CHAPTER XXVII. THE DACHSHUND

Persons unfamiliar with the sporting properties of this long-bodied breed are apt to refer smilingly to the Dachshund as “the dog that is sold by the yard,” and few even of those who know him give credit to the debonair little fellow for the grim work which he is intended to perform in doing battle with the vicious badger in its lair. Dachshund means “badger dog,” and it is a title fairly and squarely earned in his native Germany.

Given proper training, he will perform the duties of several sporting breeds rolled into one. Possessing a wonderful nose, combined with remarkable steadiness, his kind will work out the coldest scent, and once fairly on the line they will give plenty of music and get over the ground at a pace almost incredible. Dachshunds hunt well in a pack, and, though it is not their recognised vocation, they can be successfully used on hare, on fox, and any form of vermin that wears a furry coat. But his legitimate work is directed against the badger, in locating the brock under ground, worrying and driving him into his innermost earth, and there holding him until dug out. It is no part of his calling to come to close grips, though that often happens in the confined space in which he has to work. In this position a badger with his powerful claws digs with such energy and skill as rapidly to bury himself, and the Dachshund needs to be provided with such apparatus as will permit him to clear his way and keep in touch with his formidable quarry. The badger is also hunted by Dachshunds above ground, usually in the mountainous parts of Germany, and in the growing crops of maize, on the lower slopes, where the vermin work terrible havoc in the evening. In this case the badger is rounded up and driven by the dogs up to the guns which are posted between the game and their earths. For this sport the dog used is heavier, coarser, and of larger build, higher on the leg, and more generally houndy in appearance. Dachshunds are frequently used for deer driving, in which operation they are especially valuable, as they work slowly, and do not frighten or overrun their quarry, and can penetrate the densest undergrowth. Packs of Dachshunds may sometimes be engaged on wild boar, and, as they are web-footed and excellent swimmers, there is no doubt that their terrier qualities would make them useful assistants to the Otterhound. Apropos of their capabilities in the water it is the case that a year or two ago, at Offenbach-on-Main, at some trials arranged for life-saving by dogs, a Dachshund carried off the first prize against all comers.

As a companion in the house the Dachshund has perhaps no compeer. He is a perfect gentleman; cleanly in his habits, obedient, unobtrusive, incapable of smallness, affectionate, very sensitive to rebuke or to unkindness, and amusingly jealous. As a watch he is excellent, quick to detect a strange footstep, valiant to defend the threshold, and to challenge with deep voice any intruder, yet sensibly discerning his master's friends, and not annoying them with prolonged growling and grumbling as many terriers do when a stranger is admitted. Properly brought up, he is a perfectly safe and amusing companion for children, full of animal spirits, and ever ready to share in a romp, even though it be accompanied by rough and tumble play. In Germany, where he is the most popular of all dogs, large or small, he is to be found in every home, from the Emperor's palace downwards, and his quaint appearance, coupled with his entertaining personality, is daily seized upon by the comic papers to illustrate countless jokes at his expense.

The origin of the Dachshund is not very clear. Some writers have professed to trace the breed or representations of it on the monuments of the Egyptians. Some aver that it is a direct descendant of the French Basset-hound, and others that he is related to the old Turnspits—the dogs so excellent in kitchen service, of whom Dr. Caius wrote that “when any meat is to be roasted they go into a wheel, where they, turning about with the weight of their bodies, so diligently look to their business that no drudge nor scullion can do the feat more cunningly, whom the popular sort hereupon term Turnspits.” Certainly the dog commonly used in this occupation was long of body and short of leg, very much resembling the Dachshund.

In all probability the Dachshund is a manufactured breed—a breed evolved from a large type of hound intermixed with a terrier to suit the special conditions involved in the pursuit and extermination of a quarry that, unchecked, was capable of seriously interfering with the cultivation of the land. He comprises in his small person the characteristics of both hound and terrier—his wonderful powers of scent, his long, pendulous ears, and, for his size, enormous bone, speak of his descent from the hound that hunts by scent. In many respects he favours the Bloodhound, and one may often see Dachshunds which, having been bred from parents carefully selected to accentuate some fancy point, have exhibited the very pronounced “peak” (occipital bone), the protruding haw of the eye, the loose dewlap and the colour markings characteristic of the Bloodhound. His small stature, iron heart, and willingness to enter the earth bespeak the terrier cross.