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7 Korean Dog Breeds (with Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

South Korea is a beautiful place with many diverse offerings, from ancient language and culture to “Gangnam Style” dancing. Lesser-known but far more endearing, Korea is also home to several dog breeds. You may have heard about the Korean Jindo, it’s one of the only Korean breeds that many Westerners know of, but the other six breeds on this list might be completely unknown to you as of yet. That’s a shame because these beautiful breeds from the East have a lot to offer.

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Dogs As a Source of Food

The general attitude towards dogs in South Korea has shifted in the last few decades. For many years, dogs were essentially livestock. They were used primarily for work and as a source of food. They were rarely seen as companions or friends, and they became a major source of meat for South Koreans.

Of course, it’s not just Korean breeds that are used for food in South Korea. Popular American breeds often become dinner there too, including such notable mentions as the Labrador Retriever or the Cocker Spaniel.

But eating dogs has been a longstanding tradition in South Korea, as well as many other Asian countries that simply view dogs as another livestock animal. They’ve been eating dogs for thousands of years, though attitudes are changing across the country in the current era.

Changing Attitudes

Today, many of these dogs are more likely to be found living as companion pets, though some breeds are still used for food. Currently, more than one million dogs are eaten in South Korea each year, though the younger generation has moved away from such traditions as animal activists fight to end the culture of eating dogs.

South Korea has a population of over 51 million, about 70% of which disapprove of using dogs for food. As this number continues to swell, dog farms in the country decrease, though there are still approximately 17,000 remaining. Younger adults have begun to keep dogs as pets, which was practically unheard of previously.

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7 Dog Breeds from Korea

The following seven breeds are all considered Korean breeds. However, most of them didn’t truly originate in Korea. Some were brought there from other places in the very distant past; as far back as the 1200s, though they’ve become Korean dogs after centuries spent in the region.

1. Korean Jindo

korean-jindo_Lemon Park_Pixabay
Image Credit: Lemon Park, Pixabay

If there’s one breed on this list that you might know, it’s the Korean Jindo. Hailing from the Korean island of Jindo, this breed has become rather popular in the West, and is one of the dogs that’s now commonly adopted as a companion pet in South Korea. A true sign of how much South Koreans’ views on dogs have changed, the Jindo was even given status as a Natural Treasure of Korea.

Despite their status as a Natural Treasure, Jindos are still sometimes used for meat, though it’s not very common. They’ve been accepted into the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, so with some luck and time, they could be officially recognized as a breed by the AKC.


2. Korean Mastiff – Mee Kyun Dosa

Even in South Korea, the Korean Mastiff is quite a rare breed. These dogs are very large with massive folds of loose skin covering the face, head, and neck that make them instantly recognizable. Though gigantic in size, they’re known for being extremely gentle and excellent with children. Even in South Korea, these dogs are mainly used as pets, and their popularity is growing in other parts of the world.


3. Sapsali

Sapsalis are one of the few breeds that have long held a special place in Korean folklore. As legend tells, these dogs can scare away evil spirits and ghosts thanks to their supernatural powers. While legends like this are hard to believe, there’s no denying the adorable appearance of the Sapsali that has helped the breed start growing in popularity outside of their homeland.


4. Nureongi

Nureongi dogs were rarely kept as pets in South Korea until very recently. That doesn’t mean the breed wasn’t popular; it definitely was, just not how you might expect. The Nureongi is the dog most commonly farmed for meat throughout Korea. They’re found in almost every dog meat market, and only a few are used for other purposes, such as companion pets. However, they’ve been shown to be great candidates for pethood, as they display great loyalty and are even known to be gentle with children.


5. Pungsan

The Pungsan dog comes from North Korea, and it was primarily used as a hunting dog for a long time. It’s a distant relative of the much more popular Siberian Husky. As such, the Pungsan has a somewhat similar build and appearance. This breed is still quite rare; most specimens are to be found in North Korea and certain provinces in Northern China. Several times, North Korean leaders have gifted Pungsan dogs to other leaders as presents or peace offerings.


6. Donggyeongi

Donggyeongi dog_KoreaKHW_Shutterstock
Image Credit: KoreaKHW, Shutterstock

Donggyeongi dogs have a special feature that makes them stand out among all the other Korean breeds. These dogs have bobbed tails that are naturally occurring. Aside from this short tail, they look quite similar to Korean Jindos. Though once popular among the Korean people, the Donggyeongi breed suffered devastation at the hands of the Japanese during their Korean occupation. Once Korea was liberated, the short tails of this breed were viewed as a bad luck omen and a deformity, so the breed stopped being reproduced. Today, they’re incredibly rare.


7. Jeju Dog

The Jeju Dog was originally bred on Jeju island, off the coast of Korea. They’re very similar to Korean Jindos, though they have very pointy foreheads that set them apart. It’s hard to get rarer than a Jeju Dog, as the breed was practically wiped out in the 1980s. Three surviving dogs were used to revive this ancient breed, which is thought to have come to Jeju Island more than 3,000 years ago. In 2010, there were just 69 Jeju Dogs in existence, though their numbers are on the rise thanks to an aggressive breeding campaign to save the breed.

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Conclusion

As attitudes toward dogs change in South Korea, more becomes known about the dogs native to the area. Though many Korean breeds were first imported to the region centuries ago, they’ve become Korean breeds after hundreds of years spent adapting to the Korean environment. Some of these breeds are still primarily used for meat, but others have become more popular as companion pets, with a few even making their way across the ocean to gain popularity in America.


Featured Image Credit: jamongcreator, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.