Top most loved dog breeds in South Africa: Top 15 list

Top most loved dog breeds in South Africa: Top 15 list

In South Africa, dogs were primarily kept for security reasons and often served as guard dogs to curb crime. In recent years, the trend has shifted as more dog owners view them as canine companions and friends rather than just protectors. This article highlights the top 15 best dog breeds in South Africa and why they are loved.

Top most loved dog breeds in South Africa
The South African Mastiff (L) and a Labrador Retriever (R). Photo: Ekaterina Gorokhova/Virginia Sherwood (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images


Dogs have earned the undisputable title of man’s best friend, but some have more desirable traits than others. In South Africa, the most loved breeds are loyal, intelligent, protective, charming, playful, and even-tempered. They are often treated as cherished family members, helpers, and guardians.

Most loved dog breeds in South Africa with pictures

Dog breedTemperament
Boerboel (South African Mastiff)Intelligent, confident, & calm
Basenji (African Barkless Dog)Independent, smart, & poised
Labrador RetrieverActive, friendly, & outgoing
Rhodesian RidgebackDignified, affectionate, & even-tempered
Golden RetrieverIntelligent, friendly, & devoted
RottweilerLoyal, loving, & confident guardian
Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkies)Affectionate, energetic, & tomboyish
Staffordshire Bull TerrierClever, brave, & tenacious
ChihuahuaCharming, graceful, & sassy
English Bull TerrierPlayful, charming, & mischievous
English BulldogFriendly, courageous, & calm
Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)Playful, energetic, & bright
Miniature SchnauzerFriendly, smart, & obedient
Pharaoh HoundFriendly, intelligent, & noble
Dachshund (Wiener/Sausage Dog)Curious, friendly, & spunky

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South Africa is home to over 9 million dogs that come in various shapes, sizes, and temperaments. The following top 15 breeds have earned their place as favourites in homes across the country.

15. Dachshund (Wiener/Sausage Dog)

A Dachshund posing with a bow tie
Dachshunds can be stubborn but are friendly. Photo: Dan Baillie
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Hound
  • Weight: 16-32 pounds (Standard), Utmost 11 pounds (Miniature)
  • Height: 8-9 inches (Standard), 5-6 inches (Miniature)
  • Lifespan: 12-16 years

Dachshund is a small dog breed originating from Germany. They have long bodies with short legs and large, floppy ears. Their coats can be shorthaired (smooth), wirehaired (coarse and dense), or longhaired (silky and flowing). The coat colours can be black, tan, fawn, beige, blue, red, and chocolate.

Dachshunds are curious, friendly, stubborn, clever, alert, and spunky. They usually form strong bonds with their families and are full of energy. They make excellent watchdogs due to their protective nature.

14. Pharaoh Hound

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A Pharaoh Hound lying on a white background
Pharaoh Hounds are playful and sociable with new people. Photo: Fotojagodka
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Hound
  • Weight: 45-55 pounds
  • Height: 23-25 inches (Male), 21-24 inches (Female)
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years

The Pharaoh Hound is one of the world’s oldest recorded dog breeds, originally from Egypt. It has a long, thin build with pointed ears and a short, glossy coat. They come in various colours, including rich tan, chestnut, and golden-red.

Pharaoh Hounds are sometimes called the Blushing Dog of Malta because they blush when excited. They are friendly, intelligent, curious, and noble. The breed is a great playmate, sociable with new people, and friendly to other dogs, including cats, if they are raised together.

13. Miniature Schnauzer

A Miniature Schnauzer in a field
Miniature Schnauzers are obedient with a lively personality. Photo: Ruslan Salikhov
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Terrier
  • Weight: 11-20 pounds
  • Height: 12-14 inches
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years

Miniature Schnauzers originate from Germany. They have a medium-length, wiry double coat that should be groomed regularly. They come in various colours, including black & silver, salt & pepper, and black.

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Miniature Schnauzers are friendly, smart, vigilant, and obedient. Their lively personality makes them excellent companions. The breed should be trained from a young age and requires moderate exercise levels every day.

12. Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

A Shetland Sheepdog standing in a field
Shelties are playful and intelligent. Photo: Angela Medler
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Herding
  • Weight: 15-25 pounds
  • Height: 13-16 inches
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years

Shetland Sheepdogs originate from the Shetland Islands in Scotland. They have a long double coat that comes in different colours, including black & white, black, white & tan, blue merle & white, blue merle, white & tan, sable & white, or sable, merle & tan.

Shetland Sheepdogs have upright ears, an alert expression, and an agile build. The breed is known for having a playful, energetic, intelligent, and bright temperament. They are loving and loyal to families but are often cautious of strangers. They need regular physical activity and mental exercise to stay happy and healthy.

11. English Bulldog

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An English Bulldog
English Bulldogs are friendly and calm. Photo: David Leahy
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Non-sporting
  • Weight: Approx. 50 pounds (Male), Approx. 40 pounds (Female)
  • Height: 14-15 inches
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years

English Bulldogs are a medium-sized, muscular breed with a relatively flat face that has a protruding lower jaw and pushed-in nose. They have large heads with thick folds of skin around the face and shoulders.

The English Bulldog has a friendly, courageous, and calm temperament. They may appear gloomy, but they make wonderful pets and companions. The dog needs regular exercise to remain healthy.

10. English Bull Terrier

A white English Bull Terrier
English Bull Terriers are fun-loving. Photo: Martin Ruegner
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Terrier
  • Weight: 50-70 pounds
  • Height: 21-22 inches
  • Lifespan: 12-13 years

English Bull Terriers originated from England and were originally bred for vermin control and participation in blood sports. They have egg-shaped heads with small, deep-set triangular eyes. They have muscular, round bodies and come in various colours, including white, red, fawn, black, and brindle.

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English Bull Terriers have a playful, charming, fun-loving, and mischievous temperament. They are generally good with people but can be stubborn. They may experience several health problems, including skin allergies and deafness, especially the pure white Bull Terriers.

9. Chihuahua

A brown Chihuahua sitting on the floor
Chihuahuas are charming and sassy. Photo: Ratchat
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Toy
  • Weight: Up to 6 pounds
  • Height: 5-8 inches
  • Lifespan: 14-16 years

Chihuahua is a tiny dog breed with a domed skull, pricked ears, round & large eyes, and short, pointed muzzles. They can be longhaired or have a smooth and short coat that comes in various colours, including black, tan, blue, chocolate, or cream.

Chihuahuas have a charming, graceful, and sassy temperament. They love giving and receiving attention but may become defensive when they feel threatened. They are often considered lap dogs, but they naturally have high energy and need regular walks and playtime.

8. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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A Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are courageous and loyal. Photo: Vladimir Cizmar
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Terrier
  • Weight: 28-38 pounds (Male), 24-34 pounds (Female)
  • Height: 14-16 inches
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years

Staffordshire Bull Terriers originated from England. Some of their features include a broad head with well-defined cheek muscles, a muscled and proportionate body, and a short, smooth coat that comes in various colours, including black, blue, fawn, red, and brindle.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a courageous, intelligent, loyal, and affectionate temperament and are often known as nanny dogs due to their love for children. They are easy to train and require regular exercise and socialization to keep them happy and healthy.

7. Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkies)

A Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers are small but spirited. Photo: Pizzoferrato Photography
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Toy
  • Weight: Approximately 7 pounds
  • Height: 7-8 inches
  • Lifespan: 11-15 years

Yorkshire Terriers are toy-sized with big personalities. They have a long, silky coat that comes in different colours, including black & gold, black & tan, blue & gold, and blue & tan. Other features include even teeth, dark eyes with black rims, V-shaped ears, a little black nose, and a medium-length muzzle.

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Yorkshire Terriers are brave, spirited, affectionate, intelligent, vocal, alert, and sometimes bossy and stubborn. They should be trained early for proper interaction with people and other dogs. Grooming is also essential to ensure their silky coat looks great.

6. Rottweiler

A Rottweiler
Rottweilers are loyal, confident, and protective. Photo: Alberto Clemares Expósito
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Working
  • Weight: 95-135 pounds (Male), 80-100 pounds (Female)
  • Height: 24-27 inches (Male), 22-25 inches (Female)
  • Lifespan: 9-10 years

Rottweilers originate from Germany and have a muscular and rugged body. They have a double-coated, dense, and short coat, and their primary colour is black, often featuring rust, mahogany, or tan markings.

Rottweilers have a loyal, confident, and protective temperament. They can be gentle and playful and form strong bonds with families with proper socialization and training. The breed has high energy levels and, therefore, requires regular physical activity and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

5. Golden Retriever

A Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are high-energy breeds. Photo: Holger Leue
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Sporting
  • Weight: 65-75 pounds (Male), 55-65 pounds (Female)
  • Height: 23-24 inches (Male), 21.5-22.5 inches (Female)
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years

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Golden retrievers have a sturdy and muscular build with a dense golden coat. They are high-energy breeds known for their loyalty, intelligence, and playfulness, which makes them excellent family pets. They also make wonderful service dogs.

4. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback
A Rhodesian Ridgeback in a green field. Photo: Tkatsai
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Hound
  • Weight: Approx. 70 pounds (Female), Approx. 85 pounds (Male)
  • Height: 24-26 inches (Females), 25-27 inches (Males)
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years

A Rhodesian Ridgeback is a hound dog breed with a distinctive ridge of fur running down their spine. They have a short and smooth coat and come in different shades of wheaten colour.

The breed has a courageous and independent temperament and is known for its protective streak. They are also loyal, affectionate, and devoted family companions. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are athletic and require daily physical activity and mental stimulation to remain happy.

3. Labrador Retriever

A yellow Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers have friendly and sociable personalities. Photo: Virginia Sherwood
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Sporting
  • Weight: 65-80 pounds (Male), 55-70 pounds (Female)
  • Height: 22.5-24.5 inches (Male), 21.5-23.5 inches (Female)
  • Lifespan: 11-13 years

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Labrador Retrievers have well-balanced and sturdy bodies with short and dense coats that are ideal for their love of swimming. They have a distinctive otter tail and may come in yellow, black, or chocolate colours.

The breeds have friendly and sociable personalities with an intelligent temperament that makes them easy to train. Labrador retrievers are useful as therapy dogs, military dogs, and loyal companions. They are often known as dogs of many talents.

2. Basenji (African Barkless Dog)

Basenji, African Barkless Dog
Basenjis do not bark but can howl or yodel. Photo: Auscape
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Hound
  • Weight: 22-24 pounds
  • Height: 16-17 inches
  • Lifespan: 13-14 years

The Basenji is a small hound dog whose origins trace back to central Africa. Some of their characteristics include a tightly curled tail, wrinkled forehead, expressive almond-shaped eyes, erect ears, athletic build, and a long, narrow head with a pointed muzzle.

The Basenji does not bark but can whine, growl, chortle, yodel, and sometimes scream. Some of its most admirable traits are independence, smartness, curiosity, lively personality, and poise. They have acute senses of sight and hearing and are known for their territorial instincts.

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1. Boerboel (South African Mastiff)

The South African Mastiff (Boerboel)
A Boerboel in a photo studio. Photo: Ekaterina Gorokhova
Source: Getty Images
  • Group: Working
  • Height: 22-25 inches (Females), 24-27 inches (Males)
  • Weight: 150-200 pounds
  • Lifespan: 9-11 years

Boerboel has a strong and muscular build with a block-like head and V-shaped ears that hang down. Their coat is short and smooth, and their colour can vary from fawn to red, brown, and brindle. The breed is courageous, intelligent, alert and calm.

Boerboel is often regarded as a devoted family guardian, capable of defending property even against lions. It is crucial to train them from an early age and ensure regular grooming for a well-mannered dog. In 2015, the South African Mastiff was recognized as a working breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC).


Dogs are the most popular pets in South Africa, but prospective pet owners may not be fully informed about the various available breeds and their characteristics. Here are some frequently asked questions about the canines;

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Popular dog breeds in the country include the South African Mastiff (Boerboel), the African Barkless dog (Basenji), the Labrador Retriever, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Golden Retriever. The breeds have desirable characteristics that make them some of the best family dogs in South Africa.

What dog is native to South Africa?

Recognized South African dog breeds include the following;

  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback: A crossbreed of the ridged Khoikhoi dogs and European breeds. It is currently the only officially recognized breed originating from South Africa and serves as the country’s national dog.
  • Africanis (African Canis): They were previously dismissed as mongrels, and their origin dates back to 5000 BC.
  • Boerboel (South African Mastiff): A crossbreed of the bullmastiff, Great Dane, and the now-extinct Bullenbeisser dog.

What dogs do not bark a lot in South Africa?

Several dog breeds in South Africa are known to be less vocal compared to others. Popular quieter breeds in the country include the Basenji (Barkless Dog), Whippets, Salukis, Greyhounds, and Borzois. Generally, a dog’s behaviour can be managed with proper training and socialization.

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A Rhodesian Ridgeback at the coast
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is South Africa's national dog. Photo: Daniela White
Source: Getty Images

What is the loudest dog in the world?

The world’s loudest dog is the golden retriever, Charlie, according to the Guinness World Record. The Australian canine produced a bark measuring 113.1 decibels.

How to choose a dog breed in South Africa

Here are some tips to help you know the right types of dog breeds in South Africa;

  • Consider the dog’s activity level: Some breeds require ample outdoor and indoor spaces to contain their high-energy levels.
  • Consider the dog’s traits: Some breeds are family-oriented and sociable; hence, they will not mind large family sizes with children and other pets. Others prefer solitude.
  • Health considerations: Some breeds may be prone to health issues. All dogs require regular veterinary care to maintain their well-being.
  • Grooming and maintenance needs: Some breeds require frequent brushing while others shed minimally.
  • Size and space: Larger breeds will require more indoor and outdoor space. Small breeds that often serve as lapdogs can adapt to compact spaces.
  • Training needs: Some dog breeds are easier to train than others. If you intend to keep it as a family dog, proper training and early socialization are crucial to ensure it is well-adjusted.
  • Climate considerations: The breed you choose should adapt well to the local South African climate.
  • Ethical breeding considerations: It is essential to find a breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of the canines.

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A young girl walking dogs on the street
Dogs need regular exercise and socialization to stay healthy and happy. Photo: Klaus Vedfelt
Source: Getty Images

The best dog breeds in South Africa exceed 15, but the ones highlighted in the list above have the most desirable characteristics. Whether you are looking for energetic working dogs, toy dogs, or affectionate family members, you cannot fail to find a suitable canine companion.

READ ALSO: Most expensive dog breeds in South Africa when sold as puppies highlighted South Africa’s most expensive dog breed puppies. Various factors determine how much a dog costs, including breed rarity, rare coat colours, and designer breeds (created by designing purebred dogs).

French Bulldog and Mastiff puppies are some of the costliest canines in the country. Check the article for more details if you are interested in getting a furry friend.

Source: Briefly News

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