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What did the first German Shepherd look like?

German Shepherds are one of the most popular and recognizable breeds in the world. Yet even though there are millions of Shepherd lovers around the world, few really know how the breed originated. That’s a shame because the history of the German Shepherd breed is endlessly fascinating.

Here are some fascinating German Shepherd facts: The first «German Shepherd» was only introduced in 1899 – in other words, the breed is relatively new, just over 100 years old. Also, the breed has working dog roots. Many are unaware that they were originally bred to herd and protect sheep, hence the nickname Shepherd.

Phylax Society

Formed in 1891, the Phylax Society was an attempt to create a standardized list of dog breeds in Germany. The company disbanded after three years of internal conflict over the most important traits of standardization: appearance and working capacity.

In 1891, a group of German dog lovers got together with the intent of developing a distinct and unique German Shepherd breed. They called themselves the Phylax Society, a Greek word meaning «keeper» or «guardian,» and they set out to find dogs that would fit their idea of ​​the perfect dog. Unfortunately, they only had a vague idea of ​​what they thought the perfect dog should be.

Sable German Shepherd: Breed History

The German Shepherd, also known as the Alsatian Wolfdog, was originally developed in Germany primarily for sheep herding. He has since become a popular working dog for roles such as search and rescue, police and military due to his strength, trainability and intelligence.

The breed emerged from the 1850s trend of trying to standardize dog breeds to assist in certain jobs, such as herding sheep.

German Shepherd Breed Profile

Rin Tin Tin, the first canine star of film and TV, captivated mid-century audiences with his courage and her charisma. The true story of «Rinty» was no less dramatic: he was rescued by an American soldier in Germany during World War I and brought to the United States. (in addition to his on-screen exploits, the handsome dog was said to have saved the Warner Bros. film studio from bankruptcy). The character has also increased the popularity of the breed: German Shepherds have been in the top three most popular breeds in the United States for many years. GSD also shared the spotlight with Roy Rogers (Bullet the Wonder Dog), Bionic Woman (Max the Bionic Dog) and Will Smith in I Am Legend.

In real life, German Shepherds have been the quintessential police dog, working alongside both heroic and monstrous authority figures. The force for good of the race was put on display after 9/11, 2001, as GSDs searched for survivors and today regularly sniff explosives in public spaces. America’s first dog for the blind, Buddy, who went to work in 1928, was a German Shepherd, as were President and First Lady Biden’s dogs Champ and Major, the latter being the first rescue dog in reside in the White House.