Dachshunds are scent hound dog breeds who were bred to hunt badgers and other tunneling animals, rabbits, and foxes. Packs of Dachshunds were even used to trail wild boar. Today their versatility makes them excellent family companions, show dogs, and small-game hunters.
Some writers and dachshund experts have theorized that the early roots of the dachshund go back to ancient Egypt, where engravings were made featuring short-legged hunting dogs. Recent discoveries by the American University in Cairo of mummified dachshund-like dogs from ancient Egyptian burial urns may lend credibility to this theory. In its modern incarnation, the dachshund is a creation of German breeders and includes elements of German, French, and English hounds and terriers. Dachshunds have been kept by royal courts all over Europe, including that of Queen Victoria, who was particularly enamored of the breed. They were originally bred for hunting badgers by trailing scent.
The Dachshund’s body is longer than it is tall, muscular with short legs. It has an elongated head and a slight, convex skull that is arched with protruding eyebrows. The muzzle is long. The jaw is robust with non-pendent lips. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The almond-shaped eyes are dark red or brown-black. The mobile ears hang long on its cheeks. The body has a strong protruding sternum and a moderately retracted abdomen. The tail is carried in line with its back. The short-haired Dachshund’s coat should be shiny, sleek and uniform.
There are three dachshund coat varieties: smooth coat (short hair), longhaired, and wirehaired. Longhaired dachshunds have a silky coat and short featherings on legs and ears. Wirehaired dachshunds are the least common coat variety in the US (it is the most common in Germany) and the most recent coat to appear in breeding standards.
Dachshunds have a wide variety of colors and patterns. Their base coloration can be single-colored (either red or cream), tan pointed (black and tan, chocolate and tan, blue and tan, or Isabella and tan), and in wirehaired dogs, a color referred to as wildboar. Patterns such as dapple (merle), sable, brindle and piebald also can occur on any of the base colors. Dachshunds in the same litter may be born in different coat colors depending on the genetic makeup of the parents. The dominant color in the breed is red, followed by black and tan. Tan pointed dogs have tan (or cream) markings over the eyes, ears, paws, and tail. The reds range from coppers to deep rusts, with or without somewhat common black hairs peppered along the back, face and ear edges, lending much character and an almost burnished appearance; this is referred to among breeders and enthusiasts as an “overlay” or “sabling”. Sabling should not be confused with a more unusual coat color referred to as sable. At a distance, a sable dachshund looks somewhat like a black and tan dog. Upon closer examination, however, one can observe that along the top of the dog’s body, each hair is actually banded with red at the base near the skin transitioning to mostly black along the length of the strand. An additional striking coat marking is the brindle pattern. “Brindle” refers to dark stripes over a solid background—usually red. If a dachshund is brindled on a dark coat and has tan points, it will have brindling on the tan points only. Even one single, lone stripe of brindle is a brindle. If a dachshund has one single spot of dapple, it is a dapple.
Dachshunds are a good choice for apartment dwellers and people who don’t have a backyard. They are popular with urban dwellers because of their small size and ease of care. They generally are active indoors and also enjoy going on walks. Just be careful not to let them get too fat or allow them to injure their backs by jumping off furniture. Also, be sure to support their backs when you are holding them. Because of their long backs, they are susceptible to slipped or ruptured (herniated) disks in their backs, which can result in partial or full paralysis.
Although they originally were bred to hunt ferocious badgers and other animals, today’s Dachshunds are ideal family companions. Additionally, many people show them in conformation, obedience, agility, field trials, and earthdog trials. They are also hard-working and well-appreciated therapy dogs. Some people enter their Dachshunds in Dachshund races, such as the Wiener Nationals.
The Dachshund is a versatile companion. With his variety of sizes, colors, coat types, and personalities, there’s a Dachshund to suit almost anyone.