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Dog Identification Key

The sytem of identification used here assumes no prior knowledge of dog character or function, but offers instead a method of recognition based on noting key physical characteristics, as defined below and opposite. On this website all the breeds are separated into groups, by size (small, medium, or large), then by head shape (round, long, or square), ear type (long, erect, or short), and finally by coat type (short, long, or wiry).  In a few cases, a breed may appear tore than one group.


This is the most evident feature that separates breeds. Three categories are used - small, medium, and large - and they refer to the highest point of the shoulder (the withers). This is also the measure for show purposes, and is the figure given in the actual breed entries.

Head Shape

This is obviously a less precise feature than height but, again, the breeds have been divided into three broad categories: round-headed, long-headed, and square-headed. Round-headed breeds tend to be short-nosed; long-headed breeds have long noses, which may taper;square-headed breeds often have relatively short, muscular jaws.

Ear Shape and Length

The shape and length of a dog's ears vary considerably. Ercct ears trap sound waves most effectively, but in hounds that rely on their sense of smell to locate quarry, the cars tend to hang down. By obscuring the ear canal with the flap, the sensitive inner part of the ear is protected when the hounds are pursuing quarry through vegecation, and this also reduces the risk of seeds or thorns falling into the ear. Short ears allow dogs to go to ground more easily, and are particularly encouraged in terrier breeds.


Another significant feature that can help to identify a dog is its coat type. Coats can be divided into short- or long-haired, on the basis of their length, while the third category, wire-haired, is distinguished by texture. Some breeds, such as the Dachshunds, have been developed in ail three coat types, while others may occur in both short- and long-haired forms, although one type often tends to predominate today.


Tails show considerable variation in length and shape, but recognition of the various types is not essential for breed identification. Tails can be altered artificially by docking.

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