The German Shepherd remains one of the popular dogs in the world. Besides from being a handsome-looking canine, the German Shepherd is also one of the most intelligent and versatile dog breeds.
Most German Shepherds today are specifically trained and used for law enforcement and military, search-and-rescue work, and disability assistance. When you think about the most famous German Shepherd, the movie star Rin-Tin-Tin almost automatically comes to mind. Aside from being an excellent working dog, the German Shepherd is also a great companion pet who is known to be especially devoted and protective to its human masters. When socialized and trained early, this dog can also, at least, become tolerant (if not totally friendly) towards other pets and even strangers. Generally, German Shepherds like to have something fun or useful to do and thus are willing to learn a variety of tricks.
The history and evolution of the German Shepherd dog hark back from the mid-19th century when Germany attempted to standardize dog breeds. A group of enthusiasts established a dog club called the Phylax Society, whose goal was to select and breed dogs to preserve certain appealing traits (such as intelligence, strength, speed, agility, keen sense of smell, as well as physical attractiveness) with the potential of becoming a powerful herding breed.
While the Phylax Society did not last long, it otherwise inspired other people to follow its lead in standardizing dog breeds independently. But with many German towns and cities slowly becoming industrialized, the need for sheepdogs began to decline. At the same time though, more and more people began to recognize the intelligence and versatility of sheepdogs that they believed these animals should be bred instead to become working dogs.
One of those people was Captain Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz, an ex-naval officer who had also been a member of the Phylax Society. He is generally considered as the original creator of the German Shepherd breed.
Von Stephanitz finally found the ideal breed when he attended a dog show in 1899, where he was introduced to a male dog named Hektor Linksrhein. He was a product of a selective breeding from few generations back. Believing that Hektor Linksrhein was the fulfillment of von Stephanitz’s idea of a perfect working dog that displayed such desirable traits, he purchased the animal and gave him a new name: Horand von Grafath.
Not long after purchasing Horan von Grafath, von Stephanitz and his colleague Arthur Meyer founded a kennel club named Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, in its original headquarters in Stuttgart. Von Stephanitz named himself as president of the club and, naturally, entered Horand von Grafath in the club’s breed registry. Under von Stepahanitz’s leadership and dedication, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde grew to become the biggest single dog club in the world at that time.
Horand von Grafath went on to sire many pups — most famously Hektor von Schwaben who, in turn, produced more celebrated progenies named Heinz von Starkenburg, Beowulf and Pilot. These three male dogs were also bred and went on to sire their own offsprings, who became the ancestors of the modern German Shepherds that we know today.
After a century (and counting), the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde has still kept its goal, premise and dedication to breeding healthy, intelligent and dependable working dogs, particularly German Shepherds.