As an independent breed, the German shepherd began its history deep in the past. In Western European territories, skeletons of dogs of the Bronze Age were found that resembled the remains of a small Indian wolf. He became the ancestor of the German Shepherd, living in our time. Based on these findings, it can be assumed that the “bronze” dog was due to the crossing of a wolf and a European dog. What is the further origin of the breed of German Shepherd dogs learn in this article?
The ancestors of the dog
Hofovarts came from dogs of the Bronze Age – dogs that lived in the Middle Ages and were great for protecting habitats, household items, and domestic herds.
A little later, the main task of these animals became only the protection of sheep flocks, which is why they began to call them “shepherd dogs,” that is, dogs that are next to the sheep.
For the first time, a shepherd, as an independent breed, began to be mentioned in history in the laws and rules of the seventh century. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, shepherd dogs are depicted as bold and powerful dogs, suitable for protecting not only their owner but also his property.
The first selection attempts
Many people tried to create a new breed of dog for the protection of herds, with the same requests for both character and appearance but failed. The popularity of cattle dogs increased throughout the European territory, which led to an increase in the number of livestock.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the shepherd became the most common breed in Germany. There were two breeding sites for dogs:
- Württemberg district, where large-bodied dogs were bred, with a calm character, had thick long hair with a red or black shade, and hanging ears.
- south-west of Thuringia, where medium-sized shepherds were bred, dynamic and angry, with a gray wool coat similar to a wolf color and erect ears.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the number of livestock began to increase sharply, dogs from different parts of Germany began to cross, adding offspring of different shepherd dogs to the line, due to which a huge variety of types of shepherds appeared.
The exhibition, where the shepherd was first shown, took place in Hanover in 1882.
First community of lovers
The gross development of dogs came at the end of the nineteenth century. Dog breeders organized clubs of different breeds, held exhibitions.
On December 16, 1891, a German Shepherd Dog Society was created, initiated by Count Hahn and citizen Richelmann. The union was named “Phylax” and created the first standard of the shepherd breed.
The society did not last long since the main goal of the club was commerce. But thanks to the history of this society, the world turned its attention to the German Shepherd.
Breeding a different type of dog
At the end of the nineteenth century, cavalry officer Max Emil Frederic von Stephanitz decided to breed a completely different breed of shepherd. Being an educated man, von Stephanitz was extremely interested in this breed, he knew everything about shepherd dogs. He believed that the ability of shepherd dogs to work for a long time was the most important feature of their character and sought to combine in one dog not only an amazing ability to work for wear, but also easy control, the ability to get along with a person in various conditions.
On April 3, 1899, Max von Stephanitz purchased a shepherd dog at a dog show in Karlsruhe, which he later officially registered as a new breed and nicknamed Horand von Grafrath.
Thus, von Stephanitz went against public opinion and began to breed wolf dogs. He chose the goal of creating a universal breed that can combine incompatible qualities. Max von Stephanitz believed that the wolf-like appearance of a dog could provide future offspring with optimistic genetic potential.
Together with his friend Arthur Mayer, von Stephanitz created the German Shepherd Society (SV) in Wandsbek in 1899. With their colleagues, they did a tremendous job of finding bitches that were similar in quality and character in character to another, new breed, and able to create a healthy continuation of the newest line. Throughout Germany, von Stephanitz and his associates examined and studied many individuals. Selected animals were taken under the personal supervision of the Society.
Horand von Grafrath became an excellent elect for the new breed line, and also made a high-quality producer from it. His most exemplary son was called Hector von Schwaben, he gave birth to the founders of the first main three lines of German shepherds: Beowulf, Pilot, and Heinz. Since that time, a new breed began to form in the direction conceived by von Stephanitz and gained wide popularity among dogs of thoroughbred origin.
Six Golden Rules
Creating a new breed, von Stephanitz followed the six rules that he came up with and formulated:
- creativity can rarely be compatible with making a profit, so you need to breed a new breed only with a lot of love for dogs, not money. You can monitor the development and notice the natural qualities of dogs only if there is a sufficient amount of time devoted to work.
- For breeding high-quality dogs, only psychologically and physically healthy individuals are suitable. The dog must learn exemplary behavior not only near the owner but also in any other environment.
- Only breeding champions or saving on the health of dogs is strictly prohibited. It is better to breed healthy animals with a fixed working character.
- males and females should be selected from proven and healthy lines. Champions are not always suitable for breeding.
- Weakened psychologically or suffered a severe illness, the shepherd is not suitable for breeding.
- crossing the next of kin is not the best option since there is a risk of inheritance of hidden negative qualities. If there is no complete confidence in the choice, it is best to consult a specialist.
Foundations of society
In 1901, Max von Stephanitz led the German Shepherd Society and continued to lead the breeding of purebred dogs until the end of his life. He developed the charter of the union, determined the basic standard of the breed, which is valid today.
Stephanitz and his colleagues also created the first Pedigree Book, thanks to which it is possible to analyze not only the development of the breed but also to select pairs according to the necessary qualities to avoid undesirable defects and flaws in the future. In the Book, he registered all born shepherds to track unacceptable flaws in the breed and their path of inheritance. Gradually, only tribal representatives of the breed began to register in the Stud Book.
Maximally huge work done by Max von Stephanitz shows his unlimited love for German shepherds. Thanks to his in-depth knowledge, purebred shepherd breeding was founded.
Highly appreciating the working qualities of dogs, Stephanitz believed that the further development of shepherds should be associated with them. If you leave the shepherd sitting idle, then its ability to work quickly decreases.
At that time, in Germany the number of pastures was gradually reduced and the role of the herd guard was no longer suitable for the shepherd. Looking for a new direction for the use of dogs, von Stephanitz offered German shepherds to serve in law enforcement, where they took root very quickly and became excellent helpers. In the army, these dogs also managed to optimally prove themselves as orderlies, signalmen, and patrolmen.
Intensive work began in this direction, and soon the army and police recognized the German Shepherd as suitable for service in their ranks. Since 1901, it began to be widely used in law enforcement and public security.
Changes in society
Owing to purposeful and long work, the great historical producer Roland von Starkenburg, the grandson of the first representative of the Horand von Grafrat breed, became an exemplary representative of the breed. There is not a single purebred German shepherd in the world that does not have this ancestor in its family.
The origin of the breed was developed in a very short period of twenty years, and by 1923 the society already numbered twenty-seven thousand representatives of the union. Special screening tests have been created for purebred producers. By 1925, they decided to choose dogs according to psychological characteristics, and not just according to the criteria of appearance and working properties. It was also decided to fix in the standard a long squat physique of shepherds.
Too high fame of the breed brought her not only popularity outside Germany, but also played a cruel joke with her. Breeders, eager for profit, began to breed shepherd dogs, completely not following the standards of selection. Absolutely any dogs began to cross with shepherds, because of which flaws in character and deficiencies in physiological development quickly appeared.
Over time, the shepherd lost its valuable qualities and von Stephanitz decided to urgently do something to save the breed. In 1925, he convened a historically important conference, where he decided to return to the basic standard of German shepherds.
Realizing the danger of the breed being famous, German breeders caught on in time and strictly reacted to the rules, principles, and charter. But the sad consequences never passed England and America, where the breed had to be revived again.
Consequences of the second world war
On April 22, 1936, the founder of the German Shepherd Society Max von Stephanitz died, but even without him, the business continued to live thanks to like-minded people.
During the whole time of the war, a huge part of the nurseries was closed, because of which the breeding stock was on the verge of extinction. But the supporters of the great work of Stefanitz managed to preserve the ideal purebred representatives of the breed and quickly restored a high-quality population of German shepherds after the war.
The first post-war exhibition was held in 1946, where members of the Society decided on a “select class” (VA). They did this to expand the base of the best breeding representatives of the breed.
Continued breed development
In the sixties of the twentieth century, four tribal lines developed, giving numerous offspring of the highest quality.
Simultaneously with these events, the breed was divided into two types of populations: high and working dogs.
In 1975, the Society founded by Stefanitz was divided into two unions: the already existing and the World Union of German Shepherd Owners, which brought together representatives from different countries.
In 1999, the German Shepherd Society turned one hundred years old. Today it is the largest organization of canine dogs of one breed, which, although it is a member of the International Cynological Federation, has its special status, its charter, special rules for holding exhibitions, its position on the quality of dog breeding, and the uniform procedure for issuing pedigrees.
Acquaintance with Russia
German shepherds came to Russia in 1904 from Germany. They began to breed and use immediately for service in the police. During the Russo-Japanese War, shepherds coped well with the sanitary business. To search for these dogs began to be used in 1907. But during the civil war there was a sharp reduction in the purebred livestock of the breed.
In 1924, to restore the breed, shepherd dogs were again imported from Germany, since there was not enough money or specialists for independent breeding.
But our shepherd dogs were significantly different from the German brothers. The massive import of German shepherds to Russia coincided with the decline in their qualities in Germany. Because of this, it was precisely those lines of representatives of the breed that were criticized by the founder of German shepherds Max von Stephanitz.
Almost all representatives of the breed had different deviations from the standard. They were large, with long limbs, with hair longer than usual, and became the ancestors of the East European Shepherd, which is still not recognized in most countries of the world. Many individuals had mental deviations, which manifested themselves in a cowardly or evil character.
An increase in the number of West German shepherds began to occur in the eighties of the last century, with a gradual improvement in the quality of the standard and appearance.