by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
Often the subject of facetious ridicule at the hands of the uninformed, the Dachshund is one of the most interesting of all breeds of dogs. He is frequently referred to as "the sausage dog," described as "half-a-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long". He is mentioned as an ideal family dog "because the entire family can pet him at the same time." He has also been called "the dog that is sold by the yard."
His name implies the early purpose for which he was used, badger hunting; "dachs" meaning badger and "hund" meaning dog in Germany. Although generally associated with a German origin, the Dachshund is very probably of ancient lineage. A long-bodied, low-hung dog is revealed on the statue of an early Egyptian king. This dog's name was "Tekal" and this may be the origin of the name "T'eckel," by which the Dachshund is usually known in Germany. The T'eckelklub, managing Dachshund bench shows, was founded in that country in 1888.
A comparatively little-known fact is that there are no less than six varieties of the Dachshund; the original smooth-haired variety from which the others stemmed, the long-haired and the wire-haired, and miniatures of each type. Although the Dachshund is considered the national dog of Germany, other countries have adopted him with even greater enthusiasm. England had a specialty club for the breed before one was established in Germany. The Gebrauchsteckel-Klubs of Germany maintained separate stud books on the breed.
The Dachshund's very make-up, with his long-backed body and short, crooked legs, prevents him from hunting with speed. His main value in the hunting field lies in his ability to rout and kill ground game, but the game resources of this country offer him limited opportunities to display his capabilities in this regard. He does possess hunting instinct in a high degree and if it were not for the availability of Beagles, Hounds, and Spaniels, he would very likely find higher favor among American rabbit hunters.
Generally, however, in this country he is found as a house pet and companion. Extremely clean in his habits, he is ideal as a house dog, and his cheerful and loyal disposition makes him a fine companion. The smooth-haired variety, with a finely-textured coat which glistens attractively when the dog is properly conditioned and groomed, is a particular favorite. The Dachshund is an especially good dog for children. He generally attaches himself to one master, although his loyalty to the entire family is well known.
The characteristics of the breed and the evenness of type have been maintained in this country by constant importation of new blood and careful adherence to a program of breeding selectivity. It has been no easy matter to maintain the popularity of the breed in this country, or in England. During World War I there were only about six breeders in England who continued their breeding programs. In this country antipathy to anything German during that period reflected against the chipper little dog that had won many friends here. Owners who appeared in public with their pets were often subjected to contemptuous remarks and accusations of being "pro-German." During the years between the two great wars, however, the Dachshund had regained his place in the hearts of many American dog fanciers and the general public took a saner view of him during World War II.
The Dachshund got his name from his early use in badger hunting but since the breed was established the type has changed to some extent. The successful badger dog was heavier, coarser, larger, and houndier in appearance. The ability to dig was a requisite and the Dachshund is so equipped. Generally on the lower slopes of the mountainous sections of Germany where the badger did much damage to growing crops of maize, the dogs were used to drive these animals to the guns which were posted between the game and their earths. The badger makes a formidable opponent when brought to bay and although the Dachshund is a fearless fellow, he would now have a rough time of dispatching this prey in a fair fight.
The Dachshund has been used successfully in hunting deer. Due to the fact that he can penetrate almost any cover and his physical make-up forces him to travel at slow pace, consequently he does not so frighten the deer as to make it "run out of the country." His bay is much deeper than one would expect of so small a dog.
In this country the Dachshund is now seldom used as a sporting dog, although promoters of the breed have held field trials in an endeavor to definitely establish him as a sporting dog. The American Kennel Club classifies the Dachshund as a sporting dog in the hound class, but it has been argued that he is not a hound and he is certainly not generally considered a gun dog. Nevertheless, he possesses hunting instinct in a high degree and if given the chance can give his owner some pleasure on small ground game.
The origin of the Dachshund breed is a matter of conjecture. Now recognized as distinctly German, they were to be found throughout Western Europe at an early date. Some early writers maintained that they evolved from the old Turnspits, the dogs that did such fine work in kitchen service. Certainly the dogs used for this purpose were long of body and low of leg.
Other writers held that the breed descended from the Basset Hounds of France, with much of the Hound type being eliminated by the infusion of Terrier blood. In the small person of the Dachshund we do, indeed, find the characteristics of both the Hound and Terrier. In many respects he resembles the Basset, while his small stature, courage, and willingness to go to earth bespeak Terrier blood.
The high popularity of the breed in all its variations is now definitely established in this country. Large entries are to be seen in practically every important bench show. With these conditions prevailing it is only natural that there are many champion Dachshunds throughout the country and competition is exceedingly keen among breeders and exhibitors.
The Dachshund is a lively friendly fellow, affectionate with his family but somewhat a one-man dog. He is unusually clean, having practically no "doggy" odor about him, and requires little grooming. One of the most amusingly fascinating sights is to watch a litter of young Dachshund puppies at play. And they are generally playing when not sleeping.
The general appearance is that of a short-legged, long-bodied, low-to-ground dog. The Dachshund is sturdy, well-muscled, and is neither clumsy nor slim. He carries an intelligent expression, and is fitted for following game into burrows.
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