1880 Sheep herding dog
It’s generally known that "Max von Stephanitz"
started the German Shepherd breed. Lesser known facts are,
that this man had a keen interest in, and extensive knowledge of, physiology,
anatomy, mammalian natural history and evolution, theories of breeding,
animal husbandry, and derivation and characteristics of the canine species.
He was a cavalry officer only for social reasons, to satisfy his well to do,
stuffed shirt family. It was no accident that he selected his original
breeding stock exclusively from herding dogs, and not from farm or estate guard
dogs, war or attack dogs, or British show dogs, which were the four prevalent
types of dogs in Germany at the time. He knew that only the intelligence of a herding dog
could make a perfect companion dog, based on his background knowledge and his
experience with Germany’s first Shepherd club, the "Phylax
Society". It had formed in 1881 but failed after only three years
because of it’s emphasis on pretty show dogs.
On April 22, 1899, Max von Stephanitz and his friend Artur
Meyer, together with nine others, formed the "Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde"
(German Shepherd Dog Society), known by most Germans
and most dog lovers around the world simply as "SV". Because of Max
von Stephanitz’s outstanding background knowledge,
the group made him the first President and General manager of the SV, which
he led until 1935 with military precision and true German Gründlichkeit
(thoroughness). If it’s worth doing, do it right the first time. He soon
wrote the first breed standard for the German Shepherd Dog with emphasis on
"utility and intelligence". It contained the sentence: A pleasing appearance is
desirable, but it can NOT put the dog’s working ability into question!
And to be certain he wouldn’t be misunderstood, he
coined the phrase: "German Shepherd breeding is Working Dog breeding, or
it is not German Shepherd breeding" which became world famous. By enforcing those rules with
an iron fist during his term as president of the SV, the German Shepherd Dog
became the world's most useful working dog, be it as police and military
service dog, search and rescue dog, personal protection dog, guide dog for
the blind, helper dog for the deaf, farm and property protection dog, and
many other uses. Anyone doubting the superior abilities of Max von Stephanitz,
take a look at how rapidly he developed the GSD in the first 8 years.
During the second world war, the GSD in Germany experienced
unbelievable hardship by being slaughtered by the thousands, as the military
confiscated any dog they could find, regardless of family attachment or
breeding value, and through mis-formed, stunted and
diseased puppies being born due to widespread malnutrition. The few dogs
surviving the war were tough and lean, and almost represent a new start for
the breed in Germany. The two most influential survivors of the war were "Rolf vom Osnabrücker-Land" and
"Axel von der Deininghauserheide".
Together with "Hein vom Richterbach"
those 3 dogs rebuilt the German Shepherd in Germany after the war.
The overwhelming world wide success of the German Shepherd Dog is
proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that "von Stephanitz’s"
theories were absolutely correct. Yet, it is sad to see that more and more
breeders today ignore his well founded and proven wisdom, especially in North America. But even in Germany, there developed a split between pure, old-fashioned working
shepherd breeders, and trendy show shepherd breeders. This "show"
trend started after the second world war and was most likely the result of
some German breeders trying to cater to that new
American style GSD that had developed during the war, and those promising big
American bucks. All this may not be apparent to an outsider, because the SV
retained the old rules and safeguards established by Max von Stephanitz, and as a result has a breeder/trainer guidance system
in place that is unrivalled in the world and is
beyond the imagination of most non-Germans. It is the reason
why "GERMAN" German Shepherds, regardless of show or working blood lines, are still the worlds best and most in demand German
Shepherds. And of course, the lack of any kind of a breeder guidance system
in North America is the main reason for the huge variations in size, shape, and poor
quality of the American Shepherds
bred here (USA and Canada).
information, see: Recommended books on German Shepherds