for butterfly because it has ears that resemble butterfly wings, is a happy, friendly dog, suitable for small living spaces. The final dog group, nonsporting , includes a wide variety of purebreds that differ in size, coat, overall appearance, and personality, from the shorthaired spotted dalmatian to the curly-haired poodle.