The dachshund was originally bred in Germany to hunt badgers. "Dach" means badger and "hund" means dog.
The first verifiable references to the dachshund, originally named the "Dachs Kriecher" ("badger crawler") or "Dachs Krieger" ("badger warrior"), came from books written in the early 18th century.
The original German dachshunds were larger than the modern full-size variety, weighing between 14 and 18 kg.
Though the breed is famous for its use in exterminating badgers and badger-baiting, dachshunds were also commonly used for rabbit and fox hunting, for locating wounded deer, and in packs were known to hunt game as large as wild boar and as fierce as the wolverine.
The smooth-haired dachshund, the oldest style, may be a cross between the German Shorthaired Pointer, a Pinscher, and a Bracke (a type of bloodhound), or to have been produced by crossing a short Bruno Jura Hound with a pinscher. Others believe it was a cross from a miniature French pointer and a pinscher; others claim that it was developed from the St. Hubert Hound, also a bloodhound, in the 18th century, and still others believe that they were descended from Basset Hounds, based upon their scent abilities and general appearance. Dachshunds can track a scent that is more than a week old.
The exact origins of the dachshund are therefore unknown. According to William Loeffler, from The American Book of the Dog (1891), in the chapter on dachshunds: "The origin of the Dachshund is in doubt, our best authorities disagreeing as to the beginning of the breed." What can be agreed on, however, is that the smooth dachshund gave rise to both the long-haired and the wire-haired varieties.
There are two theories about how the standard long-haired dachshund came about. One theory is that smooth dachshunds would occasionally produce puppies which had slightly longer hair than their parents. By selectively breeding these animals, breeders eventually produced a dog which consistently produced long-haired offspring, and the long-haired dachshund was born. Another theory is that the standard long-haired dachshund was developed by breeding smooth dachshunds with various land and water spaniels. The long-haired dachshund may be a cross among any of the small dog breeds in the spaniel group, including the German Stoeberhund, and the smooth dachshund.
The wire-haired dachshund, the last to develop, was bred in the late 19th century. There is a possibility the wire-haired dachshund was a cross between the smooth dachshund and various hard-coated terriers and wire-haired pinschers, such as the Schnauzer, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the German Wirehaired Pointer, or perhaps the Scottish Terrier.
Dachshunds come in three sizes: standard, miniature and kaninchen (German for "rabbit"). A full-grown standard dachshund averages 7.5 kg to 14.5 kg, while the miniature variety normally weighs less than 5.5 kg. The kaninchen weighs 3.5 kg (8 lb) to 5 kg (11 lb).
The dominant color in the breed is red, followed by black and tan. Other colours include chocolate, cream, brindle, wild boar, blue, pie bald and dapple.
The breed is prone to spinal problems, especially intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), due in part to an extremely long spinal column and short rib cage. The risk of injury may be worsened by obesity, jumping, rough handling, or intense exercise, which place greater strain on the vertebrae.
About 20-25% of dachshunds will develop IVDD. Dachshunds with a number of calcified intervertebral discs at a young age have a higher risk of developing disc disease in later life. In addition, studies have shown that development of calcified discs is highly heritable in the breed.
Other common health issues with dachshunds include:
- Dachshunds are 2.5 times more likely than other breeds of dogs to develop patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart defect.
- Skin allergies
- Double dapples are often prone varying degrees of vision and hearing loss
Dilute color dogs (Blue, Isabella, and Cream) are very susceptible to color dilution alopecia, a skin disorder that can result in hair loss and extreme sensitivity to sun.