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What Were Dachshunds Bred For? – Roles, Origins & History of Dachshund Jobs

With short legs and a long body, the Dachshunds must have been bred for a purpose.
Written by Richard Jeng

According to the AKC, the Dachshund is the 12th most popular dog breed in America. With their elongated bodies and short legs, it’s no wonder so many people love them! But have you ever wondered what these odd-shaped dogs were meant for?

So, what were Dachshunds bred for? Originally, Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers by climbing into their burrows and dragging them out. They later evolved into more versatile dogs that hunted fox and rabbit. Dachshunds even helped in locating wounded deer. And in packs, they could hunt animals as big as wild boar!

There is some variety in opinions on when Dachshunds started being bred for badger hunting. Plus, the evolution of the Dachshunds and their roles drastically changed throughout history. Let’s take a deeper look at the Dachshund and why they were bred.

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A Dachshund’s Job is in the Name

The Dachshund’s name says it all. The German word for badger is Dachs. On the other hand, Hund means “dog” or “hound.” Therefore when put together, Dachshund, translates to “badger dog.” Even their original job had been cemented in their name.

Due to their narrow and long bodies, Dachshunds are referred to as either sausage dogs, hot dogs or wiener dogs. Fun fact: what you didn’t know is that the hot dogs (food) were originally called “dachshund sausages.”

Despite their German origin or name, modern Germans call these dogs Teckel or Dackel. Also, many English speakers often mispronounce the word Dachshund: it’s pronounced daks-hund and not dash-hund. But for short, well call them “doxie.”

Why the Dachshund was Bred

The Dachshunds were bred primarily for badger hunting, among other various small game.

The Dachshund was originally bred to be the fiercest badger hunters in the business. While the name is proof that they’re excellent at taking down badgers, that’s not all they did. In fact, a Dachshund can also track wounded game, hunt woodchucks, fox and rabbit.

Badger Hunting

Badger hunting was what Dachshunds specialized in. After all, they are literally called badger dogs in their home country. But this process isn’t as simple as releasing these little dogs into the wild and hoping they come back with a badger.

Dachshunds would accompany hunters until a badger or other burrowing prey was spotted in the wild. Upon human contact, the prey would likely climb back into the burrows to hide. This is when Dachshunds are sent into the underground burrows.

As Dachshunds usually hunt in packs, they would be sent in from multiple entrances in hopes of trapping the badger. And given the fearlessness of these dogs, they’re more than willing to fight their way to the animal and drag them out.

Because of the size and shape of the Dachshund, they were perfectly suited for this job. After trapping the badger, it was going to be a fight and these dogs had to remain mobile and agile in the narrow and confined underground burrows.

Check out this pack of Dachshunds on the hunt:

After meeting the badger underground, the Dachshund’s job isn’t to kill the animal. Rather, a Dachshund needed to deal an immobilizing bite and focus on dragging the animal out their borrow. Once pulled out, the hunter handles the rest.

Badgers are not an easy foe that would simply give up. The battle was certain to be dangerous and bloody at times. Plus, it’s not easy killing a badger given their thick fur and agility within the tunnel system. But to pull them out, Dachshunds did the job well.

Blood-Tracking Wounded Game

Several European countries actually require hunters to have tracking dogs on the field, though in America, only few states allow this. Nevertheless, the Dachshund has been a top choice for blood tracking wild game for many generations.

Thanks to the Dachshund’s short legs, they’re low to the ground and are able to easily follow the scent line. For example, after a deer is hit, the Dachshund will follow the blood trail to find and locate the wounded animal.

A skilled Dachshund will help locate the blood on the ground, which isn’t so obvious or visible to the hunters. By examining the blood trails, hunters would be able to better guess where they hit the game. This is crucial, especially for bow hunting.

When tracking deer, it’s important that the dog stays on the correct scent line. It’s not rare for a hunting dog to get distracted with all the scents in the wild. Fortunately, Dachshunds are great at picking out and differentiating the scents, thus staying on track.

Woodchuck, Fox & Other Game

Dachshunds come in two sizes. And depending on the size variation, they’re better suited for hunting other game. For example, the Miniature Dachshunds are especially great at tracking or baying woodchucks, otherwise known as groundhogs.

But because badgers are much larger, Standard Dachshunds were bred to do that job. Though for other game, both small and big Dachshunds can work in tandem to catch the prey. And in a pack of Doxies, you’ll certainly get a range of sizes.

While a smaller dog can track and bay the fox, a larger Dachshund will certainly put up a harder fight underground. Dachshunds can also track raccoons or possums at night. And during the day, squirrels are no match. They can even flush waterfowl!

As you can tell, Dachshunds have evolved into something more than their name says. Hunters began to take notice of the wonderful qualities of these dogs and applied the toughness and strong work ethics into hunting other animals.

Physically Bred to Hunt

Breeding a dog is not as straight forward as finding a male and female dog, and letting them do their business. It’s actually much more complicated than that. Breeders were very specific in the qualities and characteristics that shined through the litter.

If there are certain characteristics that breeders are looking for, then they need to find dogs with those characteristics and or instincts (herding, retrieving, pointing, hunting, etc.). It takes many generations to hone a dog breed.

We know now that Dachshund means “badger dog” and that it was bred to hunt badgers. The breed was developed to dig into badger dens and flush the badgers out. However, what were the physical qualities that were bred into them for this work?

Body, Head & Legs

Well, of course, the Dachshund needed a low and long body that was capable of getting into underground badger dens quickly and easily. Often times, the burrows were narrow and small. Can you imagine a chunky dog beed attempting this?

The Dachshund is also muscular and has short and stubby legs, which were great for climbing underground. The skin of a Dachshund was honed to be fairly loose. This is so that it didn’t tear easily when the dog was tunneling underground.

The tail, on the other hand, was developed to be curved for better visibility in terrain with long grass. A second purpose was for it to be useful to pull the dog out of a burrow if it were to get stuck at the entrance of the tunnel!

The chest of a Dachshund is deep. This was purposely bred into the Dachshund so that they had adequate lung capacity, giving them increased stamina while hunting. And with their ears flapping down, the Dachshund avoided dirt and grass entering the ears.

Paws and Teeth

Also, Dachshunds have front paws that are disproportionately large. And if you take a closer look, they are shaped like paddles which are great for digging. Plus, this should also come in handy when the dog is trying to pull the game out.

Dachshunds also have claws and teeth that are razor-sharp. They needed a bite that could sting the prey and if even for a moment, immobilize them. Most Dachshunds weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, making them sturdy and ready for battle.

The Coat

Like with most hunting dogs, the Dachshund has a coat developed to withstand harsh climate and conditions seen on the field. In fact, Dachshunds can have 3 different coat types. The coat is either short and smooth, long, or wiry.

All three coat variations are recognized by the AKC. Though, selective breeding created a wiry coat for dogs to work in places of thorny brier. The long-coated Dachshunds were bred for work in places that had a cooler climate.

Other Dachshund Hunting Qualities

Dachshunds are german dogs that have exceptionally long ears for their size.

Personality-wise, Dachshunds were designed to be courageous, intelligent, and resilient. In other words, ready to fight deadly foes in a strategic way. But at the same time, they had the mental fortitude to withstand long battles.

As well as having the right body type and characteristics, the Dachshund’s bark is reminiscent of its badger hunting roots and breeding. For the size of dog, a Dachshund’s bark is very loud and deep! Most owners tend to agree with this.

I know that barking is a breed trait, but our Miniature Dachshund will not stop barking at people and dogs when we are out on a walk, even after I say ahh ahh and no.

– Zoomies (Positively)

This deep bark was also bred into these dogs so that the Dachshunds’ owners could trace the underground locations of the dogs when they were out of sight. It’s especially useful when the dogs were out on night huntings tracking raccoons.

Unsurprisingly, Dachshunds aren’t great distance runners. They probably don’t even like to run too much. It’s not because they’re lazy, though. Rather, it’s because their role as badger hunters didn’t require them to run long distances.

What’s more, they’re not great at swimming. Of course, many Dachshunds can swim or can be taught to swim, but naturally, they’re not actually great swimmers. This is mostly due to their short legs. But the good news is badgers don’t swim either.

Breeding Dachshunds Today

The American Kennel Club Stud Book first accepted the Dachshund in 1885. From then on, the popularity of this dog steadily rose and it’s easy to see why. They make wonderful pets, though they’re even better companions.

Few Dachshunds are bred for hunting today. As the popularity of hunting has drastically fallen since its glory days, fewer Doxies are needed. Combine this with the amount of canine options, and hunting with Dachshunds has become a thing of the past.

Nowadays, there are two different size-types of Dachshund. The standard size Dachshund usually weighs between 16 and 32 pounds. On the other hand, the Miniature Dachshunds will weigh just 11 pounds or less.

Dachshunds will even differ in in terms of coat types. In other words, not all Dachshunds have the same exterior because Dachshunds are bred for different roles in different environments. In terms of variety, there are: smooth-haired, wire-haired, or long-haired.

The Modern Dachshund

Although their original purpose was badger hunting, they are bred today as family companions. As a matter of fact, they’re almost exclusively bred for companionship. Though that’s not to say that they’re not still hard-working dogs.

They are great at obedience, but require a bit of patience and positive reinforcement training. Though they may not be as eager to learn as a Golden Retriever, they aren’t dumb. Rather, the Doxie can be quite stubborn at times, so hang in there and they’ll come around. 

With little Dachshunds needed for hunting, breeding for temperament became a priority. Due to their popularity, though, lots of people choose to become Doxie breeders. Plus, not all of these breeders will do so because of the love of the breed, but rather for money.

If you’re looking for a Dachshund, make sure you choose a reputable breeder that screens their dogs for health problems and problems with temperament. And if you’re having a hard time, I’d suggest going to check out the AKC recognized breeders of merit.

They have quite a few reputable Dachshund breeders on their list.

Notable Dachshunds

One of the most famous Dachshund owners was former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. He purchased a Dachshund while traveling around Europe.

He named this dog Dunker but unfortunately, it never even left Germany because JFK was allergic! Perhaps, he should have picked a hypoallergenic dog breed instead.

Another famous Dachshund owner was pop artist Andy Warhol. In fact, he had two! They were called Archie and Amos and he incorporated them into his work.

In terms of famous Dachshunds, Obie gained fame because of his weight. He weighed over 77 pounds, which is more than double the weight of a standard Dachshund.

Fortunately, Obie lost more than double his weight to reach a target of 28 pounds in 2013. Needless to say, we’re extremely happy for him.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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