During the 1850s in Europe, efforts were executed to standardize dog breeds. Canines were bred to help preserve traits which helped these dogs to successfully carry out their tasks of protecting their flock of sheep wards from predators as well as to herd them from field to barn and vice versa. This was practiced amongst local communities in Germany where select dogs were bred by shepherds.
It was noted far and wide that the GS was a breed who possessed the necessary skills and abilities required herding sheep. It displayed intelligence, strength, speed and most importantly, a very keen sense of smell. The outcome of this selection breeding was that the canines showed highly skilled aptitude to carry out these tasks well. It was noted that the canines differed from each other significantly in appearance and ability from one locality to the next.
Division and Disagreement
In 1891, Phylax Society was founded with intent to create development plans for native canine breeds in Germany. After three years and countless internal conflicts regarding what dog traits the society should promote, the society disbanded. These internal conflicts would pose a problem in the advancement of discussions about standardizing the breed. The members were divided on what they believed should be promoted and bred in the canines. Some members believed that the canines should purposely be bred solely to work, whilst others pursued the notion that the canines should also be bred for its appearance.
While unsuccessful with their aim to standardize breeds, the Phylax Society paved the way and inspired dog aficionados after them to pursue the standardization of dog breeds independently. Tailing the rise of large, bustling, industrial cities in Germany a drop was noted in the predator population along with the occurrence of animal attacks. This rendered sheepdogs to become redundantly unnecessary. Moreover, the cognizance of sheepdogs as an intelligent, versatile sort of canine commenced to increase.
The GSD Catches the Fancy of an Avid Aficionado
Ex-cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, Max von Stephanitz, was a former member of the defunct Phylax Society, and he stood his ground believing that canines should be bred for employment. He extolled and explored the innate intelligence, ability and strength of the native sheepdogs of Germany but was unsuccessful in singling out a particular breed which satisfied his ideology of a perfect working dog.
Von Stephanitz attended a dog show in 1899 where he was presented to and met a canine given the moniker Hektor Linksrhein. A product of a few generations of selective breeding, Hektor absolutely fulfilled Von Stephanitz vision of what a working canine is to be. He was very happy to witness the strength of the dog and was instantly taken with the intelligence of the handsome animal, its loyalty, beauty and stature that solidified Max’s decision to purchase the canine Hektor instantly.
After taking ownership and committing to be guardian to the canine, Max changed the dog’s name to Horand von Grafrath and Von Stephanitz proceeded to establish Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde or the Society for the German Shepherd Dog. The GS, Horand was the first canine added to the society’s registry of breeds.
The Important Role of Horand to the Breed We Know Today
Horand went on to become the centerpoint of breeding programs and was paired with dogs owned by other society members who showed desirable traits and attributes. Horand was also bred with dogs from Franconia, Wurtemberg and Thuringia. The very important Horand fathered many pups, the most successful pup being Hektor von Schwaben.
Hektor von Schwaben was inbred with another of Horand’s pups and this union produced Heinz von Starkenburg, Pilot and Beowulf. Pilot went on to later father eighty four puppies when he was inbred with other offsprings of Hektor. Inbreeding procedures were deemed fundamental in order to fix the traits they sought from the breed. The original studbook of the German Shepherd, Zuchtbuch für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SZ), there are four Wolf Crosses. Found in two entry pages SZ No.41 to SZ No. 76. Beowulf’s offspring were inbred as well and it is from these puppies that all German Shepherds of the present day draw genetic lineage.
It was through the uncompromising, strong leadership of Max von Stephanitz, it is held, that the society accomplished its goal of standardizing the breed. Von Stephanitz is credited therefore as being the creator of the German Shepherd Do
An unpopular Name for a preferred Dog.
The categorical translation of this name was adopted so it could be used in the official breed registry. However, at the end of the First World War it was observed that including the word “German” would harm the popularity of the breed owing largely to the anti-German sentiment of that era. The United Kingdom Kennel Club officially renamed the breed to “Alsatian Wolf Dog”, taking its name from the French region of Alsace which bordered Germany. Hereafter, this name was later adopted by countless other kennel clubs around the world.
Sometime later, the “wolf dog” appendage was dropped from the title when breeders went on countless campaigns to remove part of the moniker which they believed may dissuade aficionados from acquiring and employing German Shepherds. These breeders were uneasy about this appendage added to its name and figured that the canine’s legality and popularity would be greatly affected if they remain to be known as a wolf dog hybrid.
The moniker “Alsatian” stuck around for the next five decades until successful campaigns by dog enthusiasts in 1977 pressured the kennel clubs of Great Britain to allow the breed to once again be registered as German Shepherds. The name “Alsatian” would still appear in parentheses showing it as part of the formal breed and was hence removed altogether in 2010.