The German Shepherd Dog was developed by Captain Max Von Stephanitz (Germany) from a
dog the Captain purchased in 1899 and renamed Horand von Grafrath. He felt Horand
possessed the traits a great working dog should have including a demonstration of strength,
intelligence and loyalty, The Captain then founded the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde,
the world's first registry for the GSD. Horand became the Breed's first registered dog.
Horand himself was the product of many generations of selectively breeding for herding dog
characteristics and ability. Horand was bred to many bitches the Captain believed possessed
the traits he sought. The most successful of Horand's male offspring was Hektor von
Schwaben who was inbred with a bitch also sired by Horand. This produced Beowulf who
sired eighty-four pups mainly by being inbred with other bitches sired by Hektor. Beowulf's
offspring were then further inbred and it was this program that produced the stamp of
consistency for the root stock of the German Shepherd Dog. The consistency of "type" for
the three mentioned sires being the genesis of the Breed can be seen to the right. Note the
smooth flowing, eye-appealing top line of the three sires. Also, note that Horand's maternal
grandmother pictured in his pedigree appears to be a white coated dog which may be part
explanation for the "white GSD" which was an acceptable coat color originally and found in
early dogs but later discouraged for, I believe, no sound reason.
In the early 1900's the Captain selected as VA SGR (i.e.: top male) a dog that had great
influence on the Breed, Hettel Uckermark. Then, in 1925, known as the year that separated
the "old blood" from the "new blood" the Captain held an arduous two day marathon for males competing for "top male." The dogs were required to
circle the large show ring hour after hour after hour. Previous to this notable
event the Captain had determined that the noted dogs of the Breed had become
too tall, leggier and of square structure that detracted from the Breed's
physical working ability and appearance. This was a momentous event for the
Breed and set in motion the future appearance of the German Shepherd Dog.
The Captain selected as the new World's Sieger, VA1 Klodo vom Boxberg.
Klodo was a dog lower to the ground, deeper and longer than his predecessors, while being
short in loin and back. Klodo had proven his endurance during the arduous two day motion
marathon. He was beautifully proportioned and had a fearless character. The Captain had put
an end to the possibility of the Breed becoming oversized square dogs. Klodo was also
line-bred on the great Hettel Uckermark. Klodo was prepotent and sired many great and near great off-spring. By the end of 1925, Klodo was sold to American, A.C. Gilbert, the noted Gilbert toy manufacturer. To this day the Breed owes much to Klodo and the Captain for departing from the then norm by naming Klodo Sieger.
At that point, (1925) the stock was close to the Breed's foundation. That is, dogs that WORKED for a living. Likewise, dogs that were being bred in Germany in 1925 had to prove their worth as working dogs by earning working titles, thus insuring trainability, working ability and the intelligence the Captain so admired.
Meanwhile, GI's that had returned to America after WW I had told tails of the marvelous German Shepherd which contributed to the Breed's notoriety in the USA. Early motion pictures of Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin further accounted for the notoriety and popularity of the Breed. First in line of the many Rin Tin Tin movie stars was a dark sable pup found in France and brought back from the war by a GI named Lee Duncan. Rinty is said to have lived from 1918 to 1932. Strongheart (1917 - 1929), the first German Shepherd movie star was bought by an American kennel as an aggressive three year old police trained guard dog in Germany. A professional animal trainer retrained Strongheart. He became quite socialized and trained for the silent movies. Strongheart, said to weigh 115 to 125 pounds, soon became a beloved canine idol. Although preceding Rin Tin Tin in the movies, it was the two of them that had, to a significant degree, set in motion the great impact the Breed had upon the American public. Strongheart's pedigree included Horand, Hektor and Hettel while Rinty could not be registered in America as his papers were incomplete.
From Horand, through WW I and up till the rise of the Nazi regime, the Captain maintained control of the Breed in Germany through the German Shepherd Dog Registry in Germany, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV). The on-set of Nazi power brought an end to the Captain's guardianship of the Breed and reign as head of the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde. Captain von Stephanitz died in 1936 a year after the Nazis had taken the SV away from him by threatening him with internment in a concentration camp.
As for North America, the first German Shepherd Dog to actually be registered in the United States was a dog named Queen of Switzerland registered in 1908. Unfortunately, her offspring had defects and failed to live up to expectations. These defects were passed on by breeders breeding this line. Therefore, the Breed started to initially gain popularity but as word and evidence of these defects increased in the Breed, the Breed's popularity took a down-swing in the late 1920's. Queen's lines were eventually eliminated from our breeding stock and thanks to the lingering memories of wonder-dogs Rinty and Strongheart, the Breed was to rise again in popularity. It only took the right circumstances. The right circumstances took hold with the importation of Klodo whose bloodline lived on for future generations. Later, the importation of such dogs as SGR, GV CH. ROM (US) Pfeffer von Bern and, V. Ch(US) Brando vom Heidelbeerberg (pictured below), imported before WW II and Ch. Bernd vom Kallengarten ROM after WW II. Naturally,there were other imports that helped to save the Breed in addition to some excellent American line dogs.
As for Pfeffer, he was imported in 1936. He was an important reason interest in the Breed went on the rise. In both 1937 and 1938 Pfeffer became the Breed's Grand Victor. However, the on-set of Nazi Germany brought about another decline in popularity until after World War II, due to anti-German sentiments of the time.
A major player in keeping the Breed alive and well in North America was Earnest Loeb, known as "Mr. German Shepherd." He was born in Germany to a family that bred Rottweilers but as a young person fell in love with the German Shepherd Dog. He began showing the Breed, sometimes under the judgeship of the Captain himself. By his 20s, Earnest had a reputation in Germany for great skill in assessing GSDs and handling them in the show ring. However, when he was about 24, Earnest was barred from SV membership as he was Jewish. Some of his fellow dog enthusiasts shunned him, being afraid to be seen with him. Also, the Nazis began their confiscation of all dogs belonging to Jewish breeders. Seeing the writing on the wall Earnest fled Germany,
Earnest immigrated to America in 1934. Here he met and went to work for John Gans, another person whose kennel was of vital import to the Breed. In 1935, from a class of eighty-seven dogs, Earnest took Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show. This win made Earnest a sought-after handler and evaluator of GSDs. Having contacts in Germany and speaking the language, GSD enthusiasts began asking him about the best breeding stock in Germany. So, German Shepherd Dogs being the center of his life and, at substantial personal risk, Earnest decided to make return trips to Germany to buy and import to the USA the best dogs he could find. He had the help of German friends that stayed loyal to him notwithstanding the climate in Germany. Among the dogs he brought back before the war was Pfeffer pictured below). After Pfeffer became the US Grand Victor in 1937 he was sent back to Germany to become the German National Show Sieger. Returning to America, Pfeffer again became the US Grand Victor for the second time in 1938. Pfeffer produced about 47 American Champions and became the first GSD Register of Merit (ROM) in 1952 while dominating USA bloodlines for many years. It is said that Pfeffer: "had a total influence on North American breeding bringing the breed almost entirely into his shadow." IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT BACK IN THE EARLY 1970'S THERE WAS NO REAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN OUR "SHOW LINES" SHEPHERDS AND "WORKING LINES."
Earnest not only worked with beautiful dogs for the show ring but also understood the absolute importance of maintaining the working ability of the German Shepherd. As the Captain said "A pleasing appearance is desirable, but it can not put the dog's working ability into question ... German Shepherd breeding is working dog breeding, or it is not German Shepherd breeding". As a Sergeant in the US Armed Forces, Earnest Loeb worked at training handlers and dogs for the American armed forces.
After the war, Earnest again began making trips to Germany and brought back to the USA some of the best German Shepherds that survived the war. The war was devastating on the Breed in Germany. Many military dogs were killed in action. Many police K-9s, breeding stock and household dogs were killed in bombings. After the war, the German economy was in ruins. Owners of some dogs that survived could not afford to feed or get medical care for their animals. It is rumored that, along with horses, some dogs were killed for food.
Among the many dogs Earnest brought back after the war was the great Ch. Bernd vom Kallengarten ROM (pictured below). Many of the dogs Earnest imported were dogs of great merit and influence on the Breed. Other individuals instrumental in developing the Breed in America after WW II were: John Gans, Grant Mann, Marie Leary, and Lloyd Brackett, among others. The interested reader might consider researching these folks on the web. I concentrated on discussing Mr. Loeb simply because as a young trainer in 1952 or 1953 I met Mr. Loeb when he visited the training club my dad and I belonged to - THE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG TRAINING CLUB OF LINCOLNWOOD ILLINOIS. I was introduced but really had no conversation with him. He did compliment the way my dog worked but it's likely he was just being kind to a young boy. Mr. Loeb socialized, gave us training pointers, talked about structure and spent much of his time answering questions, sometimes talking in German to our many German born club members. He complimented the quality of our dogs.
The structure of the three dogs above, especially that of Bernd, is generally typical of the structure of GSDs when I began training as a boy in 1951.
2XGVCH (US) Yoncalla's Mike
AM/CAN CH/GV Lance of Fran Jo
Two other great dogs of the 1950s-1960s era were 2XGVCH Yoncalla's Mike and AM/CAN CH/GV Lance of Fran Jo. Both bred in America and pictured directly below.
Now, examine the structure of the three dogs above and the later era two dogs to the right and left.
Now examine the two modern era show dogs below.
Compare the above two modern type show dogs to the AKC Breed Standard for the GSD. under "GENERAL APPEARANCE" it states in part: "It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living." Under "TOPLINE" the Standard states in part: "The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness." I wonder what someone like Earnest Loeb would say today.
Until the outbreak of the second World War, German Shepherds in America where like the German Shepherds in Germany. For example, as stated above, one of the last dogs imported from Germany before the war to have a major impact on the GSD in America was "Pfeffer von Bern". He became the US Grand Victor in 1937, and in the same year went back to Germany to become the German National Show Sieger, then returned to became the US Grand Victor again in 1938. By producing about 47 Am Chs he became the first ROM in 1952 and did dominate the US bloodlines throughout the 1940s.
During the second world war the GSD in America was cut off from its German roots. America started to develop its own GSD appearance, mostly through very close line breeding, but in many instances also through repeated inbreeding. After the end of the war, some American breeders recognized the need to get back to the original working shepherd and spent good money on imported GSD’s from Germany, but a new trend would not fade away. American judges and breeders had developed "a taste" for their own, uniquely "American" style German Shepherd, featuring a more "refined look", with a lot more hind end angulation to get that "unreal floating side gait".
A drastic example of the widening split between German and American bloodlines by the 1960s is the great working and show dog "Bodo vom Lierberg SchH3, FH". He was the 1967 GERMAN, DUTCH and BELGIAN Sieger (Grand Victor), then sold to America. Here he did not make US Grand victor and ended up contributing little to the breed though he had great conformation and great working character . His brother, "Bernd vom Lierberg Sch3, FH" being as similar to Bodo in look and temperament as only a twin brother can be, remained in Germany and became one of THE MOST FAMOUS WORKING DOGS OF THE MODERN ERA. They where the last all-in-one "universal" working and show dogs. Most working Shepherd breeder in the world would love to have the name Bernd or Bodo vom Lierberg in his/her lines background.
During the 1950s and 60s, only about half of the US Grand Victors were German imports, the last one being "Arno von der Kurpfalzhalle" in 1969. Since then, the American Shepherd has gone its own way entirely, and today, it is unlikely any working line German import would have a chance of winning anything major in an American show ring. The American showline GSD has forfeited its ability to be useful, reliable, well tempered and healthy. In fact, every thing the German Shepherd originally became famous for has been sacrificed in the show ring for that "floating side gait" during the last 30 years of AKC style dogs. Are there exceptions? Of course. But, these are exceptions to the general rule.
I believe there is no resemblance left between those two separate breeds of Shepherds, except the name. That is the reason Seltzerhaus breeds working line dogs, primarily of German working line stock.
BREEDING FOR THE SHOW RING LOOK ALONE (PHENOTYPE)
RESULTS IN MANY OTHER CHANGES TO THE DOG'S MAKEUP
In the 1950's an experiment was conducted in Russia. Siberian fox, a member of the dog family, were bred at farms for their pelts. These wild fox were hard to handle in captivity, were not good breeders and had small litters. Individuals that bit when staff came close were excluded from the experiment and those that showed less fear without biting were bred together. Their off-spring were tested under the same criteria and, in turn, their offspring were selected for the same criteria, and so on and so on. In just ten years, the entire makeup of the strain was altered. This strain of fox were easy to handle, had better success at breeding in captivity and as pups acted like dog puppies. Moreover, they developed new coat colors not seen in the wild, barked like a dog and their ears became floppy instead of erect. So, breeding for one criteria, such as "show quality" results in other substantial changes such as changes in character (i.e.: workability, character, etc.).
Darwin holds that such changes do not happen in leaps but take very long periods of time. Not so here. The ten year transitional change was lightening fast compared to the norm. Dogs, a member of the family Canidae which includes the fox, have the ability to change (mutate or evolve) at an incredibly fast rate. Thus, the ease at which a new breed can be developed; that is, start to consistently breed "true" 100% of the time.
In the U.S.A. many showline breeders bred for particular angulation and trotting motion of the German Shepherd (i.e.: to win in the show ring or obtain a "championship" title). This was all to often done without attention to some of the desirable traits of the original German Shepherd such a courage, strength, clear headedness, protective instinct and general workability. So, like the changes in the fox, unforeseen changes occurred to the showline German Shepherds. This is a generality. But, as a rule, the showline dog has lost the attributes so highly prized by the Breed's originator, Captain Max Von Stephanitz.
An organism’s genotype is the set of genes that it carries. An organism’s phenotype is all of its observable characteristics — which are influenced both by its genotype and by the environment. Changing phenotype will also change genotype (i.e.: breeding for a "LOOK"
and "windmill trot" alone will produce changes to other factors that makeup genotype).
The era of Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart
A word of advice
Below is a brief history of the German Shepherd Dog from my perspective. It also looks at the so called "show lines" aka "high lines" and the so called "working lines." It is lengthy. The information is available elsewhere in much more thorough fashion. Unless you are truly interested in GSD history, you may wish to skip this page.
AS CAN BE SEEN BELOW, THE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG CAN DO EVERYTHING FROM WATCHING OVER AND PROTECTING YOUR DOMINION TO SINGLE HANDEDLY HOLD UP THE WALLS OF YOUR HOME.