Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated April 6, 2009)
The giant schnauzer, or Reisenschnauzer, is a strikingly beautiful dog. Ranging up to twenty-five inches or more in height, he has the build of a Terrier, but the strength and agility of the finest working dogs. He is the largest of the Schnauzer family, but in other respects conforms fairly close to the standard and miniature varieties.
As is the case with most of the cattle and sheep dogs of Germany, the Giant Schnauzer had his origin in southern Germany, in Wurttemberg, and to a larger degree, in Bavaria. For many years, the breed was called the Munchener, a name which would indicate its place of origin as the area about Munich.
It would appear that the Giant Schnauzer was primarily a cattle drover. How much actual Schnauzer blood is in his ancestry is a matter of doubt. The Germans were perfectly capable of crossing various breeds to get a type which had virtually been laid out on a drawing board in advance.
In the case of the Giant Schnauzer, it is possible that Standard Schnauzers were used to get the wire coat, and pepper and salt colors. Thuringian shepherd dogs may have been used to get erect ear carriage, or at least, ears which would stay erect when cropped. It is supposed that Great Danes, not as large then as now, were used to obtain size and the black color.
The similarity of the Giant Schnauzer and the Bouvier des Flandres has caused many students to believe that the two are closely related, even though there is no real evidence for this contention. It appears more probable that the Bavarians merely used available dogs in the rich shepherd country in which they lived.
As cattle driving disappeared, there became no use for the big dogs on the farms of Swabia and Bavaria. He seems then to have been taken over by the butchers and brewers of the towns. He was a favorite at Munich, and as the Munchener dog, he was kept a pure breed for years.
Naturally, a dog of his striking appearance came to the attention of German show fanciers in the period between 1900 and 1910. Even so, the breed might have died out, had not it been selected as suitable for police and war service training. Dogs of this breed then began to appear at training exhibitions.
A few of the dogs were brought to America before World War I, though no real attempt was made to establish the breed here. After the war, more dogs were brought over, but they could not withstand the competition of the German Shepherd, then skyrocketing to world-wide fame. Yet a few discriminating breeders held onto their stock, and though still rare, the breed seems established here.
The Giant Schnauzer is robust, sinewy, and is more heavy set than slender, of somewhat rectangular build. His nature combines high-spirited temperament with extreme reliability. Their height at the shoulder is between 21-1/2 inches to 25-1/2 inches. The standard color is that of a pepper and salt, pure black or a black with tan.
Additional information on the Giant Schnauzer can be found at the website for the American Kennel Club.
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