The German Shepherd is an icon of the loyalty and courage of animals. This dog breed is one of the most popular and versatile. The German Shepherd is one of the world’s smartest dogs, which has led to it being used as a police dog, sniffer dog, sheepdog and therapy dog, among many other functions.
Besides its beauty and intelligence, the German Shepherd has a well-deserved reputation after the success of canine film and television stars, with Rin Tin Tin and Inspector Rex being the best known of all.
This article we will share the origin of the German Shepherd, along with its history and more fun facts. Keep reading!
Origin of the German Shepherd
The German Shepherd breed has a well documented and relatively recent history. This breed was created with a clear and precise objective: to be a working dog.
Max Emil Frederick von Stephanitz, Cavalry Captain of the German army, already had the vision of a German working breed in 1890. In von Stephanitz’s vision, dogs of this new breed should be smart, protective, quick, noble-looking, reliable and fully committed to pleasing their owners. This view was shared with Artur Meyer, who helped von Stephanitz in the creation of the modern German Shepherd.
In 1899 von Stephanitz saw a dog that amazed him. This dog, named Hektor Linkrshein, measured about 63 centimeters (25 inches) to the withers and looked like what the Cavalry Captain was looking for in a working dog. Therefore, von Stephanitz bought that dog, who became the main ancestor of the modern German Shepherd.
Two weeks after buying Hektor, von Stephanitz and Meyer founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV), which was the first German Shepherd club and is currently the parent organisation that brings together German Shepherd clubs from around the world. Of course, Hektor was the first dog to be registered with this club, but under his new name of Horand von Grafrath.
The SV was thereafter dedicated to the development of the breed; German Shepherds were used as sheepdogs in Wüttemberg, Thuringia and Hannover The dogs selected for this purpose met von Stephanitz’s particular requirement – a great ability to work.
The German Shepherd, then, was a working breed from its inception. This was the vision of von Stephanitz, which he passed on to future German Shepherd breeders by establishing the working titles for this breed in 1906.
The German Shepherd in wartime
The German army doubted the usefulness of German Shepherds for war. However, the success of these dogs in the German police force opened the doors to for them to work on the front lines during World War One. During this war, German Shepherds were used to locate wounded soldiers, carry messages and alert of the presence of enemies during patrols, etc.
The abilities of the German Shepherd were recognized by the Allied soldiers. At the end of the war, not only did many of these soldiers return with fascinating – and often exaggerated – stories about the qualities of the German shepherd, but some also returned with the dogs themselves.
In fact, the first Rin Tin Tin was one of these dogs; he was a puppy who survived a bombing and was adopted by American corporal Lee Duncan, who brought him to the United States.
Of course, World War Two also counted on the presence of German Shepherds among the troops. By that time the German Shepherd breed was enormously popular, both in their home country and in other countries.
The German Shepherd in peacetime
As a result of its great qualities and the huge popularity that it had acquired, throughout the twentieth century the German Shepherd became one of the most highly regarded breeds for fulfilling practically any task in the service of mankind.
The usefulness of the German Shepherd in police forces became so great, that the breed became synonymous with the term “police dog”. It was also successfully used to help people with special needs, serving as a guide dog, an assistance dog for deaf or disabled people, etc.
Even more functions were assigned to this formidable breed as time passed on, including working in the fields of drug detection, landmine detection, search and rescue, therapy, performance, etc.
From its origins as a shepherd dog to its current roles, this breed has gone through a lot. However, and despite the multiple roles that this dog can have, the German Shepherd is above all a faithful, reliable and loving companion.