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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 American Kennel Club (AKC), the Dachshund is the 12th most popular dog breed in America. The AKC describe this breed as “friendly, curious, and spunky,” which is why so many people love them! But, what were Dachshunds bred to do? 

Originally, Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers. In fact, the German word for badger is “dach.” However, they weren’t solely used for hunting badger, but also fox and rabbit. They 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, however. Let’s take a deeper look at the Dachshund and why they were bred.

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The Origin of the Dachshund’s Name

As previously mentioned, the German word for badger is Dachs. Hund, on the other hand, means “dog”or “hound.” When put together, Dachshund, therefore, means “badger dog.”

Despite their German origin or name, modern Germans call these dogs Teckel or Dackel.

Due to their narrow and long bodies, Dachshunds are often referred to as “sausage dogs,” “hot dogs” or “wiener dogs.” But what you didn’t know is that hot dogs were originally called “dachshund sausages.”

Also, many English speakers often mispronounce the word Dachshund: it is pronounced DAKS-HUND and not DASH-HUND. It’s why we call these dogs “doxie” for short.

Why the Dachshund was Bred

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

As you may have guessed, Dachshunds are not bred for badger hunting anymore. In fact, their main purpose is to be a family pet or a cuddling lap dog.

Breeding a dog is not as straight forward as finding a male and a female. It’s actually much more complicated than that.

Firstly, 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.

Dachshund’s Physical Characteristics

We know now that Dachshund means “badger dog” and that it was bred to hunt badgers. This purpose dates back around 600 years! The breed was developed to dig into badger dens and flush the badgers out.

So, what physical characteristics and qualities did these dogs need for this type of work?

Long Body, Short Legs

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

A Dachshund is also muscular and has short and stubby legs, which were great for climbing underground to badger dens. Also, Dachshunds have front paws that are disproportionately large. They are shaped like paddles and are great for digging.

Other Physical Traits

They also have claws and teeth that are razor-sharp and weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, making them sturdy and ready for battle.

Other deliberate physical traits of the Dachshund are the curved tail and the flap-down ears. With the ears flapping down, the Dachshund avoided dirt and grass entering the ears.

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!

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 to chase pretty in tight burrows.

The chest of a Dachshund is deep. This was bred into the dog so that it had adequate lunch capacity, giving it increased stamina while hunting.

Their coats were further developed for certain conditions. Dachshunds can have 3 different coat types. The coat is either short and smooth, long, or wiry.

Selective breeding created the wiry coat for dogs to work in places of thorny brier. The long-coated Dachshunds were selectively bred for work in places that had a cooler climate.

Dachshund’s Purpose Driven Temperament

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 battle deadly foes in a strategic way.

As well as having the right body type and characteristics, the Dachshund’s bark is also reminiscent of its badger hunting roots and breeding.

For the size of dog, a Dachshund’s bark is very loud and deep! This was bred into the dogs so that the Dachshunds’ owner could trace the underground locations of the dogs when they were out of sight.

Unsurprisingly, Dachshunds aren’t great distance runners. This is 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.

The breed was standardized in terms of color varieties, coat, and size towards the latter stages of the 19th century.

The Modern Dachshund in America

The American Kennel Club Stud Book accepted the Dachshund in 1885. From then on, the popularity of this dog steadily rose and it’s easy to see why.

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 weigh 11 pounds or less.

They even differ in in terms of coat types. Not all Dachshunds have the same exterior because dachshunds were bred for different roles in different environments.

For their coats, they are classified as smooth-haired, wire-haired, or long-haired.

Breeding Dachshunds Today

Although their original purpose was badger hunting, they are bred today as family companions. 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. They’re been known to be quite stubborn at times, so hang in there and they’ll come around. 

Due to their popularity, though, lots of people choose to become Dachshund breeders. 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. 

If you’re having a hard time finding a reputable breeder, 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.

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