Some say the Weimaraner is not so much a real dog as a ghoulish apparition that goes by the name ‘The Grey Ghost’ and is consigned to forever wander the lonely corridors of Rhineland castles, moaning its characteristic, high-pitched wail deep into the dark, dark night. Others refuse to acknowledge its existence at all whilst others still simply describe it, somewhat unhelpfully, as ‘moonlight on chocolate.’ What, then, is the Weimaraner? Clearly, it is whatever you want it to be. Like the second person subject of Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’ it is ‘Napoleon brandy’, a ‘turkey dinner’, even, if you will, ‘Mahatma Gandhi.’ However, this was not always the case. At one time the Weimaraner was flavour of the month, dish of the day, le chien à la mode; not so much grey geist as zeitgeist. Here, for the first time, the real story of this remarkable, enigmatic and much-maligned breed can finally be told.
In the eighteenth century, the athletically-bodied Weimaraner, a fine hunting companion, could often be found accompanying Goethe, Schiller, and Herder on one of their many forays deep into the Thuringian Forest to harvest the rich fauna of the Weimar region. These were the breed’s salad days, when it was able to engage its fearsome intellect with some of the finest thinkers of the time and indulge in many of the pleasures and pastimes strictly reserved for the German aristocracy. After the hubristic revelries of World War I, however, the Weimaraner fell upon hard times. In a misguided attempt to revive its fortunes it formed the ill-fated Weimar Republic and could often be seen forlornly pushing a wheelbarrow full of Deutschmarks through the wooded hillocks of its homeland, bemoaning the fact that its wheelbarrow was worth more than its money. A desperate attempt to control spiralling inflation by flooding the market with wheelbarrows followed but ultimately failed and, indeed, contributed to the rise in popularity of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. By the early 1930s, Adolf Hitler had driven the Weimaraner from power and the sorry hound had retired to its forest retreat to lick its wounds. It was rarely sighted again until the demise of the Third Reich in 1945.
Now, in the early twenty first century, the breed is making a somewhat tentative comeback. Popular with narcissists, the Weimaraner can sometimes be seen gracing the homes of Europe’s elite and, across the pond, Ivy League alumni. Yet, even today, very little is known about this magical beast, though the following snippet from the International Canine Breeds Association (ICBA) handbook is generally held to be accurate and may be of some use:
‘The Weimaraner never sleeps. It lives in a tree, wears feathers in its cap and plays the flute. Its body and eyes are made of steel. It can retract an injured limb at will and continue to travel on three legs until a suitable repairer is found. When the Weimaraner cries, it cries tears of pure, liquid gold.‘