First things first: It’s really REALLY hard to accurately trace the origins of dog breed names accurately. Since they’re bred across hundreds of years, it gets tricky to actually determine why a dog’s breed is what it is.
So keep that in mind as we go into the possible origins of famous dog breed names.
Via Wikimedia Commons Beagles
The origin of the name beagle is heavily debated. The best guess anyone has comes from the French word “beugler,” which roughly means in English “to bellow.” Beagles are known for their distinctive howl, so it makes a bit of sense, but again, this one is really up in the air.
Via Wikimedia Commons Dobermann Pinschers
Possibly the most infamous origin for a dog breed name in history, mostly because this one is pretty widely accepted as being true.
A tax collector was hoping to breed an intimidating dog to assist in his job. His name was Louis Dobermann, and it would appear he succeeded.
Via Wikimedia Commons Basset Hounds
This breed’s earliest history goes back to 6th century France where they descended from hounds kept in monasteries called St. Hubert Hounds.
That French origin is probably where the name comes from too. The word “bas” in French means “low,” and it’s assumed “basset” evolved from there as a reference to their short legs.
Via Wikimedia Commons Great Danes
First things first, Great Danes are probably not Danish.
As strange as it sounds, it appears the Great Dane name might have been on accident. The breed probably originated in Germany, but no one ever could give the breed a consistent name. Some of these names included “German mastiff” and “German Boarhound,” but neither name stuck.
So, where the hell does the name come from? It’s believed a French naturalist came across the dogs in Denmark and thought they were a massive Danish breed of greyhound, and made a mistake.
Via Wikimedia Commons Cocker Spaniels
Hold your jokes until the end. The real answer to this is way less fun than anything you’re thinking of.
Since spaniel dogs are known for assisting with hunting (specifically by driving prey into the open for their masters), the “cocker” part refers to what is being hunted: Birds like woodcocks.
Via Wikimedia Commons Bloodhounds
If you had me guess why bloodhounds are called bloodhounds, my best guess would have been that their brown fur has a slight red tint to it.
The reality is stranger than that. Since they were known in Europe for being bred carefully by monks was said to have “aristocratic blood” because the breed was so obedient. And that stuck the breed with the name bloodhound.
Via Wikimedia Commons Corgis
The word “corgi” is from Welsh, which is the word for “dwarf dog.” Pretty easy to see how these dogs got slapped with that name, but what’s interesting is that the “dwarf dog” designation was a big positive. They were used to herd livestock, and since they were so short, they were much less likely to be trampled.
Via Wikimedia Commons Dachshunds
No offense to dachshunds, but I’ve never exactly pictured them as hunters. But that’s what they were bred for over 600 years ago, and they were bred to hunt badgers. The German word for badger is “dach” and a German word for dog is “hund.” So, the name is pretty literal if you know German.
Via Wikimedia Commons Jack Russell Terriers
Unsurprisingly, Jack Russell Terriers are named after a person, specifically a Reverend John “Jack” Russell. The Reverend loved terrier breeds but wanted a special smaller terrier that could help him hunt foxes in the region he lived.
Via Wikimedia Commons Pointers
We’re keeping this one real brief. They’re a hunting breed that were known for pointing prey out for their owners, and being particularly great at it.
Via Wikimedia Commons Schnauzers
This one is pretty simple. “Schnauzer” is a German word for snout. But it can also be a reference to mustaches, and naturally the dog that looks like it has a mustache is going to get the name schnauzer.
Via Flickr Bulldogs
This origin is less fun than others. In Great Britain’s infamous history, there used to be an entertainment spectacle called bullbaiting, where dogs were bred to attack bulls for crowds of paying patrons.
It’s possible bulldogs as a breed were originally bred for this purpose, and the name stuck, well after bullbaiting was outlawed (which took until 1835).
Via Wikimedia Commons Pit Bulls
Sadly, this name is very similar to the naming convention for bulldogs. Since pit bulls were originally bred for dog fighting, the name is associated with aggression and the literal name of the venue where the fights were happening.
Via Wikimedia Commons Saint Bernards
This breed didn’t have a name for hundreds of years, the name was settled in 1880 because of their reputation. And their reputation was pretty positive.
There is a stretch of the Alps between Switzerland and Italy called the St. Bernard pass, and it was known for two things: Having monks nearby with massive dogs, and being the site of lethal blizzards that would trap travelers. The monks found that their dogs had a particular knack for digging survivors out of the snow, so the breed became associated with the region where they saved lives.
Via Wikimedia Commons Poodles
Another highly debated topic. Kind of. Most of the debate about poodles is whether they breed originated in France or Germany. What seems undeniable about the breed though is that it’s name definitely descends from the German word “pudel.”
Now, you might have just noticed that the word “pudel” has a remarkable similarity to the word “puddle,” and that’s not a coincidence. Believe it or not, poodles were originally bred to be water retrievers, so naturally their name originates from terms associated with water.
Via Wikimedia Commons Pugs
This origin is particularly murky. No one is really sure how the word “pug” became associated with the breed. But the word “pug” in the 1560s was a term of endearment. So, the breed must have been that endearing?
Via Wikimedia Commons German Shepherds
This one really explains itself, but there is actually a very official origin for the name. In 1899, Berlin veterinarian student Max von Stephanitz coined the term so they could standardize shepherd dogs in Germany.
Via Wikimedia Commons Shih Tzus
Okay… Whatever you’re thinking inspired this name, you’re not going to guess this one correctly. In fact, this might be the strangest origin of any breed name in this gallery.
“Shih tzu” is Chinese, and a rough translation into English yields “little lion.” Supposedly, they were bred to have the visual features of a lion.
But what’s stranger is the potential reason for why they were bred this way. Tibetan legends claimed that Buddha Manjuri, God of Learning, had a superpower of sorts. He could take small dogs and turn them into lions for protection. The breed’s look and name may be an homage to this legend.
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