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10 Smart Facts About Dobermans

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Dobermans have a reputation as menacing security dogs, but that doesn't mean they don't have a soft spot for their two-legged pals. Learn more about the second best guard dog in the world. 


Unlike some dogs that have been hanging around since ancient times, Dobermans are newer to the scene. The breed originated in Germany and began to take form in the early 1880s, making it less than 150 years old.   


Herr Karl Louis Dobermann was a man with many jobs: He was a tax collector, who would sometimes work as a police officer, night guard, and dog catcher. Because of his career, Dobermann often found himself traveling with bags of money through dangerous parts of town at late hours; it left him feeling uneasy. With his access to the pound, breeding a canine bodyguard to keep him—and his money—safe seemed like a natural decision. He wanted a medium sized dog that was refined but intimidating. The resulting dog is lean and muscular with dark fur and brown markings. 


Dobermann did not take a lot of notes on his breeding process, so no one is exactly sure what breeds went into making the Doberman pinscher. However, some possible dogs believed to be in the mix include the Rottweiler, German Shorthaired Pointer, Weimaraner, Manchester Terrier, Beauceron, Great Dane, Black and Tan Terrier, and Greyhound. 


Since these dogs were bred to be personal guards, they needed to be ready to engage in fights. Some owners would remove weak spots, the tail and ears which can be pulled or torn, to avoid potential altercations. Today, most Dobermans are no longer used for fighting purposes, but there are some health concerns to consider. Doberman tails are very thin and sensitive, and can break a lot easier than other dogs'. Additionally, floppy ears prevent air from easily flowing into the ear canals and can cause ear infections. Some owners will dock these appendages simply to avoid future injuries. But many see this process as cruel and unnecessary, and certain countries, included Australia and the U.K., have even banned the practice. 


Dobermans are extremely athletic and intelligent dogs, so no task is out of their league. (And that includes the job of lap dog, even if you’re less enthused about it.) Dobies have been used for a variety of jobs and sports including police work, scent tracking, coursing, diving, search and rescue, therapy, and guiding the blind. 


The ‘70s had their share of hokey films, but 1972’s The Doberman Gang takes campy to the next level. The movie, as the trailer’s voiceover explains, is about "six savage Dobies with a thirst for cold cash that leaves banks bone dry.” The dogs are all named after famous bank robbers: Dillinger, Bonnie, Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Ma Barker. Using their persuasive barks and growls, these trained dogs manage to make off with heaps of money. If that concept seems silly to you, consider the fact that there were two sequels and talk of a remake as recently as 2010. 


Kurt the Doberman was the first canine casuality in the 1944 Battle of Guam during WWII. He went ahead of the troops and warned them of the approaching Japanese soldiers. Although an enemy grenade killed the brave dog, many soldiers were saved from the same fate because of his bravery. Kurt became the first of 25 war dogs to be buried in what is now known as the United States Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery on Guam. 

A memorial featuring a bronze statue of Kurt has been erected in the cemetery, with the names of the 24 other dogs inscribed on the side. Artist Susan Bahary was asked to create it. 

“To me, this is more subject, more about love, even though it is a war monument,” she said. “I hope that people can take a piece of love back when they see that piece. That they’ll feel the love we had for the dogs and that the dogs had for us.” 


Dobermans are the fifth smartest breed and easily trained. That intelligence comes at a price—to their human friends. Dobermans are known for outsmarting their trainers and getting easily bored


The first of many Doberman Drill Teams, started by Tess Henseler, performed at the 1959 Westminster KC dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The groups performed at various celebrations and sporting events and showcased the dogs’ intelligence and superior agility. Later, Rosalie Alvarez formed her own team that toured for 30 years


Since Dobermans are transitioning from guard dogs to loving companions, breeders are moving them away from aggressive qualities. Although Dobies have a softer personality today, all dogs are different and a lot of their temperament is dependent on proper training. These dogs can be great with families and children, but only when correctly trained and socialized. 

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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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.

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


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