The rarest dog breed in the world

A lot of dog breeds are contenders for "world's rarest." There's the Otterhound — with only 1,000 of these dogs remaining in the world, breeders and enthusiasts are fond of saying it's rarer than a white rhino. There's also the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, which is down to about 800 individuals. And there's the Lowchen or "little lion" dog, which once held the Guinness Book of World Records title for world's rarest dog (and also for world's most expensive dog). So really, it's hard to say which one is the rarest, because the answer depends a lot on who you ask.

Most Cretan hounds, the rarest dog breed, are hidden away on the island of Crete

A strong contender for "world's rarest dog breed" is the Cretan Hound, which is thought to be one of Europe's oldest hunting breeds. This dog is rare not just because it's low in numbers, but because it's rather jealously guarded by breeders and owners.

According to Only Crete, for thousands of years, this breed has been mostly isolated on the island, and even today, breeders don't like to sell Cretan Hounds to outsiders, so you won't find many of them in other parts of the world. They also tend to keep the best examples of the breed hidden away, and all but the best males are neutered, which means the breed has remained pretty small in number and isolated from outside influence. That's one of the reasons why you won't find this dog in an American Kennel Club book — the AKC has yet to recognize it due to insignificant numbers in North America.

The Cretan Hound is a "sighthound," which is a type of hunting dog that relies on speed and sight rather than scent, though enthusiasts say it also has a pretty decent nose, which makes it ideal for hunting hares and rabbits. The ideal Cretan Hound is slender with a long, elegant face and long ears, and it has a distinctive curly tail. Both males and females can weigh between 45 and 65 pounds. 

If you're lucky, you might see a Cretan Hound at an international dog show in Athens, but for the most part, Cretan hounds stay on the island of Crete. 

Other rare dog breeds

Another top dog in the realm of "rarest dog breed" is the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog, a primitive canine which was thought to have long been extinct until 2016. According to the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, the first dog of the breed to be seen in over 50 years actually found humans, rather than vice versa, following a researcher who was looking for evidence of the breed's existence. In New Guinea it is known to natives as "Anging Penyani," or "dog that sings," because of its unique aspiration among dogs to audition for American Idol. These dogs can hit frequencies that match birds, humpback whales and Mariah Carey, and though there have been efforts to cross-breed and domesticate this dog into a more housebroken "New Guinea Singing Dog," but even that breed is rare — there may be as little as 200 or fewer Singing Dogs remaining, and presumably far fewer Highland Wild Dogs. Keep your fingers crossed for the breed, because some believe it is a missing link between prehistoric canines and the dogs we know today. Oh, and make sure to vote for it if you want to see it in the next round of Idol.

Stabyhouns make the cut

Need more super rare doggo-types? Odds are you've never heard of the Swedish Stabyhoun, which number around 7,000, according to the AKCWho are they and what do they want? Well, since they're dogs, they want to be good, and as for their personality and appearance, the AKC describes them as gentle farm dogs raised to independently hunt moles and rabbits who make great friends for the whole family. In fact, their interesting name is Dutch for "Stand-by-me-dog," which is a pretty good indication of their loyalty. They're a great "all-around" dog, qualified for hunting, pointing and retrieving, and very inquisitive in nature. Physically, Stabyhouns are a little longer than they are tall, with mostly long coats. 

If you consider owning a Staby, keep in mind they will be expensive to buy, and are a high maintenance breed, according to Stabyhouns.org. Among the reasons they list to not own a Staby include their stubbornness, desire to dig, their "Velcro" nature to literally stand right by you, their intelligence and sensitivity. To be fair, none of these are necessarily negative traits, just make sure you're in a situation where you can devote a lot of time and energy to you fluffy companion.

At the end of the day, dogs are dogs. All are special regardless of their breed. As long as you love them, no dog can replace your dog, so don't worry so much about breeds, and try to adopt before you buy.