While the first existent drawing of a German Pinscher dates to 1780, many believe that this breed’s history extends back to the 15th century, when farmers used dogs of this type to catch rats and other vermin. Throughout the 19th century, these dogs were used as guard dogs for coaches in addition to their traditional vermin hunting duties. Part of the reason for this breed’s popularity was its instinctual prey drive, which did not require training.
The breed was originally classified under the names Wire-Haired Pinscher or Smooth-Haired Pinscher along with the Standard Schnauzer. Today’s dogs of both breeds have an ancestor in the same litter of Wire-Haired Pinschers in the 19th century. Eventually, German breeders decided to reclassify the breed’s varieties into separate breeds, which led to the separation of the Standard Schnauzer and German Pinscher into separate breeds. In order to complete the separation of the original breed’s varieties, it was required that three generations of a dog’s lineage demonstrate the same coat before registering the new dogs under their new respective breed categories.
The events of World War Two had a profound effect on the history of the breed, which nearly faced extinction. From 1949 until 1958, no new German Pinscher litters were registered in Germany. One man, Werner Jung, is credited with preserving the German Pinscher. In order to save the breed from extinction, he searched West German farms for Pinschers that best exemplified the breed’s traditional appearance and temperament. He then collected four large Miniature Pinschers to breed with the dogs he had already found. Finally, he was able to smuggle a red and black German Pinscher out of East Germany to add to his new gene pool. While there are some pedigrees that date to 1959 that claim unknown parentage, most German Pinschers today can trace their lineage back to Jung’s breeding efforts.
The breed was largely unknown outside of Germany until the 1970s and 1980s, when it was exported throughout Europe and the United States. While there are reports of earlier German Pinschers making their way to the United States before this time, the first major appearance of German Pinschers occurred in the early 1980s. The German Pinscher Club of America was formed in 1985, and dogs of this breed were shown at rare-breed shows in the United States. The breed gained full recognition from the American Kennel Club in 2003. Then, in 2004, the breed competed for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club’s show.
A German Pinscher's expected lifespan ranges from 12 to 14 years. While the breed is generally regarded as healthy, the limited genetic diversity that resulted from its near extinction in the 1950s has led to a number of genetic and hereditary conditions. Like many other purebred dogs, German Pinschers are prone to the development of hip dysplasia, which is a condition that affects a dog’s hip joints, and it can eventually lead to the inability to walk or move. While it is not possible to reverse this condition, it is possible to limit the environmental factors that lead to its onset in dogs that are prone to its development.
Other diseases or conditions with a hereditary link in German Pinschers include cataracts
, cardiac disease and immune deficiency problems. German Pinschers are also at risk to develop von Willebrand disease
. This is a blood coagulation disorder that also occurs in humans, and it results from the lack of a certain protein responsible for platelet adhesion. Some cases of this disease are mild and present no symptoms, but more severe cases are at a significant risk, especially after the dog sustains injuries.