Dogs with pointy, erect ears bear a resemblance to wolves and foxes. Typically, these dogs are part of the Spitz type, which is a German word for “pointed.” Many of these dogs were bred in Arctic climates in Scandinavia, Russia, and Asia, giving them pointy ears, a thick, fluffy tail, and a dense double coat to withstand the harsh weather.
While you may be familiar with the popular Spitz like Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, and Welsh Corgis—as well as outliers like the Yorkie or Boston Terrier—here are 15 unique pointy-eared dogs you may not have heard of.
The 15 Dogs With Pointy Ears
1. Finnish Lapphund
Bred to herd reindeer in Lapland, the Finnish Lapphund is a medium-sized herding breed with a sociable personality. The Lapphund is named for the Lapp people who spent time with these dogs in the barren regions north of the Arctic Circle. Because these dogs huddled with their companions in the extreme cold, they retain a lot of that attachment and loyalty. Lapphunds are good at herding trials, agility, and rally sports.
2. Finnish Spitz
The Finnish Spitz is a lively and impish dog with a foxy appearance that originated in the Land of 60,000 Lakes. Originally bred to hunt all types of game, the Finnish Spitz is small but mighty. Its unique vocalizations include yodels and rapid barks, much like Beagles, earning it the nickname of “Barking Bird Dog.” Finnish Spitzs are excellent watchdogs and develop strong bonds with their owners, but they are prone to nuisance barking.
3. Icelandic Sheepdog
The Icelandic Sheepdog is a medium-sized, densely coated dog that’s Iceland’s only native dog breed. As a versatile herder, the Icelandic Sheepdog is an outdoorsy type that loves spending time with its human. Now, these dogs are great for hiking and other outdoor activities, canine sports, and active companionship, but they can experience separation anxiety.
4. Norwegian Elkhound
The Norwegian Elkhound is another northern Spitz type dog that is the National Dog of Norway. Throughout its history, the Elkhound served as a guardian dog, hunter, and herding dog, including hunting large game like cougars, wolves, and elk. Known for dependability, Elkhounds are ideal agility and herding competition dogs. Though reserved with strangers, Elkhounds are friendly, confident, and unflinchingly loyal to their owners.
5. Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu originated in Japan over 2,300 years ago for small game hunting. Though small, these dogs are muscular and exceptional hunters. With their foxy look—like other Spitz types—Shiba Inus have an alert expression and a growing global fanbase. They’re loyal, but they can have a stubborn and independent streak.
6. Swedish Vallhund
The Swedish Vallhund is another Spitz breed with Scandinavian heritage. A relative of the popular Pembroke Welsh Corgi, these dogs are all-purpose farm dogs and cattle herders. They’re energetic, confident, and loyal, often excelling at herding trials and similar working competitions.
7. Thai Bangkaew Dog
The Thai Bangkaew Dog is an Asian breed that’s known for being great with families and children. They require an experienced owner to temper their protective instincts and independent streak, but they’re remarkably loyal and intelligent dogs.
The Kintamani is a landrace breed that developed naturally on the Indonesian island of Bali before becoming an official breed. Like the other Spitz, Kintamanis have long, thick coats, often white, and strong personalities. They’re rare in the US but growing in popularity all over the world. They can have a strong prey drive and plenty of independence, so Kintamanis require experienced owners committed to proper training.
The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog that originated in Holland from the German Spitz dogs, such as the Pomeranian. Bred to work on Dutch barges, Keeshonds are hardy, nimble dogs with strong protective instincts. They’re known for a thick coat of silver and black fur with a fluffy tail. Compared to other Spitz types, Keeshonds are quieter and more cheerful dogs.
The Basenji, Africa’s “barkless dog,” is a breed of hunting dog that originated in central Africa. It’s a member of the Spitz group and shares the erect ears and strong prey drive, but it has a unique trait—a yodel-like sound that replaces the typical bark. This is due to its unusually shaped larynx. Unlike many of the northern breeds, Basenjis have short, smooth coats.
The Australian Kelpie is an Aussie sheepdog that has descended from British Collie-type dogs brought to the continent. They’re tireless herding dogs that have an appetite for hard work, high intelligence, and friendly dispositions. Kelpies are now used throughout the world for sheep, cattle, and goat herding, as well as for family pets.
The Eurasier, or Eurasian, is a Spitz type that’s the product of cross-breeding European and Asian Spitz dogs. It’s a relatively new breed that was designed to have the hardiness and adaptability of a wolf with the sociability of a family dog. The resulting breed is a sensitive, gentle dog that’s intelligent and watchful.
13. Alaskan Klee Kai
The Alaskan Klee Kai looks like a smaller version of the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky. Like the larger breeds, the Alaskan Klee Kai has a thick double coat and striking black and gray coloration. These dogs are curious, intelligent, agile, and friendly, but they can be difficult to train and may struggle with separation anxiety.
One of the AKC’s oldest breeds, the Canaan is the national dog of Israel and the oldest breed of pariah dog in existence. They’re well distributed across the Middle East as pasture dogs for herding. Despite being around for thousands of years, Canaan dogs are relatively rare.
The Hokkaido is a medium-sized, strong dog that has a long thick coat and short, erect ears. One of the oldest of the six native Japanese Spitz, Hokkaido are known as “bear dogs” for their bravery and history as bear-hunting dogs. Like the other Japanese Spitz dogs, Hokkaido are bred for herding and working and are known for their playful personalities and strong loyalty.
Why Do Some Dogs Have Pointy Ears?
Most of the dogs with erect ears are part of the Spitz types, which have a close relation to wolves and other wild canids, such as coyotes, jackals, and foxes. Though they are still domesticated dogs, many of these breeds are more primitive.
There could be another reason. There’s a controversial theory from Darwin suggesting that some domestic animals have drooping ears because they’re not constantly alert to threats. Essentially, dogs feel safer, and floppy ears are just one of the traits that arose from domestication.
The Spitz types also evolved in cold climates. Short, erect ears are less susceptible to frostbite, giving the dogs some protection against harsh weather—much like their thick double coats.
Dogs with pointy ears have a unique look that gives them a wolfy or foxy appearance compared to floppy-eared dogs. Aside from well-known northern breeds like the Malamute or Husky, there are many other Spitz dogs that share erect ears and traits that reflect their evolution and breeding.
Featured Image Credit: Happy Monkey, Shutterstock