Get to Know the Dachshund: Short on Leg, Long on Love

There's a reason admirers of this small dog breed say, "Get a long little doggy!"


Weiner dog, badger dog, Dachshund: He has the most recognizable profile in the dog world, and probably the most jokes associated with him! This small dog breed is short on leg but long on love — and full of fun!

Part tough guy, part sweetheart, part hound-like, part terrier-like, the Dachshund comes in three coat types, at least two sizes, and more color combinations most other breeds. Can you say identity crisis? Naw, ask any Dachshund and he knows exactly who he is: your boss!

Short-legged dogs have arisen several times throughout history. They’ve been around at least since the days of the ancient Romans, and surfaced again the Dark Ages. While these dogs could have been the dachshund’s forebears, there’s not enough evidence to say.

The first recorded history of Dachshunds was in the 1700s. They arose at least in part from a large hunting hound called the Bracke. A smaller version with shorter legs was better for taking on a badger inside its den; such dogs became known as badger dogs, or Dachshunds.

By the early 1800s smooth, Wirehaired, and longhaired Dachshunds were recorded.

Dachshunds appealed not only to hunters, but to the German nobility. In 1839, England’s Queen Victoria married Germany’s Prince Albert, and the breed became her favorite.

Because of the unpopularity of anything German in America during World War I, the AKC briefly changed the breed’s name to Badger Dog. It was changed back to Dachshund in 1923. Only 26 Dachshunds were AKC registered that year.

The AKC divides the Dachshund into three varieties: smooth, long and wire coats. The varieties are shown separately but may be interbred.

The breed also comes in standard (over 11 pounds) and Miniature (11 pounds and under) sizes. Most standards weigh more than 16 pounds. Most show breeders don’t cross the two for fear of producing small standard Dachshunds.

In 1950, the movie Fancy Pants introduced the American public to Miniature Dachshunds. Other Dachshund movies include Dicky’s Demon Dachshund (1936) and The Ugliest Dachshund (1966).

The AKC includes the Dachshund in the Hound group, where it’s represented in dog shows by the three coat varieties. In Canada, six Dachshunds (three coats and two sizes) go to Hound group competition. And in some European countries, the breed has its own group!

Dachshunds come in red, black and tan, black, wheaten, cream, brindle, piebald and merle colors and patterns.

Merle, which Dachshund breeders call dapple, refers to a pattern of irregular blotches of dark color overlaid on a lighter background of the same color. It is caused by a single gene. Never breed two dapples together, as dogs born with two copies of the gene are mostly white and often have severe vision and hearing problems.

Spotted, or piebald, Dachshunds, are controversial. Although several have finished their AKC Championships, the pattern is not listed in the standard and many judges will not place them. This may be in part because piebalds are so difficult to tell apart from double dapple (homozygous merle) Dachshunds.

The breed is known as the Deckel in Germany.

Dachshunds have been the subjects of much art, including work by Giacoma Balla, Pierre Bonard, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Gary Larson.

The mascot for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Germany was a cartoon longhaired Dachshund called Waldi.

Writers Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse wrote humorously of Dachshunds.

A Dachshund named Brutus holds the world record for highest skydiving dog.

A Dachshund named Gretl was the first obedience champion hound. The breed continues to be the best obedience performer in the Hound group.

Dachshunds are the favored breed for the job of blood trailing, in which they are called upon to track wounded deer.

Dachshund racing is popular as a form of entertainment, but frowned upon by the Dachshund Club of America as they fear it may not be healthy, or could encourage people to breed long-legged Dachshunds.

Dachshunds are more prone to back problems than any other breed. It’s not so much their long back as the gene that causes their short legs, which also results in spinal discs that are not as resilient as normal discs.

Dachshund owners include Queen Victoria, Kaiser William II, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Joan Crawford, Brooke Astor, Doris Day, James Dean, Patty Duke, David Hasselhoff, Winona Judd and Priscilla Presley.

Sorry: Plato, Cleopatra, Napoleon, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Rubens, Shakespeare, and the ancient Egyptians did not own Dachshunds. These reports are the product of a humorous site that mixes Dachshund fact and fiction.

The Dachshund is currently the 10th most popular AKC breed, down from the fifth most popular breed a decade ago.

Do you own a Dachshund? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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