For those of you who are familiar with the German Shepherd Dog but may not know some of this wonderful dog's history, here are a few facts about this breed that just might surprise you!
1) The GSD started in 1889 with a dog by the name of Hector Linksrhein. He was purchased by Max von Stephanitz who was impressed with his many qualities of endurance, steadiness and intelligence. He changed the dog's name to Horand Von Grafrath, and the rest is history!
As Germany became more industrialized in the following years, von Stephanitz realized his dog's popularity may decline as the need for working dogs would decline. To maintain their revelance, he worked with police and other service workers to secure a place in the working force for his dogs.
2) When the original GSD club formed, they imparted a motto unto the German Shepherd Dog: Utility and Intelligence.
3) In Germany, the breed is called Deutscher Schaferhund, which translates to German Shepherd Dog in English.
4) The first GSD shown in America was in 1907 and the GSD club of America was formed in 1913.
5) In 1917 a GSD by the name of Filax of Lewanno was honored at Westminster for bringing 54 wounded soldiers to safety in WW1. During WW1 Germans used the dogs for a variety of purposes. Mercy dogs brought first aid to wounded soldiers after the battle and they would also stay near dying soldiers to keep them company as they (the soldier) passed away. The GSD also delivered messages and worked as guard dogs.
6) In 1917 as well the AKC dropped the "German" from the GSD name. It remained that way until 1930 when it was voted back in by members of the Breed club. Also after WW1 England changed the dog's name completely to Alsatian Working Dog, because of the not-so-favorable perception of Germany at the time.
7) Speaking of names, do you know just why the actual word, "dog" is included in their name? Well, it was so that people would know if you were talking about the human German shepherd out in the field minding the herd or his German Shepherd dog assisting him!
8) The type of herding a GSD does is properly called "tending". Where a herding dog such as a Border Collie will fetch and drive (bringing in or pushing the sheep away) the GSD will tend, or contain the sheep within a designated area. When the GSD was developed, there were no fences and the dog or dogs had to contain the animals in an area up to 10 acres, not allowing them into crops or other fields until directed to do so. Then they would have to move the herd enmass to the new field. This took a dog that could think for himself and act appropriately. There is an association (with a website) where you can find out more about this: The American Tending Breeds Association.
9) The GSD is rated #2 in overall popularity in the US, it is rated #3 for intelligence(behind the Poodle and the Border Collie), is rated #4 for sense of smell (the Bloodhound, Basset Hound and Beagle are better) and is rated #8 for shedding. Something you may want to keep in mind, especially point #4 as daily brushing is a must if you want to keep the hair in the house to a minimum. As it has been pointed out, the GSD only sheds once a year, but it lasts for 365 days. Although for those of us who are owned by these dogs, the hair is worth it! And a side note, it doesn't matter which coat they have, Standard or Long, they will still shed.
10) The life span of a GSD is 9-14 years, the median being 10.95 years.
11) They were the first dogs trained as guide dogs for men blinded in Germany in WW1. Mrs. Harrison Eustis founded "The Seeing Eyes" in 1929 to train GSDs exclusively as seeing eye dogs in Switzerland.
12) Schutzhund was delveloped in the 1900s specifically for the GSD to test the natural instincts of the breed and to weed out dogs that were unstable or untrainable. It worked, as a GSD will learn simple tasks after 5 repetitions and they will usually obey the first command given 95% of the time.
13) They have a bite force of 238#s, compared to you, who will have a bite force of 86#s. They also have 42 teeth associated with that bite, 20 on top and 22 on the bottom.
14) The AKC recognizes 11 different coat colors for the GSD. These are: Bi-color, Black, Black and Cream, Black and Red, Black and Silver, Black and Tan, Blue, Gray, Liver, Sable and White. And although white is a recognized color, it is not allowed to compete in AKC shows.
15) You may have also noticed that not all Shepherds look the same as far as their coat lengths. The different coat types you may see are: Short coat, which you see in American lines and working dog lines. Some short coats can be as short as a Labrador. Stock coat, longer than the short coat and always with an undercoat. The West German Show Lines will have a fuller, slightly longer coat than what you see through the American lines. Long Stock Coat, fuller coat with fringe around the ears and the back of the legs, and they will also have the undercoat. This coat is from a recessive gene, making them rare and very desirable. Long coats will have long, flowing coats with a "part" down the back and they will not have an undercoat, they are not able to be bred in Germany since the undercoat is very important in weather-proofing the shepherd for his work. They can be shown overseas, but their coats are considered a fault in America and cannot be shown. Plush is strictly an American term referring to stock or long stock coats.
16) Two GSDs grace the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a Star. The most famous is Rin Tin Tin who was rescued from a WW1 battlefield by an American soldier and went on to star in many movies in the 1920s. He was actually named after a French puppet, since he was bred and rescued in France. The other was also a 1920's star by the name of Strongheart who also starred in many films of his own.
17) A German Shepherd by the name of Orient was a seeing eye dog for his owner, Bill Irwin. Orient guided Bill on their 2,100 mile trek across the Appalachian Trail in 1990, making Bill the first blind man to make this journey in a single hiking session accompanied by no one but Orient. This event was made into a movie, Blind Courage.
18) Speaking of GSD ownership(this one's for all of you super hero lovers), Batman had a German Shepherd that went by the name of Ace the Bat-Hound. He was also a costumed crime fighter and was most popular from the years 1954-1964. From '64-'07 his appearance became a bit more sporatic as the caped crusader started going solo and instead used more help from his 2-legged sidekicks.
19) 9/11 saw the largest number of search and rescue dogs deployed in U.S. History, over 350 dogs. A German Shepherd by the name of Trakr was responsible for finding the last of the 20 survivors, a woman by the name of Genelle Guzman who had been trapped on the 13th floor for 26 hours until Trakr found her. Since then, an effort has been made to clone Trakr.
These facts were compiled from: The AKC website under: Meet the German Shepherd; mental_floss-10 noble facts about german shepherds; fourleggedguru.com-German Shepherd Facts: 8 Things Everyone Should Know and iheartdogs.com-15 Things You Didn't Know About the GSD and a variety of other websites. The facts about Bill Irwin were compiled from the internet.