Comical yet courageous, playful yet stubborn, the Dachshund is adored throughout the world. Here are eight fun facts about this happy hound.
Some dog historians and breed authorities maintain that the Dachshund dates back to ancient Egypt, where engravings depict short-legged hunting dogs. Cairo’s American University offers Egyptian burial urns containing mummified Dachshund-like dogs that would support this theory. There is no dispute that modern history credits German breeders with the creation of the Dachshund, incorporating German, French and English hounds and terriers. Royals including Queen Victoria enjoyed the company of Dachshunds in aristocratic courts throughout Europe.
Dachshund (pronounced “daks-hoont”) means “badger dog” in German, and this was the traditional quarry that the larger dogs scented, chased and flushed out of their burrows. The more diminutive dogs hunted smaller prey such as rabbits. In North America, two sizes are recognized: the Standard, weighing between 16 and 32 pounds, and the Miniature, weighing 11 pounds or less at one year of age. A third size is recognized by the FCI (World Canine Federation), which contains kennel clubs from 83 countries around the world: the Kaninchen (German for “rabbit”), which weighs 8 to 11 pounds. Dachshunds come in three different coat varieties — Smooth, Longhaired and Wirehaired — and any size can come in any coat. So there is a “Doxie” to suit every lap, taste and household.
Although the Dachshund has one of the most recognizable silhouettes in dogdom, his shape serves a purpose. He is long-bodied and muscular with short, stubby legs. His front paws are disproportionately large, paddle-shaped and well-suited for digging. He has a deep chest to provide ample lung capacity for energy on the hunt. His skin is loose enough to prevent tearing while he tunnels in snug burrows to chase his prey.
While the Dachshund makes a charming and playful companion, he is a stubborn hound through and through, with high prey drive. The American Kennel Club breed standard describes the Dachshund’s temperament as “clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness, persevering in above- and below-ground work, with all the senses well-developed.” Dachshunds love chasing small animals, birds and tennis balls, so keep pet rodents and feathered friends safely out of their grasp.
With his big-dog attitude and confidence, the Dachshund is a popular show dog, as well as a frequent competitor in obedience, agility, flyball and rally. Two newer dog sports, Earthdog and Barn Hunt, showcase the breed’s speed and hunting prowess, as the dogs strive to catch a concealed, safe-from-harm caged rat in a controlled setting.
The color palette is virtually unlimited for Dachshunds of all three coat varieties. One-colored Doxies include red and cream, with or without a shading of interspersed dark hairs (called “sabling”). Two-colored Doxies include black, chocolate, gray and fawn, each with deep, rich tan or cream markings over the eyes, and on the cheeks, throat and chest. Dappled Dachshunds have a marbled, mottled pattern of light and dark color; most commonly seen are silver, blue-gray and chocolate dapples. There are also brindles (dark stripes on a lighter background) and piebald Doxies (with clearly defined areas or patches of white on one-colored or two-colored dogs).
While Dachshunds have become hugely popular as pets, the breed standard emphasizes the hunting heritage of the breed. Dachshund movement is described as “fluid and smooth,” never “short, choppy movement” or a “high-stepping gait.” The Dachshund is prized for his “agility, freedom of movement and endurance to do the work for which he was developed.” Shyness is considered a serious fault and knuckling over of the front legs, which would slow him down on the hunt, is a disqualification.
With his confidence, sense of humor and unique looks, is it any wonder the Dachshund has a host of famous admirers? Among the entertainers and musicians who live with Doxies are Jack Black, Josh Duhamel, Kirsten Dunst, Ashley Olsen, Adele, Clint Eastwood and David Hasselhoff. David Bowie owned Dachshunds, as did artists Andy Warhol and David Hockney (Hockney illustrated at least one book about his dogs), and syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith.
Allan Reznik is a journalist, editor and broadcaster who specializes in dog-related subjects. He is the former editor-in-chief of Dogs in Review and former editor of Dog Fancy magazine. A city dweller all his life, on both coasts, he now enjoys the rural South with his Afghan Hounds, Tibetan Spaniels and assorted rescues.