5 Dog Breeds With Fun and Historical Nicknames

Boston Terrier courtesy Mary Huff

Does your breed have a nickname? We call a Labrador Retriever a “Lab” to simply shorten his name. Other nicknames offer insight into the breed’s history, appearance, or traits. The Vizsla, for example, is deemed a Velcro-dog because they stick to our side. These breeds have terrific nickname tales to tell:

1. Affenpinscher

Affenpinscher courtesy Doyle Girouard, Rhoda Cassidy photography.

With the spunk of a terrier and perhaps some of the agility of a monkey, it’s no wonder our German name translates to “monkey-terrier.” We concede we bear a slight resemblance to our primate friends, and thus don’t tend to argue about the nickname. But another one of my early nicknames, the “little devil in a mustache,” makes me smile most. Just ask my famous friend Misty! Bred in Europe to control rat populations, we’re clever, proud, loyal, and an all-around charming busy-body. My family tends to remember my monkey nickname most when I’m stirring up shenanigans. Which, considering my combined mischievousness, intelligence, and playfulness, is rather often!

2. Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Terrier courtesy Diane Stille, Bedlington Terrier Club of America

Yes of course you’re expecting my nickname to have something to do with my sheep-ish look. But actually, my nickname is the Gypsy dog. I was developed by mining folk in the village of Bedlington to hunt rabbits, rats, badgers, and otter. My forefathers (allegedly!) helped gypsies and poachers. So thus we became known as the Gypsy dog. These days our families generally just call us Bedlingtons. That works nicely, because we have enough to do answering why we look like sheep!

3. Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso courtesy Vickie Kuhlmann, Lhasa Apso Rescue, Colorado

In our homeland of Tibet we were considered a treasure, developed for both beauty and function. We were known as Abso Seng Kye, or the Bark Lion Sentinel Dog. An indoor guard (sentinel) dog, we sounded an alarm when newcomers approached, and called in the bigger Tibetan Mastiffs when needed. As an added bonus to our stellar watchdog abilities, we were also believed to bring harmony and prosperity to our homes. These days our families sometimes also call us “jelly beans,” because of our assorted colors. Seems a bit undignified for an ancient treasure if you ask me…

4. Whippet

Whippet courtesy Mary Huff, Tails in Design

Dating back many centuries, my predecessors hunted small game on open fields. We small sighthounds eventually became popular with the British working class. Our owners enjoyed gambling and racing, but couldn’t afford Greyhounds or race horses. The fact we could race like the wind (up to 35mph!) and yet only weigh between 25 and 45 pounds made us a desirable, economical companion. Thus our nickname: The Poor Man’s Racehorse! And not only did we provide entertainment, we provided rabbits for dinner too.

5. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier courtesy Rich Knecht photography

Don’t let my name confuse you: I’m not really in the Terrier group. I was bred from both bully breeds and Terriers in stables around Boston (so the Boston part is accurate!). My nickname, the American Gentleman, reflects my gracious, peaceful nature. But don’t picture me as serious or solemn. I’m outgoing, funny, and playful with friends both old and new. My nickname also links to my Tuxedo-esque markings, but I much prefer the correlation to my gallant personality. A scoundrel can’t put on a tuxedo and thereby become a gentleman, now can he?

Top and homepage photos: Whippet and Boston Terrier, courtesy Mary Huff, Tails in Design

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