Some dog breed names are obvious (just watch a retriever with a tennis ball), but others take some digging to understand. But once you learn the origins of these 13 names, you're likely to nod your head in recognition.
Siberian huskies were first bred to be sled dogs by the indigenous Chukchi people of Russia and were brought to Alaska by a Russian fur trader during the Nome Gold Rush of the early 1900s. Since they became the sled dogs of the Inuit, the dogs get their English name in a roundabout way from the word “Eskimo,” which was what outsiders called the Inuit. Earlier versions of the word included “Ehuskemay,” “Huskemaw,” and “Uskemaw.” If you focus on the sounds, you can imagine how “Ehuskemay dog” or “Huskemaw” dog would become "husky dog.”
And as you may remember from the recent “words for snow” episode, most of the native peoples of North America prefer not to be called Eskimos. For Canadians, the better term is Inuit.
Our next dog is the corgi, of which there are two types: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. These are very old breeds, and there are a variety of origin stories, but in one common tale, the Pembrokes were brought to the western part of Wales by Flemish weavers in the year 1107, and the Cardigans were brought by Norse settlers.
There’s no doubt however, about the word “corgi.” It’s Welsh for “dwarf dog.” Cute little dwarves!
And finally, some quick hits:
7. Beagles probably get their name from a French word that means “noisy person.”
8. Bulldogs were originally used for baiting bulls.
9. Rottweilers come from a town called Rottweil in southern Germany.
10. Boxers get their name because they are pugnacious like boxers in a fighting ring.
11. Spaniels were thought to originate from Spain.
12. Shih tzus were bred in China and come from the Chinese words for “lion dog” because they resemble lions.
13. Mastiff comes from the Latin word for “tame” or “mild.”
May you have a happy and prosperous year of the dog.
RELATED ARTICLE: When to capitalize breed names.
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Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”