|The long-bodied, short-legged Dachshund in smooth coat is a favorite of cartoonists, child artists, and toy-dog makers, probably because it is distinctive in appearance yet exaggerated just enough to provoke a chuckle or a hug. But those who laugh at the humorous appearance of the Dachshund probably know little about this wonderful canine bred that used to hunt badgers and now is well-adapted to life as a people companion.|
The Dachshund was eighth in popularity among the 135 breeds registered by the American Kennel Club in 1992. The breed comes in three varieties: smooth-coat, long-coat, and wire-haired, and each has a slightly different personality to match, and in two sizes, standard and miniature. A member of the AKC hound group, the Dachshund is bold and independent.
The Dachshund (pronounced dacks-hoont, not dash-hound) probably developed in Germany from the St. Hubert Hound about 300 years ago, but similar dogs were depicted in Egyptian artwork more than 1000 years ago. The breed name means "badger hound," an apt description of the dog's original purpose. Dachshunds "went into the ground" after the ferocious badger, a weasel cousin considered to be vermin, bravely drawing it from the den to face the hunter's guns.
The smooth Dachshund probably was the original, with longhairs either a result of mutation and selective breeding or of crossbreeding, perhaps with a German spaniel. The wirehair is thought to be the result of crosses with smooth Dachshunds, Schnauzers, and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. The long-coats were thought unsuitable for go-to-ground work, so they were used as bird dogs. The wire-coats were well-protected against burrs and thorns.
Although the three varieties share common temperaments, observers say that their personalities differ somewhat. The smooths are inclined to attach themselves to a particular family member and to be somewhat aloof with strangers. The wirehairs are extroverts with a clownish sense of humor, and the longhairs manage to maintain their dignity while happily playing with anyone who can be enticed into a game.
The original Dachshund weighed about 30 pounds, a good size for confronting a 35-pound badger in its den. Smaller Dachshunds, weighing about 20 pounds, were bred to hunt foxes and trail larger game that had been wounded by the hunter, and still smaller ones were developed to draw rabbits from their warrens. Today the breed is divided into miniatures, which are 11 pounds or less at 12 months of age or older, and standards, which usually weigh 16-32 pounds. There is the common occurance of what we call the "tweenie" which is not quite as small as the miniature, but not as large as the standard, weighing somewhere between 12-15 pounds. But, this is just a name that HDR has given to some.
Related to the Basset Hound through the St. Hubert Hound, the Dachshund form is tightly tied to its original function. A dog that followed its prey into a narrow tunnel in the ground needed special conformation to extricate itself from trouble. So, the Dachshund has a low slung body with a chest that acts as a keel; the dog could rest on his chest and use his remarkably limber front legs to dig his way out of trouble. If all else failed, the hunter could reach into the hole and grab the Dachshund by its long tail and pull it to daylight.
Today's Dachshund is a pet, not a hunter, but still maintains the characteristics of independence, courage, hardiness, endurance, and combativeness that served so well as it challenged the fierce badger in its den. The other half of the Dachshunds personality moderates its bold attitude with a loving demeanor, a heavy dose of charm, and a playful sense of humor.
We have come to love this breed, and find them to be wonderful family members. But, the dachshund is not a breed for everyone. We recommend that you research the breed very carefully. You can find many good articles both on the internet and in your local library.