Dog & GSD History


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Evolution of the Dog
Dog and Man
GSD History



The dog traces its ancestry back to a five-toed, weasel-like animal called Miacis, which lived in the Eocene epoch about 40 million years ago. This animal was the forebearer of the cat, raccoon, bear, hyena, and civet, as well as of the wolf, fox, jackal, and dog. Miacis, undoubtedly a tree climber, probably also lived in a den. Like all den dwellers, it no doubt left its quarters for toilet functions so that the den would remain clean. The ease of housebreaking a modern dog probably harks back to this instinct. Next in evolutionary line from Miacis was an Oligocene animal called Cynodictis, which somewhat resembled the modern dog. Cynodictis lived about 20 million years ago. Its fifth toe, which would eventually become the dewclaw, showed signs of shortening. Cynodictis had 42 teeth and probably the anal glands that a dog still has. Cynodictis was also developing feet and toes suited for running. The modern civet a "living fossil" resembles that ancient animal (see Civet). After a few more intermediate stages the evolution of the dog moved on to the extremely doglike animal called Tomarctus, which lived about 10 million years ago during the late Miocene epoch. Tomarctus probably developed the strong social instincts that still prevail in the dog and most of its close relatives, excluding the fox. The Canidae, the family that includes the true dog and its close relatives, stemmed directly from Tomarctus. Members of the genus Canis which includes the dog, wolf, and jackal developed into their present form about a million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch.

Dogs and Man

Dogs have been with humans since prehistoric times and have been domesticated for most of human history. Stories have been told about brave dogs that served admirably in war or that risked their lives to save persons in danger. When Pompeii, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, was finally excavated, searchers found evidence of a dog lying across a child, apparently trying to protect the youngster. Dogs have served as a source of food, too. The ancient Romans are said to have prized certain kinds of dog stew. The Aztecs of ancient Mexico raised tiny dogs, thought to be the forebears of the chihuahua, to feed the large carnivores in the private zoos of the Aztec rulers.

Pre-Columbian artifact from the Tiahuanaco Culture
of South America (AD 700-1000)

Authorities agree that the dog was the first of man's domesticated animals. How and when this domestication took place, however, remains unknown. A 50,000-year-old cave painting in Europe seems to show a doglike animal hunting with men. But most experts believe the dog was domesticated only within the last 15,000 years. Moreover, fossil remains that would substantiate the presence of dogs with humans have not yet been unearthed for periods earlier than about 10,000 BC. One theory holds that humans took wolf pups back to their camp or cave, reared them, allowed the tame wolves to hunt with them, and later accepted pups of the tame wolves into the family circle. Another theory suggests that dogs were attracted to food scraps dumped as waste near human living sites. As they scavenged and kept the site clean, the dogs rendered a service to the humans. In turn, the humans would accept the presence of the scavengers and would not drive them away. Still other theories maintain that the dog was domesticated to pull sleds and other conveyances bearing the heavy game killed by humans, to provide a ready source of food, or to act as a sacrificial animal for magical or religious purposes. Studies of primitive human societies still in existence tend to substantiate some of these theories. Whatever the ultimate reason for the domestication of the dog, however, the final submission must have been the consequence of thousands of years of caution and "deliberation" by the dog before it would cast its lot with humans. Also, the dog, itself a hunter, had to suppress its desire to kill the other animals domesticated by humans. Instead, it had to learn to protect them.

Hunters In The Snow by Pieter Brueghel


The partnership between dog and master has long been shown in paintings and other art forms and in writings. Prehistoric paintings done about 15,000 years ago on the walls of Spanish caves show doglike animals accompanying humans on a hunt. Dogs are amply illustrated in the sculptures and pottery of ancient Assyria, Egypt, and Greece. The ancient Egyptians worshiped Anubis as the god of death. Anubis was portrayed with the head of a jackal or a dog. The Egyptians were great lovers of dogs and were responsible for developing many breeds by crossing dogs with jackals, wolves, and foxes. Homer, the Greek author of the Odyssey in the 9th century BC, is believed to be one of the first to write about dogs. They were mentioned often in his classic epic. The ancient Greeks believed that the gates of the underworld were guarded by a savage three-headed dog named Cerberus. The belief might have been derived from the widespread practice in Greece of using watchdogs. The ancient Romans relied on watchdogs, too. So many dogs were kept in the larger Roman cities that any house with a watchdog was required to have a sign warning "Cave Canem" (Beware the Dog). The Romans also used dogs for military purposes, some as attack dogs and some as messengers.

During the 400 years of the Han Dynasty of China, which began in the 3rd century BC, dogs were portrayed in many pieces of pottery. These were effigy pieces that symbolized the burial of favored dogs with their masters. Toy dogs were also popular among the ancient Chinese: the little animals were used to provide warmth when carried in the wide sleeves of their gowns.

Many of the European hound breeds were developed in the Middle Ages, when coursing was popular with the nobility. In coursing, the prey is pursued until exhausted. Then it is killed. Coursing was eventually replaced by fox hunting, which was considered less cruel. Throughout the years dogs have been bred for many reasons, such as for hunting, for herding, and for guarding. Breed histories and pedigrees, however, were not methodically compiled until the 19th century with the establishment of the first kennel clubs. The world's first dog show took place in Great Britain in 1859. The first all-breeds show in the United States was held in Detroit, Michigan, in 1875, although Chicago, Illinois was the site a year earlier of a show exclusively for sporting dogs. In 1884 the AKC was organized in New York City.


There are two basic head shapes a narrow skull with a long face and a wide skull with a short face plus several intermediate head shapes. Long-faced dogs, such as the German shepherd and the cocker spaniel, may have jaws eight inches long. By contrast, the nose of small-faced dogs, such as the Pekingese and the pug, may be less than an inch from the eyes.

Dogs have 42 teeth. Six pairs of sharp incisor teeth are in front of the mouth, flanked by two pairs of large canine ("dog") teeth. The other teeth are premolars and molars. The incisors and the canines are very important because the dog bites and tears at its food with these teeth. Air breathed in through the dog's nose passes on its way to the lungs through the two nasal cavities behind the nose. These cavities are lined by a mucous membrane containing many nerve endings stimulated by odors. Smell is the dog's most acute sense. A dog continually sniffs the air, the ground, and nearby objects to learn what is happening around it. Each of the dog's body cells contains 39 pairs of chromosomes (heredity-carrying structures), the most of any mammal.

A dog's ears either stick up or hang down. The earliest dogs probably had erect ears, but the ears began to droop in smaller, later breeds because of excessive ear skin. Dogs have a fine sense of hearing. They can hear sounds at frequencies too high for people to hear. This is why dogs can respond to "silent" whistles. Each eye of a dog has three eyelids, the main upper and lower lids and a third lid hidden between them in the inner corner of the eye. The third eyelid can sweep across the transparent cornea of the eye and clean it like a windshield wiper.

All dogs have 27 bones from the skull to the point where the tail begins. The number of tailbones, however, and therefore the length of the tail, varies from breed to breed.

The foot, or paw, has five toes. One of them the dewclaw is too high to be of any use. It is a vestigial part and is often surgically removed from puppies.The toes of the foot are composed of a number of bones. A toenail, or claw, emerges from the end of each toe. The foot also has cushiony pads for each toe and two larger pads farther up the paw. Dogs perspire through their pads. Each of the two hind limbs is connected to the body at the pelvic bone. The upper portion of the femur, or thighbone, fits into a socket in the pelvic bone to form the hip joint. The tibia and the fibula are beneath. They make up the lower thigh. The joint where their upper portions link with the femur is called the stifle. The joint where their lower portions link with the foot bones of the hind limbs is called the hock. Like the forefeet, the hind feet have pads and four functional toes, although a dewclaw is sometimes present.

When it meets another dog, its ear position indicates how interested it is in the newcomer. If its ears are erect, it is concentrating on the other. If its ears are pointing forward, it is on the alert. If the dog holds its tail high and wags it, the animal is happy and confident. If it drops its tail and remains still, the dog is apprehensive. If it pulls its tail between its legs, the dog is afraid. If on meeting a person or another dog it pulls back its lips and growls, it is making a threat. If it bares its teeth without growling, the dog is ready to attack and bite. A male dog establishes a territory by marking the boundaries with urine, scent from the anal glands, or even feces. The dog will then defend that territory against intruders. Every six or seven months a female dog goes into heat and will mate with nearly any available male within the three-week length of her heat. When a dog reaches old age, its eyes begin to weaken. Cataracts may also form in the lenses of its eyes. The hair on its muzzle turns gray. The old dog begins to feel numerous aches and pains and might become easily irritated and snap at members of the family. Its body systems are breaking down, and it can no longer behave as it did when younger.

GSD History

The German Shepherd Dog dog developed in Germany from traditional herding and farm dogs. A strongly built, relatively long-bodied dog, the German Shepherd stands 58 to 64 cm (23 to 25 inches) and weighs 34 to 43 kg (75 to 95 pounds). Its coat is of coarse, medium-long outer hair and shorter, dense inner hair and ranges from white or pale gray to black and is often gray and black or black and tan. Noted for intelligence, alertness, and loyalty, it is used as a guide for the blind and as a watchdog and also serves in police and military work.

Thr following is from AKC Breed Standard:

On April 22, 1899, the German Captain Max von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV), the first parent club of the breed now known as the German Shepherd Dog. The first German Shepherd Dog registered with the American Kennel Club was Queen of Switzerland (in 1908), who was shown in competition in New York that same year. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America's first specialty took place in Greenwich, Connecticut, on June 11, 1913. The German Shepherd Dog is known throughout the world for his uncanny intelligence and faithfulness. This versatile breed has well-earned the reputation as family companion, guide dog, police dog, and, of course, herder. The German Shepherd Dog is an excellent house-dog, but if you live in an apartment or a small house you will need to give your dog daily exercise. They are excellent travelers and love to ride in the car for long trips. They are truly a companion and can be taken everywhere - fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, etc.

Source material from Compton's Encyclopedia


1898 Horand von Grafrath SZ1

1901 Hector von Schwaben

1907 Roland von Starkenburg

1925 Klodo vom Boxberg

1929 Utz vom Haus Schütting

1950 Rolf v. Osnabrücker-Land

1972 Marco vom Cellerland

1990/91 Fanto vom Hirschel

Evolution of the GSD as we know it.

Source: The Real German Shepherd




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