Every fur-kid has personality traits that are unique, interesting, adorable and sometimes, a little odd. There comes a time in every dog owner’s life where they wonder where their pawed pal originated from, and if any of these traits and characteristics are consistent with their ancient ancestors. So, in celebration of our South African Heritage Day, we’ve compiled a list of 10 dog breeds and where they originate from.
Why is Heritage Day important in South Africa?
Heritage Day is commonly also referred to as ‘Braai Day’ in South Africa. Now, apart from the delicious snacks, braai food and South African sun, Heritage Day calls for a celebration of all the different parts of the puzzle, over thousands of years, that form a part of who you are now. Let’s see how your dog’s ancestors came together to create the pooch you have come to know and love.
Dog breed one: Pomeranian
Originally from Germany and Poland, this small dog breed is commonly known for his ‘big dog’ demeanour. Why? Well, it all makes sense when looking back at where this ball of fluff comes from. Close your eyes for a second, and imagine your Pomeranian pulling a sledge in Antarctic weather. Seems impossible, right? In actuality, Pomeranians are related to Husky breeds, Alaskan Malamutes and Chow Chows, all falling under the ‘Spitz’ family.
Dog breed two: Beagle
This dog breed’s history has always been quite a mystery. Although their origin is uncertain, Greek documents from around 400 B.C describe Beagle-like dogs with the same size, appearance and purpose. The earliest mentions of a dog called ‘Beagle’ referred to small hunting hounds in England who were only about twenty to twenty-five centimetres tall. These little guys were also known as ‘pocket beagles’ as they could easily fit in the pockets of hunters to assist them with their great scent-tracking abilities.
Dog breed three: Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer, originally from Germany, is believed to have been bred from the larger dog breed, the Schnauzer, with smaller breeds in the mid-to-late 19th century. The larger Schnauzer was commonly used to pull carts that carried produce from the farms to the towns and guard the produce while there. The mini’s were then bred to catch rats and be guards on farms.
Dog breed four: Golden Retriever
Originally from Scotland, the Golden Retriever falls under the sporting dog breed group and is one of the most loved dog breeds. These golden boys were originally bred for very physically demanding jobs like retrieving ducks during hunting. Today, they still excel at retrieving, hence the name. They are frequently used for tracking, sniffing out narcotics and have the right temperament and intelligence to work as service and assistant dogs for individuals with various disabilities.
Dog breed five: Rottweiler
The Rottweiler is one of the most ancient dog breeds. They accompanied the Romans through Germany and worked as cattle drivers and guard dogs at outposts. In the late 1800’s Rottweilers almost became extinct, being that smaller dogs started being used for many of the same jobs that our beloved Rottweilers were trained to do. Luckily, they stuck around.
Dog breed six: Labrador Retriever
This fur-kid is originally from Newfoundland in the 1500’s. Their early ancestors were bred to assist fisherman in icy waters, retrieving fish that had fallen off boats or fish-filled nets. This might explain your Lab’s love for water! From Newfoundland, the dogs were imported to England where they became known as Labrador Dogs, helping retrieve on shooting ranges.
Dog breed seven: Yorkshire Terrier
These tiny dogs came all the way from Yorkshire, Scotland. These feisty balls of energy are commonly known as sassy, yet adorable lap dogs. However, their great, great, super great grandparents were hardworking pooches who worked primarily in the mills of Yorkshire to catch mice.
Dog breed eight: German Shepherd
The name might be a slight give away, but these pawed pals were originally bred in Germany. They fall under the herding dog breed and are super hardworking dogs, even today. The German Shepherd was bred originally to be guard dogs and herding dogs. The golden standard we have come to love about the German Shepherd, was due to intensive research and searching for the perfect breed by Captain Max von Stephanitz, who dedicated his life’s work to breeding a dog with the perfect combination of power, endurance, steadiness and intelligence. The result; the German Shepherd.
Dog breed nine: Jack Russel
These well-known, sporty and energetic dogs were originally bred in England, strictly for hunting, and more specifically, fox hunting. Due to their active personalities, they are always ready to work hard, and their instinct to catch small animals is still very prevalent today.
Dog breed ten: Rhodesian Ridgeback
These beautiful dogs originated right here on South African soil. The Khoi-Khoi and South African bushmen used these dogs for hunting, herding and the guarding of wild stock from wild predators. The name ‘Rhodesian Ridgeback’ started gaining popularity after a big game hunter, Cornelius Van Rooyen, started selectively breeding these dogs in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, for tracking and holding lions and leopards at bay. They are courageous, fearless and the national dog of South Africa. Rumour has it they have the strength to take down a lion, as they were commonly known as ‘lion dogs’.
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