Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (2024)

Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (1)

AKC Library & Archives

Ch. Barong the Warlock, Doberman Pinscher. 1955

“What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax assessor?” Mark Twain once asked, before answering with his customary wryness: “The taxidermist takes only your skin.”

In our polarized times, in which once-incontrovertible facts have become matters of opinion, one certainty remains: Nobody likes to pay taxes. And while today we pay the piper with electronic transfers or, less and less, paper checks by mail, a century ago that unpleasant task fell to the tax collector.

Not surprisingly, as they made their rounds, tax collectors worried about their personal safety: They were not only at risk of blows from angry constituents who disputed their assessments or just plain didn’t want to hand over any part of their income, but they were also tempting targets for criminals all too eager to separate them from their hard-won tithes.

Though demanding work, tax collecting often was not a full-time job, particularly in smaller cities and villages. As a result, many tax collectors maintained other livelihoods as well.

That was the case with a certain late-19th-Century entrepreneur from Apolda, Germany, who also was a night watchman, dog catcher, and – shades of that Twain quote – flayer, or skinner, of dogs. Brilliantly cross-pollinating his customs and canine careers, Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann created the breed that today bears his name, the Doberman Pinscher.

Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (2)

Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, Doberman Pinscher. Courtesy of AKC Library & Archives

Dobermann’s Famous Guard Dog

Surveying the dogs in his pound, Dobermann selected the strongest, steeliest, and most intelligent to help with his tax collecting. The importance of an unflappable temperament for this perilous work could not be overstated.

The exact combination of breeds that Dobermann used to create his famous guard dog is not known, but there are some educated guesses. The old German Shepherd, an influence in so many European breeds of the period, offered intelligence, biddability, and stamina. The Rottweiler was one plausible source of the black-and-tan pattern that became inextricably linked with the Doberman, contributing strength and natural guarding ability. The German Pinscher – the latter word means “terrier” in German – likely added pluck and speed. And that all-around favorite hunting breed, the Weimaraner, may have provided the scenting ability that is so crucial in a working dog.

Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (3)

Courtesy of AKC Library & Archives

When he first set out to create the breed that would posthumously be bestowed his name, Dobermann worked with two other local dog aficionados: fellow night watchman Herr Rebel and Herr Stegmann, who often journeyed to Switzerland with his butcher’s dogs to purchase cattle. Together, they bred their first litters from dogs that reportedly were supposed to have been skinned.

One of those, presumably, was “Schnuppe,” a relatively smooth-coated, reportedly mouse-gray female. A surviving photograph from the 1870s depicts Schnuppe at Dobermann’s feet – a small, vaguely terrier-sized creature who resembles no recognizable purebred we know today.

But Dobermann, who never kept stud records, was not concerned with good looks; his overarching criterion was a dog with the guts and drive to stand up to anything that dared challenge it. In fact, some of Dobermann’s early dogs may have had too much of a good thing, relentlessly chasing game and paying the price with a hunter’s bullet.

Streamlining the Doberman Pinscher

While they may have developed a reputation for their sharpness, the dogs were reportedly a success when first formally presented to the public. While the Doberman Pinscher wouldn’t step into a show ring until 1897, more than three decades earlier the fledgling breed was exhibited at Apolda’s inaugural dog market in 1863. Amid the various stalls with shaggy shepherds and lap-sized companions, Dobermann’s dogs stood out for their depth of character.

After Dobermann’s death, attention began to be paid to the breed’s appearance as much as its working ability. Around the turn of the 20th Century, crosses were made to two English breeds – the black-and-tan Manchester Terrier and the Greyhound – giving the breed some of its streamlined fluidity.

While Dobermann sparked the creation of his eponymous Pinscher, it was a liqueur manufacturer, Otto Göller, who fed it just the right kindling to ensure it would burn brightly until today. Five years after Dobermann’s death in 1894, fellow Apolda resident Göller founded the first Doberman Pinscher club (in a pub during that same annual dog market), and helped write the first standard. At its peak, his von Thuringen kennel held some 80 dogs, many of which he exported abroad. A talented salesman and fervent promoter of the Doberman Pinscher, Göller even named a bitter from his distillery after the breed.

Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (4)

Courtesy of AKC Library & Archives

Today’s Doberman

From those humble roots in Apolda, the Doberman Pinscher has gone on to become one of the most recognizable breeds in the world, even if its name has morphed over the years: Outside of North America, the breed is called the Dobermann, the word “Pinscher” having been dropped because it no longer even remotely resembles a terrier. In the United States and Canada it is the Doberman Pinscher; somewhere along the way the second “N” of its originator’s proper name was dropped. But no matter how they spelled it, American soldiers were impressed by the breed’s loyalty and courage in the trenches of World War II, prompting the United States Marine Corps to adopt the Doberman Pinscher as its official war dog.

Today, at any given dog show, the Doberman Pinscher is usually among the most eye-catching breeds, thanks to its gleaming cost, chiseled head, and impossibly polished silhouette, which makes it look for all the world like it has been poured into its skin. But no matter how flashy the dog, or how precise the presentation, a Doberman Pinscher who shows the slightest hesitation is rarely rewarded by judges who understand what a premium should be placed on fearlessness.

Louis Dobermann today might be surprised to see how his rough-hewn protector has evolved into such a smooth and peerless showman. But he would without question recognize its steady and watchful temperament, which was the always the first – and most important – attribute of a Doberman worthy of the name.

Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club (2024)


Doberman Pinscher History: The Surprising Past Behind the Breed – American Kennel Club? ›

During his time as a dogcatcher and pound keeper, Dobermann was thought to have crossed several breeds—including the Rottweiler, German Pinscher

German Pinscher
The German Pinscher or Deutscher Pinscher is a German breed of terrier in the Pinscher and Schnauzer group. It shares common origins with the Schnauzer, of which it is essentially a short-haired equivalent. › wiki › German_Pinscher
, Black and Tan Terriers, Weimaraner, and short-haired shepherds—to develop the breed, which was first registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908.

What is the history of the Doberman Pinscher? ›

History. Dobermanns were first bred in the 1880s by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a tax collector who ran a dog pound in Apolda, in Thuringia in central Germany. With access to dogs of many breeds, he got the idea to create a breed that would be ideal for protecting him.

What 2 breeds make a Doberman? ›

No one knows for certain, but Dobermann is thought to have crossed many breeds to get the Doberman pinscher. Some of the breeds thought to be involved include the rottweiler, German pinscher, Great Dane, German shepherd dog, Manchester terrier, and English greyhound shorthaired shepherd.

Why is Doberman so special? ›

The Doberman Pinscher (Doberman) is a powerful and muscular member of the Working Group developed for police and military work and to be a protector and companion in the home. The breed originated in Germany and quickly gained popularity in other countries for its courage, intelligence, and loyalty.

Why are Dobermans no longer used as police dogs? ›

The Doberman Pinscher used to be one of the most popular breeds of police dog. Over the last 50-60 years, their popularity has declined because of their independent thinking and hesitation.

Were Dobermans ever police dogs? ›

the doberman pinscher is one of the original police dogs. highly intelligent, intimidating, and ferocious acting, dobermans were the first choice for many years.

What is the rarest breed of Doberman? ›

While some argue that the cream or white Doberman is the least common, others claim the pure black Doberman, without rust markings, is the rarest of them all. Still others, however, maintain that the blue Doberman is the least common, making up just 8-9% of the breed.

Why do they cut Doberman tails? ›

Cropping is done within the first few months of a puppy's life. As for why, the most common arguments are that working dogs can often get their tails caught in rough brush that may lead to severe injuries, while cropping is supposed to reduce ear infections.

What is a king Doberman? ›

King Doberman Pinschers are not Dobermans, but are crossbreeds between Dobermans and larger dogs. They are not recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breed. While the breeding practices that create these dogs can cause health issues, Kings can live long healthy lives and be loving companions.

What are Dobermans weaknesses? ›

The Doberman pinscher is an intelligent, easy-to-train breed. They easily become bored and require mental and physical challenges throughout the day to prevent behavioral problems. They require early socialization and training. If they aren't properly socialized, they may become timid as an adult.

What not to do with a Doberman? ›

As with any dog, your Dobermann should never be left on their own for more than four hours. Because they get so attached to their owners, you might find that your Dobermann can't even cope with this and may be destructive around the home to let you know they are unhappy.

Do Doberman pinschers like water? ›

Dobermans are strong and natural swimmers. They take to water naturally. They should not be forced into water, as they're sensitive and do not respond well to coercion. If they're let to wander into the water on their own, they will enjoy it immensely and always look forward to swimming.

Why not to buy a Doberman? ›

Dobies are high energy, and require a lot of time and attention. This is a dog that needs proper training and socialization or they will become incredibly destructive. Also, since they are so over bred, if they are not sourced from a very reputable breeder, are predisposed to several genetic conditions and illnesses.

Why post Doberman ears? ›

In short, it makes them look tougher, more intimidating. Historically, breeds such as Dobermans had their ears cropped as puppies and then splinted - taped to bits of wood or cardboard - to make their ears grow upwards instead of leaving them to go floppy.

Is Doberman better guard dog than pitbull? ›

The Doberman is better suited to single-dog homes and tends to act as a guard dog. The Pitbull is better suited to smaller living situations or homes with other animals, as they are more social by nature. You can be sure that either of these dog breeds will be a rewarding experience for you and your family.

What is the rarest color of a Doberman Pinscher? ›

Fawn or Isabella-colored Dobermans are nowhere near as common as black and rust and red and rust, and some even suggest that this is the rarest of all the Doberman colors.

What does the name Doberman mean? ›

Americanized form of German Höbermann: occupational name for someone whose work involved lifting heavy loads (see Hober ) or habitational name for someone from Höver near Uelzen. Jewish (Ashkenazic): occupational name for a dealer in oats, from Yiddish hober 'oats' + man 'man'.

What dog breed lives the longest? ›

Among the 155 purebred breeds included in the dataset, Lancashire heelers tended to live the longest, with a median life expectancy of 15.4 years. Behind them were Tibetan spaniels (15.2 years), Bolognese (14.9 years), shiba inus (14.6 years) and papillons (14.5 years), to name a few.


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