Dog Breeds Chosen as Official State Dogs in the USA

Eleven States of the United States have dog breeds as part of their state emblems and icons. Three of these States have also designated a horse breed as an emblem.

Maryland was the first State to nominate a domestic dog breed as their State dog. In 1964, they appointed the Chesapeake Bay Retriever to the position. The Chesapeake originally hunted birds in the icy cold waters of Chesapeake Bay. As early as 1878, the American Kennel Club (AKC) admitted the Chesapeake into its Standards of Excellence. The breed is renowned for its tracking, hunting and retrieving prowess. They also make good guard dogs. It is classified as a 'gun' or 'sporting' dog. In 2003, Maryland appointed the Thoroughbred as its Official State horse.

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The following year, 1965, Pennsylvania nominated the Great Dane as its Official Dog. The Great Dane originated from mastiff-like dogs which were taken to Germany by invading Asiatic tribes. The Great Dane Club of America was founded in 1889. It was the fourth breed club to join the AKC. The Great Dane has some very attractive colour combinations. It is a distinctive, regal dog with a playful, kind nature. It is devoted to its family.

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In 1966, Virginia adopted the American Foxhound as its official dog. The breed was created by George Washington around 1750 and came about by crossing a foxhound with a French hound. It has adapted to the more open country of North America as opposed to the rolling hills of England. The American foxhound is built for speed and endurance and is lighter and faster than its English relative. It hunts by scent. Its primary job was to hunt wild game such as foxes and rabbits. It is also successful at field trials, agility and tracking. And it makes a great companion.

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In 1979, two States designated dogs as official dogs. Louisana appointed the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog and Massachusetts the Boston Terrier.

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is believed to be a mix of native American Indian dogs and dogs brought over by Spanish settlers during the 16th century. Such dogs would have included bloodhounds, mastiffs and greyhounds. They are very intelligent dogs, energetic and strong. They need plenty of exercise and attention if they are not to become lonely and perhaps destructive. The Catahoula has prominent webbing between the toes, which helps make the dog a great swimmer. Many Catahoulas climb trees, using their hard, sharp nails to help them grip the bark.

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The Boston Terrier (dog emblem of Massachusetts) is also the national dog of the USA. This friendly, lively little dog is a wonderful companion for virtually anyone. The original Boston Terrier was the result of a mating (in Boston) between an English bulldog and a white English terrier. Once destined to be fighting dogs, they were later bred down in size then selectively inbred to create the compact, gentle-natured dog of today. They also are an ideal companion for the elderly.

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The American Bull Terrier Club was formed in 1889 but changed its name in 1891 to the Boston Terrier Club of America. The breed was admitted to the AKC in 1893 but the distinctive colours and markings were not written into the standard until the 1900s. In 1970, the Morgan horse was appointed the Official State horse of Massachusetts.

Six years after the Boston Terrier was made a 'dog emblem', South Carolina made the Boykin Spaniel its official dog. In the same year, 1985, Wisconsin chose the American Water Spaniel as its State dog.

The Boykin spaniel is a distinct hunting dog of the south-east area. The breed is named for W L Boykin, a dog breeder whose work was taken over by his daughter when he died. At the time of its creation, Carolinians were seeking a good-looking, obedient dog that was small enough to fit in the narrow boats that the duck hunters used. The background of the Boykin includes Chesapeake Bay retriever and American water spaniel.

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The dog was a great hunting and companion dog and wasn't bred to excel in the show-ring. Official recognition by the AKC did not happen until 2009. They are lighter than the American water spaniel. But they have the same brown colouring with gold flecking, long ears covered in curls and bright golden eyes. The Boykin needs plenty of exercise as he is full of energy. They are eager to please and make a delightful companion.

Wisconsin's State dog, the American water spaniel, dates back to the 1800s. It is believed to have Irish Water Spaniel and Curly Coated Retriever in its pedigree. It was bred to be a versatile hunter and farm dog. It will hunt, point, flush game and retrieve. It is of medium size with brown, curly, water-resistant hair. Being a spaniel, the dog has long hanging ears. It is good natured and friendly but is at its best if it has a task to do. It needs to be kept occupied or it may become a nuisance barker. It is sensitive, keen to please, obedient and a great family dog.

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The Plott Hound was made North Carolina's Official dog in 1989. Like the Boykin, the Plott takes its name from a dog-breeder. Jonathan Plott, a German, began crossing curs and bloodhounds in an effort to breed a dog for hunting, primarily, bear and raccoon. The Plott hound is hardy and strong. It handles the rugged terrain of its native mountain country with ease. The toes are webbed and the coat very short. The Plott has a natural instinct to hunt. It is an energetic breed and needs plenty of activity and exercise. Obsessive baying and destructive behaviours may result if the dog does not have a purpose in life and plenty of stimulation. In 2010, the Colonial Spanish Mustang was nominated the Official State horse for North Carolina.

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In 2005, Texas made the Blue Lacy its official dog breed. It is a mix of greyhounds, scent hounds and coyotes. The Lacy brothers started the breed in the 1850s and 'blue' dogs are common. Originally they were used for herding free roaming and feral pigs. Nowadays it is ideal as a hunting companion.

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The Blue Lacy is well muscled and rather stocky. The ears lay flat against the sides of the head and are covered in silky hair. Blue Lacys come in blue, red and tricolour. There are generally white markings on the chest, stomach and paws. The coat is smooth and short. They need a moderate amount of exercise but not as much as some of the hunting breeds. They are friendly dogs and suitable for families.

The Chinook was designated New Hampshire's official state dog in 2009. The Chinook was created in the USA in the early 20th century. Arthur Walden wanted to breed a sled dog with strength, stamina, speed and a friendly disposition. One pup he bred was 'Chinook', an outstanding dog who wasn't particularly like either parent. Chinook was an outstanding sled dog and set a number of records in various categories. He was also a wonderful dog with children. Chinook was a prepotent sire and many of his pups were of similar size and colouring, and had similar traits to their father. Unfortunately the breed is very rare today.

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The Alaskan Malamute was designated Alaska's State dog in 2010. It evolved as the draft horse of the Arctic and is an imposing, immensely strong anima, one of the oldest of the sled breeds. He has a proud stance and displays a curiosity and interest in his surroundings. He has a thick double coat and symmetrical markings. He is a typical Spitz-type dog with short ears and a tail which curls over the back. Despite some physical similarities it is not closely related to the wolf.

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The nomadic Alaskan Mahlemiut (Mahlemut) tribe of Inuit Eskimo lived in upper western Alaska. They used dogs to pull sleds to move their possessions each time they shifted locations. An interdependent relationship between Eskimo and Malamute enabled both to exist in the harsh conditions. These dogs were highly valued and were vital to the lifestyle of their owners. The Alaskan Malamute is larger than the American and Siberian Husky and not as fast. Its power and stamina pulling heavy loads over long distances is legendary. It is certainly a fitting choice as Alaska's Official state dog.

Apart from Pennsylvania's Great Dane, these breeds have all been developed in the United States.