Last Updated on November 30, 2021 by Marco
Many people today don’t realize that dachshunds were bred as hunting companions for centuries. So, what were dachshunds bred to hunt – here’s their surprising history.
Looking at a dachshund today, you’d be forgiven to think that these dogs were bred to be pets. However, as cute as they are, the purpose of their short legs and elongated bodies is actually much more vicious. Not only were dachshunds bred as hunting dogs, but they were bred as highly specialized and brutally effective hounds. But of what, exactly?
What Were Dachshunds Bred To Hunt Originally?
As with many other things in the canine world – the clue is in the name. Dachs-hund literally translates as Badger-hound in German. And that was indeed the primary hunting target of dachshunds – the many badgers roaming the woods in Germany. Other common targets were rabbits and foxes – all animals that like to burrow holes and/or hide underground.
So, as you can guess, the dachshund’s unique look is neither an accident nor is it just for appearances’ sake. Instead, dachshund breeders utilized and bred these dogs’ special dwarfism mutation to create a breed that’s especially good for getting into the burrows of badgers, foxes, and rabbits, and flushing them out for the hunters to get the kill.
Additionally, like other scent hound breeds, the dachshund was used to track the prey too. The Doxies’ low built, sharp sense of smell, and even their big ears all helped them find and follow the tracks of badgers, rabbits, and foxes across the forest’s floor.
Read more about: Why Do Dachshunds Have Webbed Feet?
Is Dachshund Badger Hunting Still A Thing?
Indeed they are. Dachshunds are among the Top 10 hunting dog breeds still used for their intended purpose today. In Europe, in particular, dachshunds are still a nightmare for many badgers, foxes, and rabbits during hunting season.
Doxies are less often used for hunting in the US. Instead, American hunters tend to favor other scent hound breeds such as Bloodhounds, Basset hounds, Coonhounds, and others. Still, even an American hunter will recognize the undeniable hunting prowess of the dachshund when it comes to the type of prey these dogs were bred for.
Are Dachshunds The Best Dog For Hunting Rabbits?
What breed is “best” can be pretty subjective. It depends on the type of rabbit, the type of environment, and the preferred style/method of hunting of the hunter. However, there is no question that, when used correctly, dachshunds are one of the best dog breeds for hunting rabbits.
Other prolific canine rabbit hunters people also use include the Basset hound, the Beagle, the Weimaraner, the Redbone Coonhound, and the Jack Russel Terrier. As you can see, these are all drastically different dog breeds in terms of size, speed, strength, and hunting style.
This further goes to show that the type of breed you’d describe as “best” depends on how and where you’re going to utilize it. If you want a pack hunter that methodically tracks rabbits through the forest, jumps into their burrows, and flushes them out for you – the dachshund is no doubt a top-notch choice.
Were Dachshunds Always A German Breed Or Does Their History Go Back Further?
Now that we know what dachshunds were bred to hunt, let’s look into what we know for certain about the dachshund’s history. For one we know that these dogs started to emerge as a hunting breed about 6 centuries ago, during the 15th century in Germany.
The assumption a lot of people make is that dachshunds were just bred from other dogs to have their dwarfism-related short legs and long bodies. And this is, indeed, the leading theory at the moment.
The breeds that may have gone into the making of the dachshund are quite a few. The ones most commonly mentioned are Pinschers, German Bibarhunds, Bloodhounds, the many possible Terrier breeds, Schweisshunds (Hanover Hound), and others.
All these are just a matter of speculation, however – they are just breeds that share the occasional physical feature with the dachshund and were present in Germany at the time of the dachshund’s emergence on the hunting scene.
Naturally, dachshunds are viewed almost as a national symbol of Germany. A dachshund was the mascot of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and you can also look into the curious dachshund bobblehead history.
A Weird Alternative
At the same time, however, there is an alternative theory – ancient Egypt! This can sound a bit far-fetched at first but there are hieroglyphics images of dogs found on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples that look very much like dachshunds – from the short legs and elongated bodies, to the narrow and elongated muzzle.
How Doxies might have found themselves in Germany centuries after they were used in ancient Egypt, however? The most likely answer is through the Roman Empire. We know that after the Roman occupation of Egypt, the Romans brought a lot of interesting items, tools, and even animals back to Europe with them. And, Middle Ages Germany did fancy itself as the direct ancestor of the Roman Empire.
Of course, it could just be that these were images of standard sighthounds. Maybe they just happened to be drawn with shorter legs? After all, there are also many long-legged dogs in those same murals. And, most sighthound breeds also have elongated bodies and narrow muzzles. So, this might just be artistic incompetence. Or, maybe doxies were bred from those same long-bodied, narrow-nosed sighthounds in ancient Egypt?
How Does The Dachshund’s Hunting History Affect Them Today?
Many dachshunds today are taken just as family pets and they certainly fit that role beautifully. However, their hunting instincts do come into play during their family life as well. A prime example is the dachshund’s prey drive.
This is something pretty much all scent hounds and sighthounds have. This prey drive can make life with non-canine pets a problem. Fortunately, dachshunds do seem to live well with cats when socialized well. However, knowing what were dachshunds bred to hunt, getting a dachshund to live with your rabbit may not be a great idea.
Another remnant of their hunting days is an affinity for digging. So, you’d better make sure that your yard’s fence is secure – more so below ground than above it. Other than that, however, a pet dachshund will be the perfect retired hunter – happy and content with the indoor family life.
Jordan is an animal–lover who specializes in dachshunds. He has owned and cared for dachshunds since he was a child, and his passion for these unique dogs has only grown with time. Jordan is an avid researcher and learner, and spends a large portion of his free time studying the history, behaviour, and health of dachshunds. He has a knack for training and socializing his own dogs, and loves introducing them to new experiences. When not caring for his own pets, Jordan likes to volunteer at local animal rescue shelters, helping to find homes for abandoned dachshunds. He is a true animal advocate, and dedicates his time to ensure that all animals receive the love, respect, and care they deserve.