If you’re a dachshund owner, you know how strange and adorable they are, but you might not know anything about their interesting history. Dachshunds have a varied and incredible career as a breed, and behave in very quirky ways. Here’s some of the most interesting facts about dachshunds that might make you appreciate your favorite breed even more.
1. Underground Living Is Their Thing
Have you ever wondered why dachshunds have their unique shape? It wasn’t an accident, but the result of deliberate breeding performed during the 15th century. Hunters in Germany were obsessed with finding a way to get after badgers and other underground animals. Their typical hunting dog breeds were more than happy to chase these animals, but couldn’t root them out of their underground burrows.
Somebody, who knows who, came upon a brilliant solution: breed a dog that would literally fit down burrow holes. After about a century of experimentation, they finally succeeded. Dachshunds (“dach” being German for “badger”) became incredibly popular hunting dogs almost overnight.
When a dachshund is on the hunt, it immediately goes into digging mode. It will find a burrow and immediately use its large and powerful front paws to expand the opening. Then, it will push its long and round body down the hole, completely blocking any escape.
Once it finds its prey, this normally friendly dog will turn fierce. A good hunting dachshund can easily out-fight even the meanest badger, and rabbits are no match for their fury. Once they were finished with their hunt, the owner can grab their long, stiff tail and easily pull them out.
2. They Were Almost Known As “Liberty Pups”
There are few dog names more German than dachshund, but for a period of time during World War I, there was an attempt to get them renamed as either “badger dogs” or “liberty pups.” Why? The country was at war with Germany, and a wave of anti-German fever gripped the nation. This strange name change wasn’t the only proposed one, but is one of the most infamous.
This sudden distaste for their name wasn’t helped out by German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II. As hatred for the Kaiser grew in America, his love of dachshunds became just as widely known. The name change suggestion by the American Kennel Club was an attempt to protect the breed from anti-German violence.
It might seem strange to imagine all that fuss over a dog breed name, but one only has to look at the recent infamy of the “freedom fries” incident to understand how powerful national outrage can be in times of crisis. Thankfully, the “badger dog” name didn’t stick, and we still have the name we love to say (and misspell) to this day.
3. Dachshunds Served Bravely (And Died) In World War II
World War I wasn’t the last time that dachshunds made a major global impact. During the most devastating war in history, dachshunds were actually an important part of many strategies. These clever dogs were skilled at sniffing out (and safely digging out) bombs or successfully tracking down hard-to-find food for starving armies.
Unfortunately, there was a dark side to their service. Some armies, in desperation, would starve poor dachshunds for days, strap explosives to their bodies, and send the hungry dogs out towards enemies. Once the dog reached the enemy, their handlers would activate the bomb. Though this tactic may have saved some lives, it’s still a little hard to justify that kind of cruelty.
4. Celebrities LOVE Them
If there’s one thing that dachshunds have proven repeatedly, it’s that they’re popular with people from all walks of life. The list of celebrities who have either owned or have been photographed hanging out with dachshunds is huge. This is a list of just some of the celebrities that fell in love with the dachshund:
- Marlon Brando – This brooding actor often spent hours relaxing with his doxie, coming down from the emotional difficulties of method acting.
- Pablo Picasso – One of the most famous and important artists of all time was also a major dachshund fan. In fact, Picasso once added his favorite doxie, Lump, into a painting, “Las Meninas.”
- Kelsey Grammer – Famous character actor and comedian Kelsey Grammer may have been famous for his relationship with Eddie, the terrier from his hit show “Frasier,” but in real life he prefers to snuggle with dachshunds.
- Liz Taylor – This legendary Hollywood beauty was almost as famous for her love of dachshund as she was for her string of husbands and her acting prowess.
- Joan Crawford – Though famous for her harsh and grating personality, Crawford often showed a softer side to her dachshunds that she denied to her daughter, Christina.
- Jacques Costeau – This famed underwater adventurer and documentary filmmaker came home from his incredible journeys every night to the loving gaze of a dachshund.
- Andy Warhol – Modernist painter Andy Warhol changed the way we look at soup cans, and helped make dachshunds cool with his obsessive love of them.
Honestly, we could go on like this for hours, but if you’re curious about other celebrities that loved dachshunds, here’s an (incomplete) list: Brigitte Bardot, Cole Porter, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, George Harrison, Einstein, Napoleon, and Clark Gale.
Fun facts like this explain why the quirky and loving dachshund remains one of the most popular dogs in the world. The friendly personality and loyalty of the average dachshund also has a lot do with it.