CLOSE
Original image
istock

9 Spunky Facts About Dachshunds

Original image
istock

Here’s the lowdown on everyone’s favorite vertically challenged dog. 

1. Dachshunds are fierce.

The little dogs were bred 300 years ago in Germany to hunt badgers—their name literally means “badger hound” (dachs means badger; hund means dog). Their short legs allow them to enter badger dens, and their fierce gusto gives them the courage to take on the 15-pound mammals.

2. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Originally all dachshunds were black and tan, but today, they sport a variety of looks. According to the American Kennel Club, dachshunds come in 12 standard colors and exhibit three different kinds of markings; some interesting colors include blue and tan, cream, and wild boar, a mixture of brown and gold. Their coats can be smooth, long, or wire-haired. They come in two sizes: standard and miniature. With so many options, dachshunds are the canine version of snowflakes.

3. Anti-Germany hysteria led to a temporary name change.

Before there were freedom fries, there was the freedom pup. Thanks to their German heritage, during World War I dachshunds were often used to portray Germany in propaganda. Although often humorous, these ads led to a widespread contempt for the breed. The American Kennel Club tried to rebrand the breed by renaming them “badger dogs,” while others referred to them as “liberty pups.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t do much to help the breed’s wartime image. Kaiser Wilhelm II was known for his love of doxies and actually had his five pets buried at the Huis Doorn park. Two of his poorly behaved dachshunds, Wadl and Hexl, had previously made headlines after attacking Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s prized golden pheasants during a visit.

4. The Nazis claimed they taught one to speak.

If World War I was tough on dachshunds, what came next was just weird. Nazi scientists boasted that they successfully taught the dogs to speak, read, spell, and even communicate telepathically. Germans believed that dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, so they set up a special program called Hundesprechschule Asra to tap into that asset. Some of the outlandish feats claimed by the program included a dog that could say “Mein Fuhrer” and another that could write poetry.

Kurwenal was a dachshund that could “speak” with different numbers of barks for different letters—sort of like a canine telegraph. According to Jan Bondeson's book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, the dog even had his own biographer detailing the pup's daily life. He reportedly liked pink roses, illustrated zoology books, and attractive women. When asked if he ever wanted to be a father, the bachelor declared, “No!” Many were impressed with the fat little dog’s routine, but others suspected that he was receiving cues from his owners.

Right before he passed away, Kurwenal poetically barked, “I am not afraid of dying; dogs have souls and they are like the souls of men." The dachshund was buried in the garden of his owner’s home.

5. They’ve made a comeback.

Despite this rocky period, the resilient breed weathered two World Wars and has been welcomed back into the hearts of Americans thanks to some serious PR work. Today, dachshunds are the 11th most popular breed in America.

6. The first Olympic mascot was a dachshund.

Waldi the dachshund was born during the 1972 Munich games’ Organizing Committee’s Christmas party in 1969. Partygoers were given crayons and modeling clay to come up with a suitable mascot. Dachshunds are known for their athleticism and courage, so the colorful dog seemed like the perfect face for the Olympics.

7. Artists love dachshunds.

Famous artists have seemed to be drawn to the little dogs. Andy Warhol would often bring his doxie to interviews and let the dog “answer” the questions he didn’t like. When Picasso met David Douglas Duncan’s dachshund, Lump, in 1957, it was love at first sight. Their relationship was chronicled in Duncan’s Picasso and Lump: A Dachshund's Odyssey.

David Hockney was another dachshund aficionado. His two dogs, Stanley and Boodgie, were featured in 45 oil paintings and a whole book. The Far Side creator Gary Larson even used the dogs for a parody book called Wiener Dog Art—a whole collection of classic art pieces with dachshunds added in for comedic effect.

8. The hot dog was named after the dog.

The history of hot dogs is murky at best, but some historians believe that they were first known as dachshund sausages, after the similarly shaped dogs, which were favorite companions of German butchers. Some suggest that the name was changed after one cartoonist had trouble spelling “dachshund” and shortened it. Unfortunately, no one can find the comic, so the theory has been dismissed as apocryphal. The earliest written record of the phrase "hot dog" can be traced to an 1895 issue of the Yale Record about a lunch cart serving hot dogs to hungry students.

9. A dachshund is Britain’s first cloned dog.

After winning a contest, dog owner Rebecca Smith from Battersea had her 12 year old dachshund, Winnie, cloned. Experts in South Korea cared for the puppy for five months before sending her home to Smith. Despite the difference in age, the resemblance is striking; they both have a crooked tail and the same markings. The cloned dogs hit it off, and sleep in the same bed every night. Remarkably, the new puppy—dubbed Mini-Winnie—is in excellent health and is expected to live a long life.

Images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated. 

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
Original image
iStock

According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
arrow
Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios