8 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know about German Shepherds

Barb Hopkins

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd Dog or GSD typically stands two feet or taller at the shoulder, a well-muscled and solid animal who is fiercely loyal to its family and exceptionally trainable. In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks the German Shepherd as the second most popular dog breed. In their native Germany, there are more than 200,000 purebred GSDs.

Lovers of the German Shepherd breed may already know that the average height for a male GSD is 24 to 26 inches with the female standing slightly shorter at 22 to 24 inches. Male German Shepherds also weigh more, averaging 65 to 90 pounds compared to the females at 50 to 70 pounds. This larger dog breed has a life span of about seven to ten years, but many do exceed the average expectations. The German Shepherd also has a rich history and even enthusiasts of the breed may not be aware of a few fun and interesting facts about this amazing animal.

1. Hektor and Horand: One Dog, First Registered German Shepherd

Captain Max von Stephanitz discovered Hektor Linksrhein at a Karlsruhe, Germany dog show. Hektor, according to the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA), was a "medium-sized yellow-and-gray wolflike dog." Hektor was "the primal canine type, supple and powerful, and possessed endurance, steadiness, and intelligence. He was a working sheepherder, requiring no training other than direction and finish to become proficient at the task." Stephanitz purchased Hektor and changed his name to Horand von Grafath. Hektor/Horand then became the first officially-registered German Shepherd in 1889 as Stephanitz initialized the breed's standardization.

2. German Shepherd Motto

Across the internet it's easy to find a slew of funny dog breed slogans, most that poke fun at the breed's stereotype. However, the German Shepherd does have its own motto that stems from Captain Max von Stephanitz and his original German Shepherd Dog Club. The German Shepherd motto is: Utility and Intelligence.

3. Recognized by the AKC in 1908

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the German Shepherd breed in 1908. The breed had been shown the previous year in Pennsylvania at the open class in Newcastle and Philadelphia. It would take until 1913 for the breed to be awarded a first champion status and for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America to be formed.

4. War Time Name Changes

During World War I and II it wasn't uncommon for Allied countries to eliminate or change anything with the word "German" in its name. In the United States, the GSD became just the "Shepherd Dog" and the club changed its name to Shepherd Dog Club of America— both have since re-added "German" to the their names. During war time, England also changed the name of the German Shepherd and called it the "Alsatian."

German Shepherd Dog
5. GSDs are First Service Dogs

German Shepherds have found fame throughout the years as movie stars—Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart were both popular in the 1920s. GSDs also have been famous as service dogs, including Appollo, the first German Shepherd police service K-9 to respond to Ground Zero on 9/11. However, it was Buddy the GSD who became the first seeing eye dog to Morris Frank in 1928. The hard-working seeing eye dog trained in Switzerland at a school operated by American Dorothy Harrison Eustis.

After Morris Frank returned to the United States with Buddy and had enormous success with the seeing eye dog, Eustis returned to the States as well. She worked to establish The Seeing Eye, a school to train more seeing eye dogs and Morris Frank became its managing director, with Buddy at his side. The school continues today to train service dogs for the blind.

Bonus fact: Buddy's original name was Kiss and she was a female.

6. German Shepherd Coloring & the Panda Shepherd

When most people think of a German Shepherd, you think of the darker colorings like black and tan or black and silver. The Panda German Shepherd is a bit different, featuring a unique piebald coloring that only occurs in a single GSD bloodline. The majority of the Panda coloring is black and tan, but as much as 35 percent is white. Sometimes this dog also is referred to as a tricolor German Shepherd.

7. Powerful Bite

An animal bite is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI, which is the force of the bite. Tail and Fur recently reported that a tiger shark has a bite force of 325 and the gray wolf boasts bites with a PSI of 406. The bite of a German Shepherd also is very powerful, about 238.

8. Special Club for Senior German Shepherds

If your German Shepherd is age 12 or older, he or she is eligible to be a proud member of The Thirteen Club. This is a special club through the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and all it takes to join is to fill out the application.

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