Posts Tagged ‘dachshund’

“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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The cat likely died from the shot.

Otherwise, the dog would be having real problems dealing with a wounded feline.

This is what you’d call “a good cat dog.”

Dachshunds can be very versatile hunting dogs, and if they are needed to control feral pests, they will do the job.

BTW, some of the comments call this action a “criminal offense.”

I hate to tell these people, but in most areas, you can shoot feral cats on your own property. My guess is it’s not illegal in Finland, where this was filmed. Or they wouldn’t have posted it.

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I don’t know if this is a California quail or a Gambel’s.

But I do know that this is a miniature dachshund.

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It looks like someone gave this golden legs that are just too short.

(Source for image)

The first time I ever saw a long-haired dachshund puppy, I mistook it for a very small golden retriever.

Here’s a mini long-haired dachsund that has some golden retriever features for comparison:

(Source for image)

Some large bitches are actually quite accommodating with little male dogs. They will actually find ways to make it easier for the little dogs to mount them.

Of course, one can always use the cinder block method.

I don’t know why anyone would intentionally create this cross. Short-legged dogs are not the best water dogs, although dachshunds swim far better than one might expect. Dachshunds are also much easier to train than our cultural meme of the “stubborn wiener dog” suggests.

Both breeds are technically gun dogs. Dachshunds actually do hunt very close to the gun and can be used on both furred and feathered game. And they can retrieve from the water.

But many dachshunds in North America have severe back problems. My dad grew up with a smooth standard dachshund that was a very good hunting dog and was as biddable as any golden retriever. However, he was often out of commission whenever he slipped a disc.

I don’t know if this cross would have less of a chance of developing back problems, but it is possible.

Of course, it would be different if the dachshund in the cross happened to be a German teckel, rather than the more common American pet dachshund.

And dachshunds are also supposed to show heightened aggression toward their quarry, whereas goldens are suppose to treat even live animals as nothing more than dead marks that must be carried without harming them.  It is possible for any dog to learn when to show predatory killing behavior and when to carry it alive– most German HPR’s know the proper context. But that still requires a certain amount of training and experience to refine in the dog.

This cross is interesting, but I doubt that it will ever be like the goldendoodle or the cock-a-poo. Or the lurchers or racing sled dogs.

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I was at a family reunion on Sunday, and I met this 11-week-old miniature dachshund named Abby. She belongs to my cousin Jeannie Wade, who also happens to be my parents’ boss.

Abby decided the best thing to do was dig some holes. It is amazing how into it she got, and for such a small dog, she dug some pretty deep holes.

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