golden retriever Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of years before humans learned to grow their food, we were sculpting dogs into our best friends.

But surprisingly, almost all dog breeds we recognize today didn't exist until relatively recently.

We can trace the beginning of most dog breeds only about 150 years, back when breeds were first registered and codified during the Victorian Era in England — a mere snapshot in our 30,000- to 100,000-year history with the loyal animals.

Until 150 years ago, a dog "breed" didn't mean as much. Dogs were bred to work: Some types pulled carts or did other farm work. Still others had their senses bolstered for hunting. Some were even bred to turn a wheel to rotate meat over a fire.

But a dog's identity to humans was overwhelmingly based what that breed did, rather than its appearance.

Turnspit Dog A turnspit dog rotating meat over a fire. Henry Wigstead/Wikimedia Commons

That began to change in the mid 19th century. As the population of London exploded during the 19th century, due to the Industrial Revolution and Britain's expanding global empire, hygiene reforms sought to remove the farm animals that filled the city.

But while people kicked pigs, sheep, and cattle outside of cities, they kept their dogs — and this moment completely changed the way we viewed canines.

Suddenly, dogs lived inside private homes, where they became pets. The ones left out in private spaces became strays, creatures to be shunned or saved.

Philip Howell's book "At Home and Astray: The Domestic Dog in Victorian London" focuses on this shift from dogs as public fixture to private property, according to a review from the University of Cambridge.

In the rapidly modernizing world of Victorian England, designing dogs became a hobby of the middle and upper classes. Dogs were now something to be molded and shaped by humans, just like the railroad and industry had transformed the country (and its overseas colonies), and soon specific traits were codified.

Caynsham Beagles A pack of beagles in 1885. Wikimedia Commons

Kennel clubs were established to oversee the dog shows presenting the selectively bred specimens, and stud books were developed for each breeds. (A stud book is a registry of animals whose parents are known to be of a specific breed, and they serve as a database of all the breeding animals of a certain breed.)

Many of breeds we know today came out of this bookkeeping craze, and prominent British aristocratic families developed quite a few of the dogs, like the Golden Retriever and English Setter.

Olde English Bulldogge Olde English Bulldogge Don Pelon

Since Victorian times, we've kept adding and tweaking breeds around the world.

Today the American Kennel Club currently recognizes 177 breeds, creating even wilder variants of dogs. And in some cases — like the Olde English Bulldogge — correcting breeding practices and standards that weakened the health of established breeds.