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German Pinscher being ju
AKC Library & Archives

In the 1700s, an ancient German breed, the Pinscher, contributed its genes to a new breed of small pinscher, which evolved into today’s Miniature Pinscher. Two centuries later, the Min Pin returned the favor and, with the assistance of a single brave and dedicated breeder named Werner Jung, saved the German Pinscher from extinction.

The real story begins even further back when in the seventh century a common farm dog possessing a certain head and type (along with swift and deadly skill in hunting and dispatching vermin) developed from the German Bibarhund. In the 1300s, the Tanner, a hunting dog, was added to the gene pool. The Black and Tan Terrier, thought to be behind many of today’s terriers and other breeds, entered the mix in the 1600s, and the breed evolved into the colorfully named Rattenfanger, a ratter and watchdog, which developed into today’s German Pinscher, its name in the United States.

The name derives from the English pinch or the French pincer, both of which succinctly describe what canine does to rodents. The breed remained a rough working dog until the late 19th century, when dog shows came into fashion and fanciers undertook to breed for temperament and type while preserving the Pinscher’s prey drive, alertness, and instinctive desire to protect home and family.

Today, the look of vivacious intelligence that distin­guishes the GP reflects the essence of its history and function. For those who love these dogs, it’s a pleasure to see thousands of years of breeding run true to this day.

Pinscher und Schnauzer

The Pinscher and Schnauzer breeds evolved from the old Pinscher as described in German texts of the late 1800s, during which time two distinct Pinscher types, smooth and wirehaired, emerged. The Glatthaarige (smooth-haired) Pinscher is behind the Miniature Pinscher and German Pinscher; the Rauhhaarige (wire- haired) Pinscher is behind the Affenpinscher, Miniature Schnauzer, and Standard Schnauzer.

The Giant Schnauzer developed from the Münchener Schnauzer, the result of breeding the German Wirehaired Pinscher, ancestor of the Standard Schnauzer, to a breed known as the Oberländer.

In 1884, a German dog club published the first breed standard for the Pinscher. Colors included rust-yellow, gray-yellow, black, iron-gray, silver-gray, flax-blond, dim gray-white, and white with gray dappling.

The Doberman Pinscher, called Dobermann in Germany, its country of origin, evolved independently of the Pinschers and Schnauzers. The breed was developed by Louis Dobermann (1824-1894), who envisioned the ideal guard dog and companion, and used stock from the German Pinscher and other breeds. There are no records of exactly what these breeds were, but it has been speculated that the old German Shepherd, now extinct, and ancestors of today’s Rottweiler and Weimaraner played a role. It has been documented that in about 1900 crosses were made to the Manchester Terrier and the black English Greyhound, in order to give the Dobermann its sleek appearance.

German Pinscher in a field
AKC Library & Archives

Saved by an Heir

The Pinscher narrowly escaped the fate of its extinct ancestors, the Bibarhund, Tanner, and Black and Tan Terrier. In the early 1900s, Josef Berta, a passionate supporter of the pinscher breeds, instituted a program to count, register, and exhibit the German Pinscher.

However, following both world wars, the breed’s population fell precipitously. No litters were registered in West Germany from 1949 to 1958. To the rescue came the Pinscher’s direct descendant, the Miniature Pinscher, which, it is thought, was devel­ oped using the Dachshund for its keen hunting skills and the Italian Greyhound for its style and grace.

Werner Jung held the office of head breed-warden in the 1950s for the Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub (PSK), founded in 1923 by Berta and an attorney, a Dr. Zurhellen. Jung is credited with single-handedly saving the breed. He selected four oversize Miniature Pinschers—Jutta, a black bitch of his own breeding, and three dogs: Illo (black), Fürst (red; also bred by Jung), and Onzo (chocolate). All were registered in 1958 by the PSK in order to recreate the Pinscher.

At the same time, several Pinscher litters a year were being registered behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany. Jung located a black-and-red bitch there and risked his life to smuggle her into West Germany. She was Kitti v Bodestrang, Bsg. Kitti produced three litters and Jutta, the Min Pin, six. Jung’s three Min Pin males sired a litter each.

Most, if not all, German Pinschers today are descendants of these five dogs.

Setting Type

The German Pinscher Club of America’s (GPCA) first AKC-sanctioned “A” match was held in Romulus, New York, this past September. Although the GPCA has held a number of national specialties, this event was the club’s first AKC-sanctioned “A” match. The GPCA is now eligible to hold a national specialty in which entries can earn points toward their AKC championships. It’s an official AKC report card, an indication of how breeders are doing as the GP evolves in this country.

Since the GPCA began documenting its first German Pinschers in its studbooks (brought from Germany in 1982), it has imported breeding stock from Germany, England, France, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden. Considered a rare breed in this country until recently, the GP has achieved recognition through the persistence of a small group of breeders and the GPCA. In 2001, the AKC listed the breed in the Miscellaneous class and registered 89 GPs, ranking the breed 139th of 150. On January 1, 2003, the GP became eligible to compete in the Working Group.

Although there were only 29 entries in Romulus, the quality of most of the animals and the enthusiasm and dedication evidenced by breeders and exhibitors made the match a landmark occasion for the breed. The dogs were alert and curious. They readily approached strangers in a friendly manner. Shyness, considered a fault according to the standard, was nowhere to be found in or out of the ring.

The dogs in Romulus were square-coupled, well-muscled, and sturdy without being coarse. Their gait was free and well-balanced, and they did not exhibit hackney movement. Heads were held high on gracefully arched, strong necks. Their eyes had The Look: the expression described in the German Pinscher standard as “Sharp, alert, and responsive.”

Beverly Capstick, who judged the match, gave the entry high marks. She was very pleased to see definite improvements since then, particularly in the square outlines, feet, toplines, and loin. “They’re setting their type,” she remarks with satisfaction. “The key word is moderate for this breed. We have some wide fronts and they should be moderate. The whole dog should be moderate. I’m also pleased to see the temperament.”

At the same time, she advises judges not to stare down the GP: “It’s a very reactive breed. Let the handler show the dog’s teeth.”

German Pinscher being judged at a conformation show
AKC Library & Archives

Capstick, who judges the Working and Herding groups and many other breeds, praises the “overall balance” of the dog that went Best, Bred-by-Exhibitor Windamir’s Siam des Charmettes. This dog exemplifies the breeding of the DesCharmettes Kennel in Killingworth, Connecticut, which introduced stock from France in the early 1990s. In fact, most of the exhibits that went first and second in the classes carry the DesCharmettes suffix in their own name or that of the previous generation.

“I look for consistency, and I like a combination of structure and elegance,” says Robin Vuillermet, founder of DesCharmettes, whose GPs have been bringing home international championships since she began showing the breed in 1994. Most of her imports are from France, and some come from Holland and Finland. “I spend a lot of time in Europe, and seeing the best animals avail­ able there has helped me evaluate what I want in a GP.”

Serious Commitment

The German Pinscher is the original Action Figure. Owners and breeders describe their beloved GP as a high-commitment dog: very intelligent, willing to learn, playful, curious, manipulative, assertive, possessive, and protective of belongings, home, and family. They are aloof to strangers,  highly sight-responsive, with a strong prey drive, and a high energy level somewhere between that of a Min Pin—considered one of the most active of all breeds—and a Dobe’s more staid but still extremely alert demeanor.

GP owners in rural areas value good ratters and prefer the determined, terrier-like temperament and sight-responsive prey drive of the primitive rough-and-ready European Pinschers. Whether rural or urban, all GPs love to hunt. Owners tell of their dogs’ prowess at dispatching mice, snakes, voles, and other prey. They seem particularly fascinated by frogs. One owner recounts the time her GP caught a frog, which promptly urinated in his mouth. With a loud “Ptooey!” the surprised dog spat the frog quite a distance.

As with all breeds, early socialization and obedience training will make the differ­ence between an unruly nuisance and a well-behaved companion. “They are what you make them,” says breeder and exhibitor Kathy Dorwart. If you’re a take-charge, loving, conscientious owner who invests time to socialize, train, exercise, and play with your GP, you’ll have a willing, devoted, and faithful watchdog and companion. And you’ll never be plagued by frogs.

Related article: Glen of Imaal Terrier History: The Emerald Isle Terrier
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