Origin of the German Shepherd
As its name would suggest, the German Shepherd has its origins as a herding dog. The large size of the breed combined with their incredible intelligence makes them an ideal choice for not just herding livestock but also as an integrated part of the family.
In the early 1800’s shepherds in Germany worked towards identifying dogs in which they recognized the qualities that are needed for being strong herders of sheep. These traits include a high level of intelligence and keen instincts, agility combined with strength, and a strong sense of smell. This selective breeding resulted in high performing dogs that were able to skillfully navigate the tasks at hand. However, the selective breeding of great herding dogs resulted in dogs with a wide range of physical attributes.
In an effort to standardize the breeds, in 1891 the Phylax Society was formed in Germany; while the society was largely unsuccessful and ultimately broke apart after three short years it did serve the purpose of encouraging dog breeders to pursue their goals of standardizing breeds. At the core of the breakup of the Phylax Society was the conflict between members who believed that dogs should be bred purely for appearance, while others believed that dogs should be bred for their ability to work and perform tasks.
One of the society’s former members, Max von Stephanitz who was also a former veterinary student, held fast to his beliefs that the most important factor in breeding the dogs was to breed dogs that would excel as working dogs.
While attending a dog show in Germany, in 1899, Max von Stephanitz came across a large dog with a level of strength and intelligence unmatched by many others that he had previously seen. The dog was the result of generations of selective breeding and he highlighted all of the characteristics that Max von Stephanitz believed that a working dog should possess.
Upon purchasing the dog and changing his name to Horand von Grafrath, Max von Stephanitz then founded the Society For The German Shepherd Dog and added Horand to the registry as the first registered German Shepherd.
Through generations of careful and selective breeding, the German Shepherd has grown to become the loyal and hardworking dog that we know of today.