German Shepherd Adult dog and a German Shepherd Puppy

LEARN – History of the German Shepherd Dog

Dogs are faithful companions, and they have accompanied human beings for almost 40,000 years. Scientists have found that dogs are generally domestic and wild; they share a common wolf ancestor. Most of them have trained temperaments. They safeguard their territories. Their body position, movement, and facial expression convey a strong message to other species. Humans even recognise some of the expressions. Dogs communicate with a cacophony of sounds, including barks, howls, whines, and growls.

Recognising the German Shepherd

They are a medium-sized working dog that has their origin in Germany. These dogs are between 21 and 25 inches at the withers, and the ideal height is 24 inches. The weight is around 30-40 kilograms for males, and for females, it is about 22-32 kilograms. This breed is officially recognised as the German Shepherd Dog (GSD). After the First World War, its name changed to German Shepherd. 

German Shepherd is known for its intelligence, obedience, and trainability. They are the second most registered breed by the American Kennel Club and seventh by the United Kingdom Kennel Club.

German Shepherd features a domed temple, a long square-cut mouth, and a black nose. They have strong jaws. Their eyes are brown with lively and self-assured looks. This breed of dogs has large ears, but they stand erect, and when in motion, they are often pulled back. Their long necks get raised when excited and lowered when moving fast. The tail of these dogs is bushy and reaches the hock. They come in various colours, and the most common are tan-black and red-black. 

Some of the variants are:

  • East-European Shepherd
  • King Shepherd
  • Shiloh Shepherd
  • White Shepherd
  • White Swiss Shepherd
German Shepperd with text 1859 to the Modern day
HISTORY 1859 to the Modern-day


The genetic research proves that European herding dogs gave rise to the German Shepherd in 1859. This breed is known for its speed, strength, and keen sense of smell. The dogs were mainly reared to maintain the traits of herding dogs and assist farmers in gathering the sheep and protecting the flocks from predators. This practice was observed locally in Germany. However, the dogs differed significantly in their appearance and skill from one locale to another.


A dog club was set up in the year 1891 to come up with a standard German Shepherd dog breed. The club was named Phylax Society. Three years later, the society was disbanded due to ongoing conflict due to the trait of the dog that should be promoted Phylax Society.

Soon people got inspired to pursue the standardising of the dog breed independently. With the advent of industrial cities, the predator population began to decline. The awareness of the sheepdogs as a versatile and smart nature came into notice.


Max von Stephanitz, a captain of an ex-cavalry, a former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, and an ex-member of Phylax Society, believed that dogs should be reared for working. While taking part in a dog show in 1899, he noticed a dog named Hektor Linksrhein. He was thrilled with the dog’s strength and was amazed by its loyalty and beauty. Later, he purchased the dog and changed its name to Horand von Grafrath. 

Max founded a new society for the German Shepherd Dog with the name Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde. Horand was announced as the first German Shepherd Dog breed. Max was later credited for being the creator of this breed.


Honard was part of several breeding programs and gave birth to many pups. His successful offspring was Hektor von Schwaben. Hektor produced Beowulf, and it is from here all the German Shepherd draw a genetic link. During the first half of the 20th Century, this breed of dogs was strongly associated with the Nazi’s. They became famous for their association with purity and militarism. Once Hitler bought a German Shepherd Dog in 1921, but due to his poverty, he had to leave it elsewhere. However, it managed to return to him.

The German Shepherd Strongheart became the earliest canine film stars, and Rin Tin Tin followed him. They both are inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During this time, the United Kingdom Kennel Club had accepted the registration of 54 German Shepherds. In Switzerland, also under the leadership of Dorothy Eustis, several German Shepherd females were trained.


‘Queen of Switzerland’ became the first German Shepherd Dog to register with American Kennel Club. But her progeny suffered defects due to poor breeding, and its popularity declined in the 1920s. In the United Kingdom, the breed had grown to 8000. 


The admiration increased after German Shepherd Dog Seiger Pfeffer von Bern won the American Kennel Club’s Grand Victor. Due to anti-German sentiments, its popularity declined at the end of World War II

At the beginning of World War II, the German Shepherd had worked for Allied and Axis forces, and they had employed them as mine detectors and guard dogs. Even Blind Association in the United Kingdom and the United States trained these dogs for blinded veterans. Before World War II, there was a distinct separation between German Shepherd dogs’ American and German lines. 

However, many German lines died during this war. As the two bloodlines were crossed many times, today’s dog represents mixed features. Many of them were taken by the foreign servicemen who were impressed by their talent.


From the year 1955 to 1964, the German Shepherd appeared as the fictional character Ace the Bat-Hound in the American comic books published by DC Comics. It was the canine crime-fighting partner of Batman and Robin. During this time, a German Shepherd named Kantor became a trendy and successful police dog in Hungary. After his death, two novels were published under his name by Rudolf Szamos. One was titled Kantor, the detective, and the other was Kanto in the metropolis.


It descends from American White Shepherds, and it was born in America. Later it was imported to Switzerland.


A television mini-series was created based on Kantor, and it became a popular show of Hungarian television history. It made the German Shepherds the most popular dog breed in the country ever since then. The name Alsatian stayed for a few years; until 1977, the dog enthusiasts forced the British Kennel Club to permit the breed to be registered as German Shepherds again.


A German Shepherd named Charlie Barkin stars in All Dogs Go to Heaven, an animated movie.


In this year, the German Shepherd became the third most popular breed in the United States.


An Australian report stated that German Shepherds are the third most likely to attack a person in some Australian locales. After understanding their temperament, it dropped to 38th.


A German Shepherd was part of Urban Search and Rescue Task Force operations to undercover survivors at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center after the 11th September 2001 attacks.


The Disney movie named 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’ London Adventure focuses on a German Shepherd called Thunderbolt. The dog was the hero of the film. During this time, White Swiss Shepherd Dog was recognised as a separate breed by Federation Cynologique Internationale.


The Swedish German Shepherds were used during the demonstration on National Day in Stockholm city. A Hollywood movie named ‘I Am Legend starring Will Smith as a virologist, and he was accompanied by a German Shepherd known as Samantha. As per the film, New York City was deserted due to a lethal strain of the virus. It portrayed a close bond between the virologist and the dog.


Alsatian’s name appeared in parentheses as a part of the formal breed name till 2010.


It was published that about 15% of the dogs trained by Guide Dogs of America are German Shepherds. A five-year-old German Shepherd Military Working dog was able to locate the hidden explosives during a training process. 


In 2016, the German Shepherd became the most popular breed in the United States. Its physique is well suited for competing in shows and other dog sports.

Modern Day

German Sheppard Puppy
German Sheppard Puppy

Over time the dog slowly developed into a more distinct and beautiful breed with many specific virtues such as sharpness, self-confidence, and adaptability. They are relatively easy to train and good at performing tasks and following instructions. German Shepherd is used to tracking criminals, patrolling troubled areas, and detect suspects. Thousands of this breed are used in the military and are trained for scout duty. They are used to warn soldiers about the enemy, booby traps, and other dangerous hazards. 

German Shepherd is useful in explosive and narcotics detection, cadaver searching, and other rescue operations. It is seen that regardless of distraction, they have a keen sense of smell and workability.

These breeds of dogs help in disability assistance, aiding hunters, perform police and rescue work. They are known for their intelligent approach. German Shepherd’s help in protecting homes and is known as a man’s best friend. If they are not socialised properly, they might become overprotective.

Recommended Read: Are Pit Bulls illegal? & LEARN – History of the Greyhound breed

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1 thought on “LEARN – History of the German Shepherd Dog”

  1. John Wrightson

    My Gt Grandad was William Turner of Lancashire, who i believe bred German Shepherds in early 1900s. Is there any record of him or his dogs?

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