Human's preference for one particular breed of dog over another is as widely varied as the breeds themselves. In fact, humans and their individual preferences are the main reason that we have such a wide variety of dog breeds. There are short-haired dogs, dogs with long flowing hair-like coats, coarse curly-haired dogs, even dogs with dreadlocks. The spotted dog breeds, however, seem to draw fans wherever they go. Ironically, there is only one officially recognized spotted breed. The Dalmatian is the lone dog breed to be officially recognized as naturally spotted. Luckily, for the spotted dog lovers of the world, there are several breeds that frequently produce dogs with spotted coats or speckled coats.
What Is a Spotted Dog Breed?
The Dalmatian is the only dog breed that is officially recognized as a spotted dog breed. The other spotted dog breeds produce spots as the result of a random gene anomaly. These anomalies are mutations or dilutions of the breed's standard genetic coding, and they are not repeatable. Breeding pairings containing two spotted dog breeds have a higher likelihood of producing pups with genetic deficits. Many spotted breed dogs are born either partially or fully deaf.
Why Do Many People Love Spotted Dogs?
Human beings love an underdog (pun intended), and spotted dogs fit the bill perfectly. Even when the spotted coat results from a breeding of two normal coated dogs, there is a higher than normal chance that some or all of the puppies will be born partially or completely deaf. As dog breeding and dog shows became international events, unscrupulous breeders often euthanized dogs with undesirable traits established by a breed standard. There have always been dog lovers though, and soon these "rejected" puppies became almost as popular as their genetically perfect cousins. There are several non-spotted breed dogs that contribute most heavily to the world's population of spotted dog breeds. Dog Fanciers do not consider these coat color patterns to be true spotted dog breeds because of their random shape, size, and location, but they are all spotted to us.
10 Spotted Dog Breeds
While there may only be one official spotted dog breed, there are many more un-official spotted dog breeds. In our quest to find out which 10 spotted dog breeds were the crowd favorites, we turned to the American Kennel Club (AKC) annual ranking of the most popular breeds in America. The list ranks all 193 currently recognized breeds with #1 being the most popular. Keep reading to find out which spotted dog breeds are the most popular with the American people.
The Dalmatian is technically ranked #56 on the AKC popular breed list, however, as the only official spotted breed dog, we chose to place it at the top of our personal favorite spotted dog breeds.
The origin of the breed is generally attributed to the Dalmatic region of the Mediterranean Peninsula in what is now Croatia. However, the Dalmatian was reportedly a constant companion of the Romani gypsy tribes, and there are historic reports of the breed from the British Isles to Northern Africa. The Dalmatian holds the distinction of being in an AKC class all its own. To date, Dalmatians are the only breed in the AKC's "Coach" class. A class created to properly categorize the Dalmatian's official function. The Dalmatian's prime role has historically been as a traveling companion to the Gypsy tribes and, later, the fire department.
The Dalmatian's coat is pure white and evenly covered with uniform round spots. The spots can be black or a rusty brown color called liver and range from the size of a dime to the size of a half-dollar. Dalmatian puppies are born with coats that appear solid white. The spots are present but invisible. As the pups mature, the hair in these spots turns black giving them their familiar spotted coat.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Next in the line-up is the German Shorthaired Pointer. The German Shorthaired Pointer was the result of years of selective breeding in Germany crossbreeding various tracking hounds, bird dogs, and gun dogs to create the perfect all-around hunting dog. They certainly appear to have succeeded. The German Shorthaired Pointer is ranked #9 in the AKC's most popular breed list.
The German Shorthaired Pointer has a Roan or Ticked coat in either black or liver or a combination of both over a white to cream base coat. Liver is the most common coat color for the German Shorthaired Pointer in the United States.
Blue or Red Merle Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd comes in at #15 on the AKC most popular breed list. Australian Shepherds, ironically, are not from Australia. The breed originated in the Basque region between Spain and France. When the Basque people later migrated to the newly settled Australia, they took their dogs along. In Australia, the Basque dogs were frequently cross-bred with the Collies and Border Collies that the British colonists had brought over. Eventually, the Basque people migrated again, this time to California. California bestowed the breed's Australian Shepherd moniker, mistakenly believing that the breed had originated in Australia.
Both the Blue and Red Merle coat colors are considered standard to the breed and are fairly common. The Merle coated Australian Shepherd has a medium-length, wavy, white base coat with a densely speckled and spotted midsection of either grey or black spots for the Blue Merle or rusty brown to liver spots for the Red Merle.
Harlequin Great Dane
The #16 spot on the list is held by the Great Dane. These gentle giants are a long-running crowd favorite. Though they come in many coat colors, the most iconic is the dramatic Harlequin Great Dane. These dogs are often mistaken for Dalmatians in puppyhood, but they quickly grow far beyond their diminutive Croatian lookalike. The Harlequin color pattern features a solid white base with irregular "torn" patches of mottled grey and black spots ranging in various sizes and appearing in a random pattern over the entire body.
Blue Merle Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie was originally registered in 1909 under the moniker Shetland Collie, a nod to its much larger cousin. Collie fanciers lobbied and eventually had the name changed to differentiate the two related, but distinct, breeds. Today, the Sheltie outranks its cousin, the Collie, earning the #25 spot in AKC's breed popularity list.
The Blue Merle Shetland Sheepdog features black and grey speckles and spots densely grouped over the mid and hind section of the dog's body.
English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel is an English bird hunting dog, a pointer, and a gun dog all wrapped up in one. The breed gained popularity in the United States as a showier version of the short-haired sporting dogs already in use at the time. Today, they hold the #27 spot in the AKC popular breed list.
English Springer Spaniels have long flowing white base coats which are dappled with either blue or liver speckles and spots in the Roan or Ticked coat pattern.
Blue Merle Collie
Queen Victoria first popularized the Collie in 1800 when she discovered the Scottish sheepherding dog during her stay at Balmoral Estate in Scotland. In 1940, British author, Eric Knight, cemented the Collie into literary history with his long-running fictional series, Lassie. Today, the Collie is ranked #38 in popularity in the United States.
The Collie can be smooth coated with a short flat coat or rough-coated with a thick full coat. There are several acceptable color combinations. Blue Merle is one of the most popular, but Sable Merle and White Merle varieties are also acceptable. The popular Blue Merle pattern was initially referred to as tortoiseshell.
Queensland Blue Heeler
The Queensland Blue Heeler, also commonly known as the Australian Cattle Dog, is #55 on the AKC line-up. These dogs are synonymous with the ranching life in both Australia and America. This breed is one of the most intelligent breeds in Dogdom and needs stimulating activity to keep them busy and out of trouble.
The breed is born with a solid white coat which develops the characteristic blue or red ticked appearance as they mature.
Blue Merle Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is one of Great Britain's oldest breeds, originally brought to Wales by the Celts over 1,000 years ago. It is differentiated from its nearly identical cousin, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, by its tail. The Cardigan has a full bushy tail, and its later successor, the Pembroke, has no tail. Today, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi ranks #68 in popularity in the US.
The Blue Merle color pattern is seen in the Cardigan, but not the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Cardigans with this coat pattern display the familiar black and grey speckles and spots densely grouped over the mid and hind section of the dog.
The English Setter is one of the original English sporting dogs and was one of the first 9 breeds registered in America in 1878. The breed was added to the American Kennel Club registry of purebred dogs in 1884. Today, the English Setter is ranked #94 out of 193 popular breeds in the United States.
The English Setter features a distinctive flowing white base coat with darker hairs feathered throughout giving the appearance of spots running throughout the long coat. This unique marking effect is known as "Belton" coloring.
There you have it. These 10 spotted dog breeds are the official popularity contest winners in the United States. There are plenty of other spotted dogs and speckled spaniels that were not in the top 10. We are sure they are every bit as adorable as those that were included. Did your favorite make the list?