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The German Shepherd Dogs: Origins - Swabian Shepherds





Whenever you look up German Shepherd dogs in any dog book, you will be told that the breed is comparatively new - this is true.  What most of the books will not tell you is that the German Shepherd dog was developed largely from two old breeds of dogs.  The two main constituents are the Swabian/Wurttemberger shepherd dog and the Thuringian 'yard' dog.

At the time that Rittmeister (Cavalry Captain) Max von Stephanitz began his quest to develop a recognizable National breed of dog, he was able to find written records of the Swabian shepherd dog going back to the 13th century.  The Swabian/Wurttemberger dogs were the shepherd dogs, the Thuringian dogs were used to guard stables with their horses, carriages, tack and feed, as well as hunt poachers (an activity very similar to their later day use as concentration and prisoner of war guards and border patrol).

The medieval parameters of the area called 'Swabia' were rather large - the area covered what is now Bavaria (the northern Alps), the Black Forest, the Jura Mountains, most of what is now the state of Baden-Wurttemberger and it borders on the French Alsace-Lorraine and Westphalia. Much of this area is very rugged, with very cold winters and a lot of snow, making the Swabian dogs the fount of the "double coat" von Stephanitz speaks of in his description of proper coats.  The Swabian dogs also were know to have 'long stock' coats, also mentioned by Stephanitz.  In 1806, with the Dukes of Wurttemberger were elevated to kingship, they renamed the area they claimed - which was most of Swabia - for themselves.  In such, Swabia became Wurttemberger.

The rootstock of the people who settled this area was Celtic, and this is important to remember, because the character of the Celt was/is quite different from the character of the Hun-Saxon people who settled Saxony and Thuringia.  These characteristics directly affected the character of the dogs they bred and raised.

Swabian dogs are the genetic root of large size in German shepherds, and of the easier, mellower temperament, dogs slow to bite, and good with children.  They are also the root of the stock, long stock, and long coat German shepherds.  In an article Stephanitz wrote about 'ambulance' dogs, he recommended that those dogs have large influences of the old Swabian blood because it it made them easier for the medics and other ambulance personnel who were often not expert dog handlers to work with.  In today's assistance dog work - such as guide dogs - it is important to include a lot of old Swabian blood to get the necessary temperament with its nurturing sense of responsibility needed for the work.
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