From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, dogs come in all shapes and sizes. It’s fascinating to look back and see where some of our modern dog breeds originated. Here’s the first of a series of posts looking at the origins of some of the dog breeds we have come to know and love.
Originally bred by Max von Stephanitz with the help of a group of German shepherds (as in, farmers with sheep), the German Shepherd Dog was meant to be a working herding dog. With its intelligence, excellent work ethic and strength, the breed quickly became a favourite in military, police, and search and rescue circles.
It can’t have been easy to be the local tax collector in the 1800s in Germany. Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann had just that job in Apolda. He needed a dog that was loyal, strong, and had strong protection instincts when he went on his rounds. Because he was also the keeper of the local dog pound, Dobermann had access to a variety of dog breeds and he set to work to develop a breed that would serve his needs. The Doberman was the result.
The Belgian Malinois is a short-coated working dog originally bred for herding but which, like the German Shepherd, is popular in fields like narcotics detection and search and rescue. The dogs are named for the town of Maline in Belgium where they come from.
Even though this popular breed takes its name from Canada’s Labrador area, its early ancestors were St. John’s water dogs from the island of Newfoundland. Those early relatives were likely mixes of dogs brought from Ireland in the 1600s. Used to retrieve waterfowl, the shorter coats of these dogs were less likely to turn them into giant icicles when they retrieved birds from water.
The larger, hairier version of the Labrador retriever, the Newfoundland Dog also has its roots with the old St. John’s water dogs. When crossed with mastiffs brought to the area by Portuguese fisherman, the result was a large, strong, double-coated dog with a sweet-natured personality. Used for all kinds of jobs in cold, wet environments, you might see a Newfoundland dog pulling a ship’s rope to shore, rescuing a man overboard, or hitched to a sled.
Photo Credit - AKC
Today’s show clips for Standard Poodles may raise eyebrows, but those fancy haircuts once served to keep the dogs vital organs warm when they plunged into cold, swampy water to retrieve fallen waterfowl. There’s some debate about where the first modern Standard Poodles came from, but many agree that the dogs were used as duck hunters in Germany.
Originally bred for blood sports, these strong, feisty dogs were pitted against each other or, when several were turned loose together, against a bull or a bear. Such activities are banned today, but the breed continues to be a popular American classic with a place in popular culture as the canine companion to the kids in the ‘Our Gang’ films of the ‘30s. Well-bred and raised AmStaffs can be lovely, loyal and gentle family dogs.
This ancient Italian breed was originally used as a water retriever and, indeed, is thought to have influenced the development of various other water dogs like Standard Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs. Today, these lovable dogs put their excellent noses to good use hunting for truffles.
Long and low to the ground, Dachshunds were first bred in Germany to wriggle their way down badger holes and miniature Dachshunds were used to follow rabbits into their warrens. With large front paws (excellent for digging), long narrow bodies, and super noses, they were perfectly designed for following scent trails wherever they led, even into tight places underground!
A couple of hundred years ago in England, these feisty, high energy dogs were bred to help in the fox hunt. The dogs are mostly white to minimise the chances of the hunters mistaking the dogs for their prey.
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