MNN Galleries

Pariah dogs: 9 ancient and wild dog breeds

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 26, 2014, 12:55 p.m.
Alopekis female with puppies

Photo: S. Chleiounakis/Wikipedia

8 of 11


“Small but mighty” comes to mind when seeing the alopekis. Meaning “small fox” or “fox-like,” the name suits the stature of this ancient breed whose history goes back thousands of years. The alopekis is mentioned by classical writers like Aristotle, and can be found in pottery, carvings, sculpture and other archeological finds, including a terra cotta vessel dated to 3000 B.C. Unlike other modern breeds, their smaller stature isn’t one that was forced by selective breeding (and thus prone to health problems and deformities) but instead was a gradual size reduction over its evolutionary history. They are well-proportioned, without issues such as bowed legs or overly long backs. The breed could be found all over Greece, where they were used as ratters and guard dogs for poultry -- especially since they were fox-sized and could easily slip into coops to sleep with and protect the birds -- and sheep. However in recent decades they have lost some of their widespread popularity as other dog breeds have been imported to the country.