What's in a Name?
Dachshunds originate from Germany and their name comes from a translation of the German word 'dachs' meaning badger, and 'hund' for hound. They were bred for their long, strong body with short legs, a physique which fitted them for their original purpose of hunting burrowing creatures.
Dachshunds are grouped according to size. The larger dogs, standard dachshunds, weigh on average 16 lbs. and hunted badgers, whilst those below 12 lbs, miniature dachshunds, would have hunted smaller prey such as hares, rabbits and weasels.
Famous Dachshund Owners
The dachshund consistently features in the top 10 of most popular breeds in the US. Famous owners, past and present, include: Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Picasso, David Hockney, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, George Harrison, Brigitte Bardot, Shirley Temple, Queen Victoria and Napoleon!
The Wizard of Oz Connection
Did you know that in the iconic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, the part of Dorothy's dog was originally cast as a dachshund?
A red, long-haired dachshund auditioned to play the part as "Otto". The dog awarded the role belonged to the actress playing the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton. Rare footage exists of Dorothy singing "Over the Rainbow" with Otto in the background. However, in 1939 anti-German feeling abounded and it was felt that using a dog of Germanic origin would be politically incorrect, and so Otto was replaced with a Norwich terrier called, "Toto".
The World's Most Powerful Owner?
Arguably the world's most powerful dachshund-owner was Napoleon Bonaparte. During his lifetime the French emperor owned a number of dachshunds. A long-haired dachshund, Grenouille, was featured in a portrait of Bonaparte as a young man. A later painting shows the Frenchman with Faussete, a female, red, smooth-haired dachshund. When in exile, somewhat ironically, Napoleon named a dachshund after himself and this dog became notorious on Corsica for attacking much larger canines. Such was Bonaparte's devotion to the breed that he asked for his surviving dogs, on their death, to be interred in his tomb and rest with him.
The First Official Olympic Mascot
The 1972 Munich Games saw the launch of the first official Olympic mascot. The idea was to use an image that represented the cultural heritage of the host country, and promote the games to a wider audience. The Germans chose the dachshund because the breed represented the qualities of courage, tenacity and endurance that were desirable in an athlete.
The mascot, Waldi, was designed by Otl Aicher, who was also in part responsible for creating the Lufthansa airline logo. He took inspiration from a long-haired dachshund called Cherie von Birkenhof. The design was such a success that two million items of Waldi merchandising were sold worldwide.
The dachshund belongs to a group of dogs described as "chondrodystroid". This refers to a disorder of cartilage growth that results in stunted bones, especially of the limbs, and is a form of hereditary dwarfism.