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The German Shepherd Dog origins - Thuringian "yard" dogs

The nature of the Thuringian is inherently an unbalanced, and therefore unstable one; suspended, as it is, on the point of adrenaline, between flight or fight. It is meant to be.

Historically, the written records of the Thuringian 'Yard' dog (stable-yard) go back six hundred years. They belong to a society diametrically opposed to that of the Swabian, so it is no wonder the temperament of the dog they created is diametrically opposed to that of the Swabian.

Thuringian dogs were the invention of gamekeepers and stable-masters entrusted with the management and protection of valued property. Stables contained horses and equipment and the supplies necessary to the horses’ maintenance and use. Gamekeepers were in charge of sometimes massive tracts of wooded land in which game, from rabbits and wild birds to deer and boar lived. Both stables and wooded lands were constantly under a sort of attack by people kept in starving, oppressed conditions by the wealthy landowners who owned the woods and the stables.

  Leather and buckles brought a premium price on what amounted to a black market, spurs could be sold to be melted down, even used horse shoes were of value. And horses ate corn and oats or barley, any of which could be used to enrich a poor man’s family’s fare enormously. A handful of grain thrown into soup or bread could add much needed nutrition, and make two meals out of a pot which would previously only stretched to one. The taking of the occasional rabbit or game bird could make the difference between starvation and survival. And the bit of twigs and branches gleaned in the woods could make a difference between freezing to death of a long winter’s night, and making it through.

The wealthy Landowner’s attitude, of course, was that all these things belonged to him, and the poor were a form of vermin anyway, and the more they were fed, the more they would reproduce so better they starve, they were valueless anyway. Such words are harsh, but that is pretty much the attitude of the great landowners in the centuries prior to 1900, particularly those of Saxon origin. (Try reading a little Dickens, some time!)

The Thuringian is not a stock dog in any herding sense of the word unless they were mixed, as they often were, with the herding dogs of Saxony or Swabia to create a Thuringian dog capable of herding. Today, some residue of herding instinct may remain from those crosses, but the likelihood is, for the dog predominantly Thuringian, that such residue is made up only of rags and tatters of whatever herding instinct those other breeds of dogs possessed.

Yard dogs chased stock, when they had anything to do with them at all. Their job was, first and last and foremost, to attack people. Their entire raison d'etre was to allow the wealthy men who owned them to enforce oppressive laws against the poor. They were bred, raised and trained to be agents of terror so that the people they were directed against could be better controlled. This type of use is not protection, and has never been protection though that misnomer is used as a euphemism in place of the kinds of words which would accurately describe their employment.