What are there fewer cat breeds than dog breeds?

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There are 41 recognized breeds of cat compared to more than 150 dog breeds. Dogs can weigh from 5 to 180 pounds and come in all sorts of body shapes and facial features. Their temperaments are just as diverse. Cats weigh from 6 to 20 pounds and with only slight differences they’re all, well, cats.

In part this disparity in variety has to do with length of domestications. Dogs have a long relationship with people stretching over thousands of years. They have always served in a variety of capacities from herding and guarding to haunting and even hauling sleds.

Due to their great diversity and utility, paired with a pack animal’s desire to please, dog breeds have been carefully cultivated to further specialize their abilities. Consequently, dog breeds are even classed by function: retrievers, herding dogs, and guard dogs, for instance.

In the beginning of their domestication, cats lived with humans to help them control small creatures like mice. They gradually evolved as companions, but they have never taken on the range of tasks typical of dogs. There has been much less pressure, therefore, to cultivate broader diversity among cats.

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