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Why Do Dachshunds Have Long Bodies?

 

Why do dachshunds have long bodies? Also known as the sausage dog or  wiener dog, the dachshund is notorious for its long back and short legs, but why do these dogs come in such a peculiar shape? The hot dog-on-legs body feature sure is quite different from several other dog breeds! In order to understand the dachshund’s long shape, we must take a stroll back in time. Turns out, this breed was selectively bred for this shape as it helped this breed carry out an important task it was bred for, can you guess what task that was?

Natedog Qz10 CC BY-SA 3.0

A Lesson in Conformation

The dachshund is considered  “chondrodysplastic”.  This word may sound a tad bit complicated, but if we break it down in parts, we’ll notice it’s not that difficult to understand. Chondro means cartilage and dysplasia means abnormal growth. Also known as dwarfism, chondrodysplasia refers to an abnormal development of cartilage on the long bones, leading to shorter extremities than average.

While being chondrodystrophic sounds like a bad deal, this feature is required in certain breeds like the dachshund and it’s ultimately a feature that makes them so cherished by their fans. It’s because of  short legs that the dachshund is long and low. The American Kennel Club breed standard for the dachshund indeed calls for a dog that is “low to ground, long in body and short of leg.” According to the book “A Dictionary of Genetics”  the corgi, basset hound and Pekingese are other breeds known for being chondrodysplastic. However, in some other dog breeds, chondrodysplasia means trouble as it’s an indication of arrested cartilage development which can cause crippling consequences.

Introducing The Badger Dog

Meet the badger
Meet the badger

According to the Dachshund Club of America, the dachshund dog breed originated in Germany. The word dachshund in German means “badger dog” which gives us a hint as to what these dogs were bred to do. Foresters bred these dogs in the 18th or 19th century aiming for an animal capable of fearlessly fighting the badgers. While badgers may appear like docile animals, when they’re cornered they are known for possessing an impressive courage, a trait that ultimately called for a fearless dog.

 

ScreenHunter_2029 Dec. 05 21.11Deep Down in the Burrows

Badgers live in burrows called setts, so in order to hunt them, foresters needed a dog who had the right conformation to hunt them down. Short paddle-shaped legs that could dig the earth and a long body that could allow the dog to enter the badger’s burrow were desired traits. After mixing a variety of breeds, the dachshund was born. With a body low to the ground, developed senses and a brave temperament, the dachshund proved its worth in hunting badgers, but not only. These little dogs were also utilized to hunt rabbits, foxes and even wild boar.

Reminiscent of the Past

Burrowing under the blankets
Burrowing under the blankets

The dachshund’s body shape isn’t the only thing that reminds us of their past as badger hunters. These dogs still as today still engage in behaviors that are reminiscent of their past. They are avid diggers who love to dig given the opportunity. Watch for holes being dug in your beloved vegetable or flower garden. And when it’s time to sleep, watch where you lie down; dachshunds love to dig “tunnels” in their blankets and burrow themselves under.

Dachshund are tenacious and courageous, up to the point of rashness, a quality that helped them become valuable hunters. Their deep barks are reminiscent of their hunting days so their handlers could locate them when they were deep down in a hole. The hunting spirit in this breed is so strong that the American Kennel Club standard mentions that “scars from honorable wounds shall not be considered a fault.” At times, they may even act feisty towards strange dogs, even those 10 times larger than them. This can be dangerous and steps must be taken to protect them from getting in trouble.

Watch Your Back!

While a long back is a desired trait in this breed, this feature is also the breed’s major weakness. According to the Kennel Club Genetics Center, Dachshunds are 10 to 12 times more likely to suffer from intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) compared to other breeds.  Intervertebral disk disease takes place when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the neck or back bulge and herniate causing pressure on the nerves, pain and even paralysis.

Did you know? According to the Dachshund Club of America, approximately one in every four dachshunds will develop some sort of disk problem during their lifetime.