The world’s most athletic dog breeds from The World’s Most Athletic Dog Breeds
The World’s Most Athletic Dog Breeds
Often confused with huskies, Alaskan malamutes are bigger and bulkier than their fellow sled dog relatives because they were meant to be pack-carrying dogs rather than lean racers. A powerful puller with high endurance, a mal named Delbert has set records in International Weight Pull Association contests in which he can haul a more than 5,000 pounds 16 feet in just a minute. Mals also make playful pack members that thrive when hiking, running, backpacking, sledding or swimming with their owners.
American pit bull terrier
Often confused with Staffordshire terriers or any number of "bully breed" dogs, pit bulls are a distinct breed with a stocky, muscular build that was bred to chase and subdue livestock. Naturally athletic rather than aggressive, pit bulls are tough and fearless, making them great adventure companions.
Anatolian Shepherd Dog
Though it has hazy definition from other varieties of Turkish dogs such as the Kangal, Anatolian shepherds have been a distinct, American Kennel Club-recognized breed in the United States since 1996. Anatolians were bred in Turkey as flock guardian dogs capable of fending off bears and wolves. With a strong bite, muscular build and sharp eye, these watch dogs are physically big with big personalities but are devoted members of their families.
Australian cattle dog
Also known as Australian heelers, Australian cattle dogs are descended from the country's wild dog, the dingo. Cattle dogs are known as an active, alert and energetic breed. Extremely intelligent and muscular, they are up to almost any task, activity or sport.
Descended from collies, kelpies were bred in Australia to herd huge numbers of sheep across vast distances in a hot, harsh climate. Thus kelpies have a working mentality, endless energy and high endurance. The world record for dog high jumping is held by a Kelpie who leaped almost 10 feet. And the most decorated doggie surfer is a rescue Kelpie from California named Abbie Girl. She also holds the world record for the longest wave surfed by a dog at more than 350 feet.
Bernese mountain dog
These big, fluffy sweethearts are "big, powerful, and built for hard work," according to the AKC. Bred as Swiss farmdogs, Bernies were used for a variety of tasks, including protecting and driving cattle. Their muscular hindquarters also make them great at hauling carts laden with large loads.
Border collies are just brimming with vim and vigor and will go the distance to complete a task and please their owners. According to PetMD, they were bred for strong bones and stamina in order to cover large amounts of ground and turn on a dime as sheep dogs in Great Britain. Outdoor Dog World looked at the results of the past years of both the AKC National Agility Championships and the USDAA Performance Grand Prix to determine that the border collie is by far the most agile dog breed.
Boxers have become one of America's most beloved breeds because of their energetic, goofball personalities and their playful athleticism. It's no wonder they earned their name because of how they spar like a light-footed boxer. These strong but sweet dogs have been employed in a variety of intense jobs from war dogs to watch dogs to guide dogs.
Known for being squat and having difficulty breathing, bulldogs don't look like natural athletes like many working, hunting or herding breeds. But they're actually courageous bruisers originally meant to work with bulls, as their name suggests. A hearty breed with surprising dexterity and balance, bulldogs have captured the hearts of many people in recent years with their online athletic antics such as surfing and skateboarding.
Chesapeake Bay retriever
Considered the Olympic swimmers of dogs, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was bred along its namesake body of water to hunt waterfowl. Its brawny shoulders make it effective in the water while its brains make it a natural at hunting and field work and its temperament makes it a loveable pet. Chessies are all-around athletes that thrive at dog sports, therapy work, search and rescue, and more, according to the AKC.
German shorthaired pointer
German shorthaired pointers, GSP for short, have distinctive mottled coats and a boundless appetite for exercise. Bred to work in the field and water, GSPs are all-around athletes thanks to their power, speed, agility and endurance, according to the AKC. They're one of the strongest swimmers when it comes to dogs.
These svelte hunting dogs were born to run and famous for their "S" shapes and speed. They're able to run up to 45 miles per hour. Though they need plenty of room to stretch their legs and show off their sprinting, they are also happy to lounge around the house, making them great family pets.
The most popular breed in the country for the last five years, according to the AKC, Labrador retrievers are beloved for their easy-going nature, enthusiasm and sturdiness. Skilled runners, swimmers and retrievers, labs thrive as athletic companions as well as in working roles such as drug and bomb detection dogs or as service dogs. A lab also set the world record for the longest jump by a dog in 2012 by leaping 31 feet.
Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever
As its name would suggest, the red-and-white Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever was bred in Nova Scotia to toll, or lure in waterfowl by prancing along the shoreline until curious ducks moved close enough to be within shooting range. These dogs are tirelessly energetic, hard-working and well-suited for activities such as hunting, hiking, camping and swimming.
Papillons are a toy dog breed whose name means butterfly in French in reference to their adorable, wing-like ears. Despite their dainty appearance, papillons are small but strong and lively, making them excellent agility dogs that can learn all sorts of complicated commands and tricks. The AKC speculates that papillons' spaniel ancestry explains the breed's athletic inclinations.
Portuguese water dog
According to the AKC, the Portuguese water dog was bred to be an "all-around fisherman’s helper." This means they are strong and fearless swimmers and runners, making them well-rounded athletes for active families who want to spend time on land and sea.
It shouldn't be surprising that a dog originally bred to hunt lions is among the most athletic in the world. Named for the stripe of backward-growing hair on its back, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was created in South Africa but has become popular around the world for its muscular build and sharp mind as well as devotion to its family.
Descended from the mastiffs of the Roman legions, Rottweilers are tough, powerful protectors, according to the AKC. Their athleticism makes them perfect for many heavy-duty jobs, such as herding cattle, pulling carts, or police and security work.
Originally from Scotland’s Shetland Islands, Shelties as they're known were bred as herding dogs, so like their collie cousins, they're agile, intelligent and trainable, making them world-class competitors in obedience, agility and herding trials, according to the AKC.
This strong, powerful breed originated in northeast Asia, but became famous in the West as a sled dog in Alaska thanks to its athleticism, endurance and speed. Balto and his team of fellow Sibes ran the famous "serum run" across 658 miles in only five and half days in 1925, earning them fame as heroes. Clever, social and adventurous, they make great pets for active people.
Though to be descended from greyhounds, whippets were bred in England as an agile sight hunting dog. Their light build and lean frame mean they are natural sprinters and can reach a gallop speed of 35 miles per hour. A whippet named Cochiti also tied the world record for the longest jump by a dog at 31 feet. They're enthusiastic athletes, meaning they love fetch and agility, but once they're tuckered out, they're natural cuddlers and couch potatoes.