LETS TALK SCHNAUZERS: THE SURPRISING HISTORY OF SCHNAUZER BREEDS
IT'S NO SECRET THAT WE ARE HUGE SCHNAUZER ENTHUSIASTS HERE AT MOO MOO & BEAR.
SO WE SET OUT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE JOURNEY THESE SPIRITED, PLAYFUL AND INTELLIGENT BEAUTIES TOOK TO JOIN US AS INCREDIBLE MUCH-LOVED COMPANIONS TODAY.
I found that how Schnauzers began life is a highly debatable topic. There is a lot of speculation and a surprising number of name changes that happened along the way.
WHICH BREEDS DID OUR LOVELY THREE SCHNAUZER BREEDS ORIGINATE FROM?
In truth, nobody really knows. We are certain that they began life as farm dogs in Germany, where they are known as Zwergschnauzer (Dwarf Schnauzer), Mittelschnauzer (Medium Schnauzer), and Riessenschnazer (The Giant Schnauzer).
BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
UNDERSTANDING BREED HISTORY
When dogs first came to live with humans, they joined early man and barked the alarm when wild animals or strangers came near. By that token, surely the Schnauzers we know and love today are (hu)man’s best friend?
Isn’t it funny that a behaviour deemed of utmost importance many moons ago is now a behaviour so many pet parents dream of eradicating!
In the late 1500s, Dr. John Caius wrote the first-ever study on British dogs titled De Canibus Brittanicis. It was translated into English in 1576 and titled Of Englishe Dogges, the Diversities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties: A Short Treatise. In this work, he attempted to begin grouping breeds by function, which was pretty much the case for how dogs were classified until the 19th century.
In the 19th century, we began keeping some records of bloodlines and started classifying dogs by breed rather than function. It was then that breed types began to be standardised and unified. However, it was an ever-evolving process, with a lot of changes along the way.
And perhaps this is why the muddy tale of where Schnauzers came from exists.
So, now we know why there are so many unknowns, let’s talk Schnauzer breed history.
MINIATURE SCHNAUZER BREED HISTORY
The first Miniature Schnauzer was registered in 1899, which is around the time when dogs were first beginning to be categorised into specific breeds.
Image courtesy of The Complete Miniature Schnauzer by Anne Paramour
They were farm dogs bred down from Standard Schnauzers to be ratters. While we cannot be certain of their origins, it is widely believed that they were bred from Standard Schnauzers, Affenpinschers, and Poodles.
Confusion reigned in the early years of their recognition. Anne Eskrig, the author of The Complete Miniature Schnauzer, tells of many puppies from the same litter being registered as Miniature Schnauzers and some Affenpinschers well into the 1920s!
She says, “No doubt breeders experimented with various crosses when attempting to improve bone, body, head, and coat.”
Miniature Schnauzers were ever-evolving, by name if not by nature. In 1935 the Kennel Club changed the Miniature Schnauzer name to Affenschnauzer, but this change didn’t last long! The German Kennel Club was up in arms, and the name went back to Miniature Schnauzer the following year.
The American Kennel Club first registered Miniature Schnauzers as Wirehaired Miniature Pinschers, until 1926 when they were given the breed name we use today.
The confusion around dog breeds and classifying them continues for the Miniature Schnauzer. In the American Kennel Club, they are in the Terrier group, the UK Kennel Club they are classified as Utility, and in the FCI (World Kennel Organisation) Schnauzer and Pinscher.
No matter how they got here, the Miniature Schnauzers we know and love are wonderful family pets. They are the smallest of the Schnauzer breeds, but I don’t think they know it.
Miniature Schnauzers are loving, alert, loyal, playful, and very intelligent. From whichever breeds they derive, I am in no doubt that it was the perfect recipe for a fantastic dog.
Schnauzers do require a lot of grooming, but it’s worth it. Their double coat means they need grooming around every 5 -8weeks. And because of this double coat, they don’t shed very much, which is grand by me!
STANDARD SCHNAUZER BREED HISTORY
The Standard Schnauzer is thought to be the original Schnauzer breed and is referenced as far back as the middle ages.
Standard Schnauzers were bred to be versatile. As farm dogs, there were many tasks that farmers needed help to meet, and the Schnauzer was developed to rat, herd, guard, and hunt.
It is thought that Standard Schnauzers were bred from early European herding and guarding breeds initially. Later it is suspected they were mixed with grey Wolfspitz and black Poodles to create the distinctive salt and pepper colouring that we adore today.
Standard Schnauzers were known initially as Wire-Haired Pinschers. It wasn’t until the 19th century that they began to be known as Schnauzers.
Initially, the German Pinscher and Standard Schnauzer were considered two varieties of the same breed, and even into the late 19th century, they were sometimes born into the same litter.
Standard Schnauzers became more well known after World War I, where they were used as dispatch dogs and helped Red Cross aid workers. It was after this that this versatile breed grew in popularity.
In terms of breed classification, they’ve moved about a bit! With the AKC, they were first classified as a working breed until 1926 when they moved to the Terrier group, only to then return to the working group in 1946, where they remain. It seems the sheer adaptability of this magnificent breed made it hard to put them in a box!
Standard Schnauzers are robust, athletic, adaptable, and incredibly spirited. They are enthusiastic, alert, and ever so smart.
Whatever their journey to join us, we are huuuuge fans of the Standard Schnauzer.
One thing is for sure, without them, there would be no Schnauzers at all, and I don’t want to even contemplate that world!
GIANT SCHNAUZER BREED HISTORY
The impressive Giant Schnauzer is, of course, the largest of our Schnauzer breeds. They have a regal air about them, and they require important jobs to meet their stature and intelligence.
Originally Giant Schnauzers were mainly bred to assist farmers in herding cattle to market. It’s believed they were bred from the Standard Schnauzer, Great Dane, Sheepdogs, and Bouvier des Flandres.
Much like our Standard Schnauzers, there was a lack of delineation between Giant Schnauzers and German Pinschers, with puppies coming from the same litter being given different breed names. The German Pinscher Schnauzer Club implemented a policy to encourage distinction between the two breeds.
As the years progressed, they were used more and more for guarding work, protecting livestock, merchant’s stock, and even breweries. A breed with their priorities firmly in order, I’d say!
In the early 19th Century, they went on to become police dogs, starting their work training in Berlin before going on to be the firm favourite for working alongside police in many principal cities across Germany.
In both World Wars, they were used as messengers and as guard dogs for protection. The breed’s decline in numbers is thought to have been affected by their work alongside the military through World War I and II.
The American Kennel Club first recognised the Giant Schnauzer in 1930. Still, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that they started growing in recognition and popularity, and the Giant Schnauzer Club of America was founded.
Their intelligent nature has led to them being successful tracking dogs who excel at agility, military work, and Schutzhund.
Much like our Miniature and Standard Schnauzers, they have been known by many names over the years. They have been referred to as Russian Bear Schnauzer, Munich Schnauzer, and most commonly in their early days as Munchener.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to find much information about their history within the UK. There is a definite lack of accessible history relating to Giant Schnauzers, but I’m pretty sure these admirable giants are not remotely concerned. They are secure and confident in their place on this earth and in our hearts!
Giant Schnauzers are bold, intelligent, and active dogs who are loyal and outstanding protectors. They are said to be best suited for experienced owners who enjoy a bit of a challenge. They take Schnauzer Stubborn to a whole new level!
So, there you have it, a brief history of our much loved and worshipped Schnauzer breeds. From small in stature to mighty Schnauzerness, we love them all.
Alright, so let’s talk Schnauzers. What’s your favourite Schnauzer trait?! ;)