German Shepherds weren’t always German, but they were always shepherds. Now, you may think this is kind of a misnomer. In a way it is. However, we would have to go back to early 1800s northwest Europe to understand what I’m talking about.
At that time, what’s known today as the German Shepherd was identified as a “continental shepherd dog”. It wasn’t even until 1899 that the first German Shepherd dog, as we know it today, was bred for the first time.
In the 1800s, continental shepherd dogs were commonplace in Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands. These dogs were very useful for farmers. A farmer, who had sheep, as well as other animals, could not protect his flock from predators at all hours. Instead, in the farmer’s absence, a continental shepherd dog would serve as the protector of the flock. Today, hundreds of years later, we still see the fierce traits of its ancestor in the German Shepherd. For this reason, the German Shepherd is not known as a friendly dog! It’s common to see a “BEWARE OF DOG” sign on the property of German Shepherd owners.
When industrialization came to Europe, the wild predator numbers decreased. At the same time, continental shepherd dogs became less necessary. Could these dogs still have some use in society? Surely, because ferocity was only one of the many traits of the continental shepherd dogs. Ability, intelligence, loyalty, and strength are among additional traits of this dog. Therefore, the dog was “reassigned”, in a way, and became a work dog. Today, German Shepherds are sometimes still used in the professional realm. First among these are police dogs.
The German Shepherd got its name from a German, unsurprisingly. Max von Stephanitz, a German ex-cavalry captain and one-time veterinary student, christened the dog. Stephanitz, in a same way, was also the person who spread the idea the German Shepherd be bred as a working dog.
And so we have the origins the German Shepherd. Be sure to come back next week, for Part 2!