Weiner dogs, or dachshunds (pronounced "docks-hoond"), are one of the most recognizable breeds of dogs.
With their long ears, long noses, long tails, long bodies, and itty-bitty little legs, they look like no other breed; like they were put together by a dysfunctional committee.
What You Can Expect from a Dachshund
If you've ever met a dachshund, you know his personality is as big as his body is small. He is friendly, loyal to his family, spunky, and brave nearly to a fault. In fact, the American Kennel Club standards includes in its description of temperament as "courageous to the point of rashness."
But all of these qualities, both physical and personality, are intentional. Dachshunds were bred in Germany for a very specific purpose: hunting badgers. Their name when translated says it all: "dachs" is German for badger, and "hund" is German for hound.
Badgers are burrowing animals with vicious temperaments. German hunters wanted a dog that could help drive these animals from their dens and corner them out in the open so the hunters could finish the badgers off.
Several hundred years ago breeders started working on a dog that would help these hunters. Long noses allowed the dog to have more scent receptors for better sense of smell. Their long ears also helped gather scents around the nose to aid the dogs in tracking prey.
Paddle-like front feet made it easier for the dogs to dig down to badger's dens. Their short legs and long bodies helped the dogs maneuver in underground tunnels. Their long, thick tails enabled their masters to pull them out by their tails if they got into trouble in a tunnel.
Even their broad, barrel-shaped chests were specifically bred so the dogs would have a larger lung capacity to hold more air and breathe underground. The original dachshunds, which weighed 30 to 40 pounds, were somewhat larger than most seen today. Dachshunds can run surprisingly fast, (especially considering their short legs) and packs of dachshunds were used to hunt wild boars and foxes. They would even track deer that had been wounded by hunters, and proved so useful that smaller dachshunds were developed to hunt rabbits.
The original dachshunds were smooth-haired. Wire-haired dachshunds were developed to hunt in briar and thorn bushes. There are also long-haired dachshunds.
How They Fit in Today
Though these little dogs were originally bred as hunters, and brave ones at that, today they are more often a companion dog. With the exception of the years during World War I and World War II when anti-German sentiment was high, dachshunds have always been in the top 20 in popularity of dog breeds in the United States.
The next time you see one of these little dogs walking proudly with his owner, little legs trotting right along, show him the respect his Napoleonic ego desires. Despite his comical appearance, he's a well-honed specimen of dog engineering.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.