‘Dachshund’ is German for ‘Badger Dog’ but in English the breed is commonly known as the ‘Sausage Dog’ (or ‘Wiener Dog’ in America). There are three varieties in varying shades of brown and black: the smooth-haired, the long-haired and the wire-haired. A stretch version is also available for weddings and other special occasions.
The temperament is plucky and individual, and with its loud bark and exceptional hearing the Dachshund makes a surprisingly effective guard dog. Like many other small breeds, these little fellows do not take kindly to strangers or children, though these can be tolerated in small doses, more so if the dog is regularly familiarized with outsiders from an early age.
Bred in the UK for their sweet, pork-flavoured flesh until the practice was outlawed in 1827 with the passing of the Consumption of Dogs Act, the Dachshund’s unique and distinctive shape was developed through centuries of selective breeding. The legs tended to be somewhat neglected as there was not much meat there to be had, whilst longer-bodied examples were highly prized for the size of the ‘sausage’: the long fillet produced when the animal is slaughtered and boned. Though the Dachshund is no longer customarily eaten in the UK and is now a familiar household pet these breeding preferences have been maintained for showing purposes and so it remains the case that, generally speaking, the longer the dog’s body and the shorter its legs the better. In the early 1980s, Herr Flasche (Mr. Bottle), a Dachshund with one inch legs and a body nearly three feet in length dominated at Crufts, winning Best of Breed in 1981, Best in Group in 1982 and Best in Show in 1983.
Interestingly, the Dachshund is one of only two breeds of dog in the world that is not a mammal (the other is the Shar Pei). Females lay clutches of six or so eggs at a time in a nest made from straw and other material. Unfortunately, a high level of infant mortality is normal for this breed, and usually only one or two of the hatchlings will survive.
The dog has long been associated with Germany and in 1972 a multi-coloured example named Waldi was chosen as the official mascot of the Munich Summer Olympics. Much favoured by artistic types, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and David Hockney were all proud owners. Radclyffe Hall, one of Britain’s finest lesbian writers, successfully bred Dachshunds for many years with her lover, Lady Trowbridge. The resulting hybrid progeny were, of course, eventually destroyed.