The Official Dog Breeds of 13 U.S. States
Thirteen states across America have emblematic dogs—is yours one of them?
That's right: Thirteen different states in the U.S. have designated an official state dog breed. Maryland was the first to name a state dog breed, choosing the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1964 because of its foundational role in the early settlement of the state; they helped to capture the native waterfowl along the river for hunters. The state dog in Alaska, alternatively, is the majestic Alaskan Malamute. A group of elementary school students worked with the support of their teachers to determine an official dog breed for a bill sponsored by the State Representative Berta Gardner and the Alaskan Malamute won its title in 2010 when the bill was passed and signed by the governor. In New England, the Chinook is the pride of New Hampshire and the Boston Terrier is aptly designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Down south, hunting and herding dogs are proven to be popular: the Plott Hound represents North Carolina while the Boykin Spaniel represents South Carolina.
Choosing an official state symbol involves the legislative process. Symbols are chosen for a variety of reasons but they always have a connection to the state in some way, whether through historical or geological significance. If you're interested in nominating a state dog breed, you can contact your local legislators about sponsoring a bill. Ahead, learn more about some of the greatest dog breeds represented across the country.
Alaska: Alaskan Malamute
With its cold and frozen tundra, it's no wonder that their official state dog is the Alaskan Malamute. Alaska designated this breed as their state dog in 2010 after a group of kindergartners were emboldened by their school to successfully present the idea to state legislature. Malamutes are hardworking freighters of the Arctic and covered with a double-coat of fur that's able to withstand the rain, sleet, snow, and ice.
Georgia: Adoptable Dog
Mutts, rejoice! In Georgia, the official state dog is not one particular breed, but rather dogs that are in need of homes. Passed by lawmakers in 2016, the firm belief in "adopt, don't shop" means that the millions of dogs in shelters and rescues have a chance at finding a loving home—perhaps, with you?
Louisiana: Catahoula Leopard Dog
Bred as a hunting and herding dog for the Louisiana bayous, the Catahoula Leopard Dog (also called Catahoula Leopard Cur) was given its special distinction in 1979. In their home state, you'll find Catahoulas tasked with herding cattle, retrieving waterfowl, or hunting wild hogs—they're recognizable for their coats with the merle or "leopard" pattern.
Maryland: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The first official state dog was recognized as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Maryland. Born to retrieve the waterfowl for hunters in the region, this dog earned its recognition in 1964. It's the only American-bred retriever—hunting, hiking, or splashing around in the cold water of its namesake.
Massachusetts: Boston Terrier
Going by the name, it's no surprise that Massachusetts designated the Boston Terrier as their official state dog in 1979. In a bid for recognition as the "American Gentleman," this small but mighty dog has also been the school mascot of Boston University since 1922. They're friendly, alert, and always ready to play fetch or trot out for a brisk walk (at home, along the Charles River).
New Hampshire: Chinook
The Chinook is the pride of Wonalancet, New Hampshire. Historically, we can thank polar explorer Arthur Treadwell Walden who was determined to breed his own line of sled dogs and, in fact, did so mixing the Mastiff and Husky. As a rare breed, the Chinook is a rugged working dog and devoted family pet known for their intelligence, patience, and eagerness to please. This origin story was celebrated when New Hampshire designated the Chinook as their official state dog in 2009.
North Carolina: Plott Hound
The Plott Hound is a dog named after its original breeder: In 1750, a German immigrant named Johannes Plott settled in the mountains of North Carolina; accompanying him were five Hanover hounds. His son, Henry, bred the family pack to local stock and produced a big-game hunter originally known as "Plott's hound." Athletic, alert, and born for bear-hunting, it became North Carolina's official state dog in 1989.
Pennsylvania: Great Dane
William Penn, the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, owned a Great Dane, so it only made sense to become the official state dog breed in 1965. These gentle giants are loving, loyal, and make a great addition to any family.
South Carolina: Boykin Spaniel
The Boykin Spaniel became South Carolina's official state dog in 1985. For years, Boykins were known only to hunters of waterfowl and wild turkey. Around the early 1900s, the small community of Boykin and its founding resident, Lemuel Whitaker "Whit" Boykin, built an entire breeding program around a single stray dog that showed promise as a skillful duck-hunter. By crossing breeds as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker, English Springer, and American Water spaniels, the result was the upbeat companion we know today.
Tennessee: Bluetick Coonhound
The Bluetick Coonhound was signed into law as Tennessee's official state dog as recently as 2019 in part due to already being a historical representative: The Bluetick has been synonymous with the Tennessee Volunteers football team since Smokey was first introduced as their mascot in 1953. This dog makes for an adept hunting companion in tracking raccoons and wild boar. Plus, they're talented "crooners"—they will bay, bawl, bark, and howl when they feel the need.
Texas: Blue Lacy
Named after the Lacy brothers who bred this dog in the 1800s in Texas, the Blue Lacy will either have a bluish gray coat or sometimes a red or tri-colored one. The Lacy was first recognized in 2001 by the Texas Senate; in Senate Resolution No. 436, the 77th Legislature honored the Lacy as "a true Texas breed."
Virginia: American Foxhound
The American Foxhound, which was a breed fostered by none other than George Washington, was recognized by the AKC in 1886 and then later as Virginia's state dog in 1966. The club responsible for introducing legislation was the Virginia International Foxhunting Association. Give this dog plenty of exercise, lots of love and care, and you'll have a friend for life.
Wisconsin: American Water Spaniel
Another group of students, this time an eighth grade class, worked to designate the American Water Spaniel as the official state dog, which was passed in 1985. American Water Spaniels have a tightly curled coat and webbed toes perfect for wading into the waters of the Great Lakes.