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Purebreds, also called purebreeds; sometimes called pedigreed, are cultivated varieties of an animal species, members of a specific breed of a species, achieved through the process of selective breeding. It is somewhat analogous to cultivars of plants.

When the lineage of a purebred is recorded, that animal is said to be pedigreed. The terms are often used synonymously, and cause confusion. In the most general terms, there is a difference: all pedigreed animals are purebred, but not all purebred animals are pedigreed.[1][2]

Purebred dogs

In the hobby of dog fancy, the word 'purebred' causes controversy, largely because of unresolved differences of opinion over what constitutes a breed.

In general, there are two types of purebred: those 'recognized' by a kennel club and those recognized by other authorities, such as independent breed clubs.

Kennel clubs usually have strict sets of criteria for the recognition of a new or existing dog breed, normally with some period of developmental or provisional status. It cannot be assumed that the date of recognition of a breed indicates how long the breed has existed as a pure breed.

Independent purebreds are typically dogs of renown in their originating countries, usually with a long history of breeding true to type. They may remain independent due to any of the following reasons:

  • The lack of a national kennel club or low interest in dog fancy in smaller nations.
  • The dogs being so venerable that there is no reason to seek outside affiliation.
  • The desire to preserve independent control over the attributes of the breed.

Recently, proposed changes in law, such as breed-specific legislation has threatened the existence of independent dog clubs, as the fanciers of independent breeds are forced to seek alliance with kennel clubs, or with other independent clubs, to preserve their dogs' purebred status. [3]

The fanciers of newly developed breeds now almost always seek kennel club affiliation at the outset. Greyhound Racing authorities and sporting, herding and hunting dog organizations also handle registers of purebred dogs; these are independent.

Purebred horses

Horse fancy is also ancient. Some English horse registries are older than their dog registries. The English breed the Thoroughbred, for example, dates from the 17th Century. (It is interesting to note that the Thoroughbred, now considered the epitome of purebred horses, was itself derived from mares of unknown ancestry bred with Arabian stallions. )

Horse registries are usually very strict about purebred status, but they also provide many other registers for equines with undocumented or unproven lineage. See more at Breed registry#Horse Registries.

Purebred cats

In modern times, cat fancy is much more recent than dog fancy. There are fewer purebred cat breeds, many only dating to the mid or late 20th Century. Cat registries operate in a similar manner to dog registries with respect to pedigrees.

Purebred livestock

Domesticated livestock are also selectively bred. They are an interesting case, crossing over between animal husbandry, a topic under agriculture, and animal fancy.

The purses and prestige for winning in a cattle competition such as one of the Australian Agricultural Shows far outweighs those of domestic dogs.


  1. An example would be a purebred dog bought at a pet shop without papers from a breeder
  2. Although this is usually true, pedigrees can be recorded for non-purebreds, such as part-bred animals in horse fancy, e.g. Part-bred Australian Pony Register. Refer to the individual species sections for more explanation. Also, there is continuing controversy regarding cross-breeds being referred to as breeds or as having pedigrees (see more at [[Registry (animal)|Registry). To further complicate matters, all new breeds and breeds-in-development must have several generations recorded in a registry before they are designated purebreds, so technically, these are non-purebreds which nevertheless have pedigrees.
  3. Many localities have some form of breed-specific legislation. These vary in severity and can threaten the continued existence of some breeds. In Australia, the state of Queensland has considered legislation which would limit the breeding of dogs to persons registered under the Australian National Kennel Council and its affiliates. The state parliament of Victoria is also considering legislation.