A dog that almost became extinct is the Shar Pei. These wrinkled-looking dogs from China have an ancient history that some say dates back to AD 220. Chinese peasants used Shar Peis on their farms to guard their homes and livestock. Later, gamblers became interested in these dogs.
For several hundred years, gamblers turned them into fighting dogs. Because of their loose skin, it was difficult for other dogs to hurt them in fights. But these gentle dogs didn't like to fight, and were finally returned to being farm and family dogs.
After 1949, when the Communist Party came to power in China, the new leaders declared there would be no more "wasting" of food on dogs. Heavy taxes were put on dogs, and soon there were few dogs left in China.
Matgo Law, a Chinese living in Hong Kong, was afraid that the harsh antidog laws would be extended to Hong Kong when the Chinese took over.
So he wrote a letter to America, asking for people to help him save the Shar Pei. In the 1970s, the first Shar Peis came to the United States. The breed was saved, though it is still very rare.
In the 1830s, Australian stockmen made a new breed of herding dog by mixing collies, Old English sheepdogs, and dingoes (the wild dog of Australia). The Australian cattle dog (or Queensland heeler) could drive cattle over long distances in the Australian Outback.
In the US, border collies have been trained to handle large numbers of sheep. A single dog can keep a herd of 1,000 sheep together without any aid.
A more ordinary use for dogs has been to carry loads for their masters. Native Americans built travois (two poles with a large leather sling) that they hooked on their dogs to carry their belongings from place to place. In England in the last century, dogs delivered mail in Sussex and hauled fish from Southampton to London.
A famous dog used for hauling is the Bernese mountain dog of Berne, Switzerland. Local weavers loaded their baskets on carts and used the dogs to haul them to market. The dogs also carried cheese. By the late 1800s, however, not many of these dogs were left, and only the old-timers remembered how they had been used. A man in Switzerland decided to save them in 1892, and today they continue to grow in popularity around the world.