Scientific Name for Dogs

The scientific name for dog has been Canis lupus familiaris since 1993. For more than 200 years before that, the dog had been classified as Canis familiaris and Canis familiaris domesticus, both of which were assigned by naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Linneaus classified living things in binomial nomenclature (the two-part scientific name assigned to all living things by genus and species).

The Meaning of the Dog’s Scientific Name

In 1993, the Smithsonian Institution and the American Association of Mammalogists reclassified the dog’s scientific name to reflect its close relationship with the wolf (Canis lupus). It’s now commonly accepted that all breeds of domestic dog descend from wolves.

Canis comes from the Latin word for dog, while lupus is the Latin word for wolf. Familiaris means familiar or friendly, so the dog’s scientific name can be loosely translated as “friendly wolf dog.”

How Linnaeus Came up with Scientific Names

Before Linnaeus revised scientific classification, scientific names were often long, descriptive and sometimes confusing. His Systema Naturae divided nature into animal, mineral and vegetable kingdoms, and further subdivided the kingdoms into class, order, genus, species and variety.

Linnaeus simplified binomial nomenclature by establishing the idea that the names should be short and unique within a genus. By the 1800s, Linnaeaus’ system was used throughout the scientific community.