Dachshunds were bred by German foresters in the early 1600s, mostly for hunting badgers. The hunters needed a hardy dog that could follow quarry through thick undergrowth and even underground with fearless spirit. The name Dachshund is derived from two German words, “dachs” meaning badger and “hund” meaning hound, pronounced dacks-hoont . Today’s dachshunds retain that fearless quality for which the breed was originally developed, and as the AKC breed standard states, the dachshund should be “courageous to the point of rashness.”
Dachshunds were trained not just to retrieve their prey, but to kill it. You can see this trait today if you give your dachshund a squeaky toy; dachshunds are notorious for attacking the toy and “killing” it by destroying the squeaker as quickly as possible and ripping it to shreds. Of course, if they are lucky enough to have access to the outside, rabbits, squirrels, as well as woodchucks, are all considered fair game.
The Dachshund has been a favorite of royals, statesmen, generals, politicians and heads of state for centuries. Queen Victoria’s husband, the German Prince Albert, brought Dachshunds to England in 1839, and presented one to his new wife, a dog that she named Dash.
In this photo, the Queen is shown in the company of her Dachshund “Boy”, of which a bronze statue was later erected at Windsor Castle. Hunting Dachshunds were bred in royal kennels throughout Victoria’s reign. As a result of the Queens’s love of the breed, the Dachshund became a favorite companion to many ladies of the fashion parade around London’s Hyde Park during the late 19th century.
A little know piece of dachshund movie trivia: the part of the pet dog of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, was originally scripted for a miniature dachshund named Otto shown here taking a walk with his actual owner, actress Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie.
Lingering post-war hostility toward the Germans, however, caused the studio to insist upon the substitution of a Norwich terrier to be called Toto, a dog of then-more-acceptable British descent. In this rare still shot from unreleased footage, we see Dorothy singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” with Otto behind her.
The upshot for Otto, and dachshund admirers everywhere, came nearly a decade later when, in the sunset of his short dog life, he starred alongside Bob Crane as the pet dog of Colonel Wilhelm Klink.