Posts Tagged ‘dachshund’


My dad is holding Huddles (dachshund), my uncle is holding Willy (beagle), and Fonzi (Norwegian elkhound) is barking at the gray fox they are holding on the table.



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dachshund crocodile

Today, there much talk about a flesh-eating drug called “Krokodil,” which is derived from the Russian* word for crocodile. There is quite a bit of paranoia about the drug spreading to the US, but it doesn’t seem likely at this time.

However, every time I see a report about this drug, I instantly think of a dog– more specifically, a dachshund.

The dog is written about at length in Konrad Lorenz’s Man Meets Dog (1949). Lorenz was one of the founders of the science of ethology, and wrote extensively about dogs and other domestic animals. He is perhaps best known for the modern interpretation of the theory of imprinting, which posits that certain animals, particularly birds, come to identify their parent species by attaching themselves to the first moving object or living thing they see.

He is also famous for the discredited hypothesis that most dogs are derived from golden jackals and only a few dogs have wolf in them. The jackal dogs were juvenile and friendly toward everyone, while the wolf-derived dogs were one-mannish and reserved.

The dog named Krokodil was a jackal dog. He was purchased to replace a real crocodile that was given to Lorenz when he was a young boy:

I shall begin with the example of a dog whose apparently touching juvenile affection was so exaggerated as to result in the positive caricature of a dog.  It was a dachshund named Kroki which I was given by a kind relation with no understanding of animals.  At time I was a small boy but already an active naturalist.  The dog was called Kroki  because the kind donor had first of all presented me with a crocodile, which in the absence of heating my terrarium, refused to eat, and which we therefore exchanged in the pet shop for the animal which bore the nearest outward resemblance to it! The dachshund was an aristocratic creature, long-bodied and short-legged– truly resembling a crocodile–and its pendulous ears literally trailed the floor. He was of an affecting friendliness, and greeted me on our first acquaintance as only a dog can greet a long lost master. Of course I was flattered, until it became clear that he greeted everyone else in the same manner.  He was obsessed with an overwhelming love of humanity which extended to all mankind.  He never barked at anybody and, even though he probably preferred my family and myself, he would readily follow a stranger if we did not happen to be available.

Now, this dachshund’s behavior is utterly unlike the dachshunds I’ve known, and my grandmother’s dachshund could have also been named after the archosaur. Unlike Lorenz’s dog, she not only had the crocodile’s body, she had the crocodile’s disposition as well. She barked at everyone, and I don’t know how many different people she  bit.  She bit me and all the other grandchildren, and as a result, I have a bit of fear of smooth dachshunds. I don’t have the same reaction with the other coats– the long-haired ones look like really strange golden retrievers– but if I see small smooth one, I get a bit nervous.

In the US, the dachshund is the “wiener dog.”  I have always thought this was a stupid name.

Maybe a better name for them would be crocodile dog.

It fits them so much better!


*Krokodil is also German for crocodile. Konrad Lorenz was Austrian and a German-speaker.





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A foxhound-dachshund cross named Juno. Notice the feral cat furs!

A foxhound-dachshund cross named Juno. Notice the feral cat furs!  Photo taken in 1909.

The story of a foxhound-dachshund cross being used as fur and varmint dog comes from an article in Hunter-Trader-Trapper from 1910:

A word about my little dog Juno might not be out of place. She is a good general purpose dog, being bred from fox and Daschshund (sic}, being one half each, and is broke on coon, skunk and rabbits. I have shot eight foxes ahead of her, but she is no good for running in heavy snow as her legs are too short. I have shot 90 rabbits ahead of her from November 1st until December 15th, which is our open season in this state (pg 126-127).

Juno has the bent forelegs that were once a standard feature in dachshunds. It has since been bred out of them, but originally, it was believed that the bent forelegs made them better diggers.

The author of the piece, a Mr. John Sherman of Susquehanna County mentions that he hates using the dog to dig out skunks because “digemouts” destroy skunk dens.

And yes, there are plenty of dogs that are so plucky that they will go after a skunk with zeal. Most dogs are broken from skunk chasing and killing with one spray, but some dogs almost revel in the challenge.

My guess is Juno slept outside quite a bit!

Juno lived at a time when people were always innovating through crossbreeding. It’s really the tradition of people who bred dogs for work.

The dog fancy, which is a very recent invention, made this innovation a sin.

This is something that should be rectified.

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The uploader of this video writes:

“say in not my dog, she’s my friend’s dog, and he want his dog to mate with her brother. don’t worry with the pups, they will come out cute again like my grey pup. i’m curious if what color will come out. sorry guys…. but inbreeding is ok to animals right? [NO!] it depends to the breeders if they want…”

If you inbreed, you’re playing with fire.

If you are breeding merle to merle, which is what dapple or “tiger” dachshunds are, this is what you can produce.

If you want dogs to have a high risk of producing dogs that are blind or deaf or both and have a heighten chance of being homozyogous for some deleterious recessive, then go ahead and breed them!

The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me.


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I would hope they would have used red dachshunds to avoid accidentally shooting the dog when it comes out of the hole:


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From Yahoo! News:

The average Dachshund has a maximum weight of 32 pounds; five-year-old Obie (who used to be called AJ; we assume the “Obie” nickname is short for “obese” – aw, poor guy) weighs more than twice that, topping out at 77 pounds when new owner Nora Vanatta met him last month. (That’s seven times what a Miniature Dachshund would weigh.)

His previous owners, an older couple, had to give Obie up because of their own declining health, but thanks to what must have been expert begging by the dog, they’d managed to feed him almost to death in the meantime.

Vanatta is trying to keep Obie’s diet mission fun and optimistic; she’s started a “Biggest Loser Doxie [Dachshund] Edition” on Facebook, so that fans can track Obie’s progress (and maybe get help for their own portly pooches). The goal is for Obie to drop 40 pounds. It’s tough sledding to start out with, however. Because he’s so round, Vanatta can’t take him out for walks, so for now she’s got him on a special diet (a Purina rep helped formulate a low-fat, high-protein meal plan for Obie) and hydrotherapy to start melting the pounds away. Vanatta might incorporate a treadmill later on, once there’s less stress on Obie’s joints and bones. (All this stuff isn’t cheap, as you pet owners can imagine; if you’d like to help out, Vanatta has a PayPal account to raise money for Obie’s care. She’s been quite touched by the support they’ve gotten so far.)

Obie last month, before losing 7 pounds. Photo Nora Vanatta / Facebook.

It’s a job almost as big as Obie himself – but Vanatta thinks he’s worth it. “He is extremely sweet and loving,” she told the UK’s Daily Mail, calling him “a joy to work with.” And while she doesn’t judge his previous owners for overfeeding the plump pup – “[they] just couldn’t say no to those big brown eyes,” she commented – she’s hoping that her other dogs will lead Obie by example, and that Obie in turn “can be an inspiration to any person or animal trying to lose weight.”

Obie’s aiming for a weight between 30 and 40 pounds.

Dachshunds easily put on weight, which is really bad for their often already structurally unsound spines.

But I can understand why an elderly couple could let their dog get fat.

When my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s, her miniature dachshund took advantage of her.

My grandparents always gave the dogs a meal of hot dogs in the evening, and well, Heidi realized that she could get my grandmother to give her more hot dogs than she would have normally had coming to her.

And she went from 8 pounds to 18 pounds– and looked something like a very plump bratwurst.

I hope that Obie slims down.

I can’t image what it would be like for me to be that fat.

As dogs get larger, they also have a harder time getting rid of body heat.

So Obie’s misery is even worse than what a 400-pound human would experience.

Poor dog.


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This painting is by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and this dog looks very much like a dachshund.   The implication of the bag of pheasant and rabbit is that this dog flushed both to the gun.

This dog has some bassety features, which you sometimes see in American smooth dachshunds even now.

(Painting courtesy of Nara Uusihanni).


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“Dachshund Family” by Adolf Eberle.

One of the most interesting little problems in classifying dogs is the dachshund.

The dachshund is perhaps the most varied purebred dog in the world. It comes in around 175 different colors, three different coat types, and (in Europe),  three different sizes.

In North America and the UK, smooth dachshunds are the most common.  On the continent, wire-haired dachshunds hold that distinction.

In my own area, miniature dachshunds, including the smaller size that would be classified as “rabbit dachshunds” with the FCI, are more common than standards.

In Germany, most of the dachshunds I saw were wire-haired and standard-sized. Some of these were on the larger size of standards in the 25-pound range.

But the question of where to classify such a diverse set of dogs that apparently comprises a single breed is a difficult one.

Dachshund do resemble certain British terriers, including the very rare drop-eared Sky terrier and the Dandie Dinmont.

However, no one has found any evidence that these dogs are closely related to these terriers.  Indeed, the best genomic evidence I’ve seen places dachshunds with scent hounds. (Source for image). Another, more in depth genome-wide analysis found dachshunds to be closely related to beagles.

But dachshunds do behave like terriers.

One of the main uses for dachshunds is as earth dogs, but that function is hardly their only talent.

They are quite adept at doing the work of a hound. They can run rabbits and raccoons, tree squirrels, and track wounded game.

They can also work quite nicely as a retriever or spaniel, although they are not quite as adept at swimming as retrievers are.

But how could such an animal have been developed out of scent hounds?

Aren’t scent hounds hard to train?

Aren’t they also incredibly docile, while dachshunds are known to be scrappy?

I think some of the resistance to counting dachshunds as hounds comes from our own prejudices from the Anglo-Saxon hound tradition.

The Anglo-Saxon tradition of hounds has been mostly been of large packs of dogs that run a great distance while on the trail.  The British are known for their mounted fox hunts, but they have a tradition of hunting deer in much the same way.

The British could get away with this, because the hunting culture was based upon a hunting-estate model. From the eighteenth century onward, there were vast deer parks throughout England, where nobles would ride to hounds.

The selection for a British hound was one that had a good nose and good stamina.

There was no selection for biddability, other than the dogs were required to have some road manners.

The German hunting culture– and much of that on the European continent– was quite different.

The region that became Germany was always crowded. There was always very little room to have agricultural enterprises and hunting estates.

And although hunting was initially a right given to nobles, it eventually became a popular activity– much more so than it was in the United Kingdom. The failed revolutions of 1848 had led to some concessions from the nobility in many of the German-speaking states, and one of these concessions was a right to hunt in the forests.

The working and middle classes of Germany wanted dogs that could do it all.  All the German hunting dogs are capable of doing multiple things.  After all, space and food were limited, and the various governments taxed dogs very highly.  A German who wanted to hunt needed a dog with many talents, while his English noble counterpart could afford to have spaniels, retrievers, deer greyhounds, greyhounds that coursed only hares and rabbits, pointers and setters than never retrieved, and any number of little fox, badger, and otter bolting terriers.

The German hunter needed a dog that could be used to hunt a variety of game, and he needed one that didn’t consume that much in terms of resources.

When it came to hounds, the Germans had several strains of bloodhound or lymer that were used to track wounded game. These dogs are called schweisshunds, and there was also pack hounds called bracken (singlar “bracke”). There is also an Austrian black and tan hound (Brandlbracke) and the Tyrolean Hound.

All of these dogs are fairly large, and almost all of them were used as lymers, hounds that were used to track game on the leash. This means that the were often selecting dogs for greater biddability than the Anglo-Saxon hounds were.

They were also used to bay up wild boar, which means that these dogs have to have a sharper edge than a foxhound.

Very few dogs are as friendly as a well-bred beagle or foxhound, which is exactly what you’d expect from dogs that were selected to run in big packs.

Basset-type dogs were always very common France, and it appears that some of these bassets were incorporated in the German hound stock. Some of the French bassets are more like a dachshund in temperament and function. The fawn Brittany basset is not often run in packs, and it was meant to be a working man’s little hound.

France developed a kind of hybrid system of hound culture from the Germans and British. The French did keep large packs of hounds to hunt everything on big hunting estates, but after their experiences with the Revolutions of 1848, the commoners were given access to the hunt. And they began to produce multipurpose dogs.

The influx of basset genes into the German hound population apparently gave someone an idea. As early as the eighteenth century, hunters were using small bassets to bolt badgers from badger setts.  It was not likely a common practice, but by the time German hunting became more democratic, there was a stronger emphasis to produce a smaller hunting hound.

My guess is the Germans used this smaller bassetized German hound framework to produce the dachshund. These bassetized German hounds would have the sharper temperament and greater biddability of a German hound, but they would have short legs.

One might think these dogs are the dachsbracke hounds, but there is some debate as to whether the two breeds of dachsbracke (the Alpine and the Westphalian, the ancestor of the Swedish drever) are the result of crossing dachshunds with larger hounds or whether they are the bassetized German hound that is the “missing link” between the larger German hounds and the dachshunds.

They could be either. Dachsbracke is sometime treated as a portmanteau between the words “dackel or dachshund” and the German word for hound, but the name actually means “badger hound,” which might suggest that these dogs actually are the bassetized German hounds that are the missing link between the larger hounds and the improved dachshund. (Dachshund means “badger dog,” not badger hound. They are known by this name only in English. Germans call them teckel or dackel.)

If this is true, then dachshunds are an improvement on the dachsbracke.  From that type of dog, they bred them to be even smaller and more adept at doing earth dog work, even getting them small enough to hunt rabbits in their warrens.

They may have done so through the influx of pinscher blood. Pinscher were much more common among the middle classes of Germany. They initially served the function of the feist in the United States and the larger terriers in Ireland. They were small, multi-purpose working dogs. The smaller sizes became popular pets of the nobility and then with the growing middle class in the German-speaking lands.

It’s very likely that breeding the small pinschers into these dogs resulted in the very thin coat of the smooth dachshund, which they then tried to fix by breeding some strains with wire-haired dogs– perhaps Dandie Dinmont terriers, perhaps affenpinschers, griffon-coated hounds, or (more likely) small schnauzers– and poodles were also probably in the mix as well.  Poodles could introduce biddability, retrieving instinct, and when crossed with single-coated smooth dog, the possibility of producing a wire-haired dog.

Others crossed the dogs with some sort of spaniel or other feathered gun dog to produced long-haired dachshunds. This also would create dachshund that would be very good at hunting feathered game.

I think the case is pretty good that the dachshund is a hound, but to understand why it’s a hound, one must understand the other hounds of Germany and that nation’s hunting culture. It is also worth understanding that, like all German hunting dogs, dachshunds were meant to be used for a variety of purposes. To reach this end, they added blood from other breeds, but the dogs still remained hounds in terms of the bulk of their genetic material.

A dachshund is a hound that can work as a terrier, but I don’t think it is correct to call them terriers. Even the smaller-sized, more terrier-like dogs are capable of blood-tracking with a greater utility than, say, a Jack Russell terrier.

The dachshund might be a good example of convergent evolution through artificial selection. It is a hound that incidentally developed some adaptations associated with terriers.

Which is pretty amazing.

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The above is a painting by Arthur Wardle of two top-winning dachshunds from the early 1890’s.

The painting’s title is “Pterodactyl and Jackdaw.”

Now, those words both designate flying things, but in this case, they refer to these two dachshunds.

A description of both dogs can be found in Robert Leighton’s The Complete Book of the Dog (1933):

The Dachshund was first introduced to this country in sufficient numbers to merit notice in the early ‘sixties, and, speedily attracting notice by his quaint formation and undoubted sporting instincts, soon became a favourite. His rise has been rapid, although it must be acknowledged that since 1914 there has been an obvious check to his popularity. It must also be noticed that he has deteriorated in type, lost grit and sense, too, and is often a parody of the true sporting Dachshund of thirty years ago, when we had such outstanding good ones as Jackdaw and Pterodactyl.

Jackdaw was credited with being the most perfect Dachshund that had ever been seen in England. He was a black and tan, bred and owned by Mr. Harry Jones, of Ipswich. He was sired by Ch. Charkow, out of Wagtail, and born July 20, 1886. Through his dam he was descended from a famous bitch, Thusnelda, who was imported by Mr. Mudie in the early ‘eighties. She was a winner of high honours in Hanover. The name of Jackdaw figures in all the best pedigrees of to-day. Pterodactyl was born in 1888, and bred by Mr. Willink. He was in a measure an outcross from the standard type of the day, and his dam, whose pedigree is in dispute, was thought to have been imported. After passing through one or two hands he was purchased by Mr. Harry Jones, and speedily made a great name in the show ring and at the stud, and was eventually sold for a high price to Mr. Sidney Woodiwiss, who at that period had the largest kennel of Dachshunds in England. “Ptero,” as he was called, was a big, light red dog, with wonderful forequarters and great muscular development. He also possessed what is called a “punishing jaw ” and rather short ears, and looked a thorough “business” dog. He had an almost unbroken series of successes at shows in England, and became the favourite sire of his day and the fashionable colour (pg. 198-199).

If one looks at the two dogs juxtaposed to each other, one can see that Jackdaw is much shorter in the leg than Pterodactyl.

It should be of no surprise to read that he was of pure British breeding, for the British dog fancy always preferred a much shorter-legged dog than the Germans typically bred.

Pterodactyl, however, was much more of teckel-type, a longer-legged sort of dog that could be used to track wounded boars and deer, as well as dig out badgers and foxes and flush rabbits from cover.

The British also preferred smooth-coated dachshunds, which are actually the rarest type of dachshund in Germany. Most dachshunds in their native land are wire-haired and grizzle-colored.

But the British– and the entire English-speaking world– came to prefer smooth red dachshunds.

According to Leighton, Pterodactyl was to blame for this color’s popularity among British fanciers, and because American dog fanciers imported most of their dogs and ideologies from Britain, the red smooth dog  likely became entrenched in the public conscious as being the “true” dachshund.

Ptero looks very much like the old dachshund that my dad’s family owned.

Huddles Sherman was very much a teckel. He could run rabbits with the beagles, and he had an advantage over the baying English dogs in that when the rabbits would take refuge in pipes and culverts, he could drive them out. And the chase could continue.

He could also blood trail a wounded deer as well as any dog, and he had the advantage of being small enough and slow enough for a person to follow him.

He developed a reputation as being a killer relatively early on his life. He took out a mink, which is not an easy task for any dog, and he rather famously killed an errant giant meat rabbit that some fool turned loose in the woods. The giant rabbit beat every beagle from mile around. Beagles do chase rabbits, but they really don’t know what to do when a giant rabbit attacks them.

However, dachshunds have not problem dealing with animals that want to fight, even if these animals are about the same size as they are.

The neighbor saw it happen. He said that he was sitting on the porch, when a red, black, and white blur came tearing around the yard and into the pasture. He didn’t have the best eyesight, so he really couldn’t make out what it was.

It ran by three or four times, then it disappeared into some brush at the edge of the pasture, where terrible squealing erupted.  Then it stopped.

About a half hour later, he saw Huddles trotting around near the yard on his way to my grandparents’ house. The dog was bleeding from great scratches that were coming down the sides of his chest. He wondered what animal Huddles had tangled with, but then he began to put two and two together. He walked down to the brush pile where he had heard the squealing, and there he found the huge meat rabbit lying dead.  The dachshund had killed the terror rabbit!

Unlike the reputation of his breed, he was very obedient and easily handled. He could be told not to bark,which certainly came in handy when he got sneaked into hotels.

He also slept with my dad every night, and when they got up in the morning, my grandmother fixed them both a breakfast of French toast.

That’s probably not the best thing for a dog to be eating, but when you’re an active dog like Huddles, you really don’t have to worry about gaining weight.

Huddles had several defects that were attributed to his conformation.

Because he was a smooth dachshund, he was regularly getting cut up in the briers when he went hunting with the beagles. The Germans had some sense when they began to prefer to use wire-haired dachshunds instead of the smooths. That wire coat is very good protection from thorny cover.

Huddles also issues with his vertebral discs, and when he “slipped a disc,” he could be out of commission for several weeks at a time. These disc issues are directly attributable to breeding for the long back and short legs, which make the spine quite unstable. The Germans always bred for a bit longer legged dog with a more stable spine, but Huddles was likely the descendant of many generations of British and American dachshund breeding, even though he was very similar to Pterodactyl in many other ways.

But whatever his faults, I think that if I had known him, I would have had a very different view of dachshunds. When Huddles died, he was replaced with a smooth miniature whose claim to fame was using her teeth to dominate me. I still get very nervous around small dachshunds even now.

Huddle’ss papers no longer exist. I believe they disappeared a long time ago, but he was an AKC-registered dog.

My guess is that if his pedigree could be traced back far enough, we’d find that prehistoric name.

No, the archosaurs called pterodactyls left no descendants on this earth, but that the red wiener dog with that was named after them clearly did.

And one of them may have been named Huddles Sherman.

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This painting is called “Beagle and Fox,” and it was painted by Bruno Liljefors in 1885.

Liljefors was a Swedish artist, and the title is probably not translated correctly– because one can obviously see that the dogs attacking the fox are not beagles at all.

They are wire-haired dachshunds.

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