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, probably because most people have never actually seen one. 

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.