Where Do Dog Breed Names Come From?
My breed of choice, Australian Shepherds, didn’t originate in Australia. Although there is much debate concerning the origins of the breed, the most generally accepted theory is that the first Australian Shepherds’ ancestors came to the United States during the western gold rush of the mid-1800s with Basque sheepherders from their homeland in Europe. Flocks of sheep were imported from Australia to feed the miners. Because the sheep came from Australia, the dogs were assumed to have originated there, and the name stuck. So, where did your dog’s breed name originate?
Most dog breed names have more logical origins than do the Aussies. Many are named for their countries of origin, such as German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Welsh Corgis, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Afghan Hounds.
How Did the Rottweiler Get Its Name?
Rottweilers got their name from a town, Rottweil, in Western Germany. When the breed declined, a few surviving Rottweillers were found in a town called Rottweil, and those dogs became the foundation of a new era for the Rottweiler breed.
What Does Papillon Mean In French?
Some breeds get their name from physical characteristics. Papillons are an excellent example: The word papillon is French for “butterfly,” and the breed’s large upright ears, fringed with flowing silky hair, resembles the wings of a giant butterfly. Basset Hounds got their name from their short legs; bas in French means “low slung.” Their coat types differentiate German Shorthaired Pointers and German Wirehaired Pointers, which is reflected in their names.
Who Was That Breed Named After?
Some breeds were named for the person who originally developed the breed. One story is that the Scottish Duke Alexander IV of Gordon created Gordon Setters in the 1600s. The most famous instance of a breed being named after a man has got to be Doberman Pinschers. In the mid to late 1800s, Ludwig Dobermann created an intelligent working breed from German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Pinschers. This breed eventually carried his name.
Some Dog Breed Names Have Changed
Breed names have been known to change, too. In most instances, records show the name change but don’t tell us why it occurred. The Old English Sheepdog was initially known as the English Old-Fashioned Bobtail Sheepdog. One could surmise that the change was to shorten that long mouthful of a name. Maltese was known initially as Maltese Terriers but became simply Maltese in the early 1900s. Perhaps the “terrier” was dropped because the Maltese were being shown in the American Kennel Club as a toy dog rather than a terrier.
One of the most significant name changes, and the most controversial, was with German Shepherd Dogs. As their name suggests, German Shepherds originated in Germany and were developed to be an all-purpose working dog. They rapidly gained popularity with law enforcement and military personnel and were exported to other countries as premier working dogs.
During and post World War I, many British dog enthusiasts and working dog handlers owned or were working German Shepherds, but the anti-German sentiment of the time carried through to anything German, even the dogs. So German Shepherds in Britain were renamed Alsatian after the French region of Alsace Lorraine, which bordered on Germany. Although the name German Shepherd has resurfaced, many British dog enthusiasts still recognize the breed as Alsatian.
As with so much of human history, much canine history has been lost. Written records have been damaged, and verbal accounts have been forgotten. It’s a shame because some of the histories we do know are fascinating. It would be wonderful to know how some of our favorite breeds came into being and how they were named. But then again, mysteries are fun, too.
Article written by Author: Liz Palika