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Old German Shepherd Dog
Altdeutscher Schaeferhund cropped.jpg
A modern Old German Shepherd Dog
Other names Altdeutscher Schäferhund
Country of origin Germany

Old German Shepherd Dog (German: Altdeutscher Schäferhund) was the term used to refer to the breedless herding dogs used in Germany after the standardisation of the German Shepherd Dog, by Max von Stephanitz in 1899. The term is now used to refer to dogs whose bloodline relates to the dogs of the time but are bred for working ability and not to the official standard; the breed is not recognised by the FCI but has its own standard.[1]



In Germany, before the 1890s, any dog utilised to tend to and protect sheep was referred to as a "German Shepherd Dog", before the creation of the standardised modern breed known today. The dogs were bred solely for their working ability in that dogs with exceptional abilities were bred together, with no effort to standardise a particular appearance, eliminate genetic defects or to create a defined breed of dog; only to improve the herding capabilities of the animal.[2] In 1899 Horand von Grafrath was declared to be the first official German Shepherd Dog, and registered by the Society for the German Shepherd Dog.[3] Horand was bred with other local dogs who displayed exceptional qualities, but also that were free of genetic defects and were of a similar appearance.[3] As dogs belonging to the standardised breed were referred to as "German Shepherd Dogs" the name Altdeutscher Schäferhund or Old German Shepherd Dog was given to the working dogs of the time that had no definable breed.[4] As Horand himself was technically an Old Shepherd (as the German Shepherd breed did not exist before him) and was bred with dogs now classified as Old Shepherds it is from these dogs that the modern German Shepherd Dog derives.[5] Despite the work to standardise a particular breed, many German herdsmen continued to breed their dogs for ability, as had been done in the past, and thus continued a non-standard line of Old Shepherd Dogs, that differed from the breed standardised by the Society for the German Shepherd Dog.[5][6]

Modern breed

The modern breed consists of dogs whose heritage can be dated to pre-standardisation. The breed standard for the dogs requires that the animal is capable of herding sheep and cattle. The coat may be any length and can by shaggy, smooth or wiry. They may be black, brown, blue or tan. The ears must be either erect or semi-erect.[5] In 2008, the German organization The Society for the Conservation of Old and Endangered Livestock Breeds (GEH) listed the breed as "extremely vulnerable" to extinction.[7]


An Old Shepherd Dog with a predominantly black coat.

During its development the modern German Shepherd Dog was bred to have strong working ability and a standardised appearance. The Old German Shepherd Dog was bred solely for working ability and thus its appearance differs between each dog however most appear similar to the long-haired variation of the modern German Shepherd, often with slightly different colouring patterns. The standard allows for a coat of any length and a variety of textures.[5] They are generally around the same size as a typical German Shepherd; 55 and 65 centimetres (22 and 26 in) at the withers and weigh between 22 and 40 kilograms (49 and 88 lb) but are known to have been larger.[6]


  1. ^ "Top-10-Fragen" (in German). AAH. Retrieved 2008-10-16.  
  2. ^ "A Profile of the German Shepherd Dog". Just Shepherds. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  3. ^ a b "History of the Breed". German Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  4. ^ von Stephanitz, Max; Schwabacher, Joseph (1994). The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture. Hoflin Publishing Ltd. p. 12. ISBN 9789993280057.  
  5. ^ a b c d "Altdeutscher Schaeferhund". Herding on the Web. Retrieved 2008-10-07.  
  6. ^ a b Willis, Malcolm; Bennett, Janet. The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic History. Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 0876051751.  
  7. ^ "Westerwälder Kuhhund" (in German). German Society for the preservation of old and endangered breeds Association. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  

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