istock
istock

11 Noble Facts About Weimaraners

istock
istock

It’s hard to miss a Weimaraner, thanks to their unusual gray coats and mesmerizing gray, blue, or amber eyes. Learn more about this dignified breed and its German origins. 

1. THEY WERE DEVELOPED IN GERMANY. 

A fairly new breed, the Weimaraner first came about in Germany in the 19th century. Nobles were attempting to breed the perfect hunting dog, with qualities like tracking ability, speed, and endurance; the signature silver coat was likely developed by accident. Originally called Weimar pointers, the dogs get their name from the Weimar Republic. The nobles of the Weimar court would keep the dogs as companions and bring them on hunting expeditions. Some say that the Grand Duke Karl August of Sachsen-Weimar single-handedly created this breed, but there is no mention in historical writing that he played any part.

2. THE GERMAN NOBLES WERE FIERCELY PROTECTIVE OF THE BREED. 

In order to keep the bloodlines pure, the nobles of the Weimar court were very careful in selecting who could have access to the puppies. The Weimaraner club formed in 1897 to help protect the breed’s integrity. Only members of the club could purchase a puppy, but it was difficult to gain access to the exclusive organization. The club did not promote itself or the breed, taking great pains to stay under the radar—sort of like the Fight Club of dog breeding. Only 1500 dogs were allowed to be registered at a time. 

Creating a club in the United States proved to be difficult due to the German fanciers’ protectiveness. It was not until Rhode Island-born Howard Knight discovered the breed in the ‘20s that the dogs showed any promise of ever making it to the States. Knight had heard of the breed through a friend named Fritz Grossman. He brought two dogs home, but the female proved sterile, making breeding impossible. Knight still kept and trained the dogs as a sign of good will, and in 1929, he became the first American member of the Weimaraner Club of Germany. Four more dogs were sent to Knight in 1938 and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1942.

3. THEY’RE CLEVER. 

Weimaraners are so smart that they’re sometimes referred to as "the dog with the human brain." Of all the breeds, they are 21st smartest in the dog world. While being smart can make training easier, it’s important to channel that intelligence properly at a young age. Left unchecked, a Weimaraner can use its brains to outsmart its owner. Unlocking fences, stealing treats, and escaping crates are just some of the shenanigans a delinquent Weimaraner can get into. 

4. THEIR EYES CHANGE WITH AGE.   

As puppies, Weimaraners have light blue eyes, but they don’t stay that way for long. As they grow up, the dogs’ eyes turn either amber or a gray-blue color. 

5. SOMETIMES THEY HAVE LONG HAIR. 

We mostly see the shorthaired version of the breed, but there are some fanciers who still breed Weimaraners with longer fur. Traditionally, the shaggier variation was used to hunt waterfowl; the longer coat would protect them from the cold water. Longhaired Weimaraners are not accepted by the AKC and the gene is recessive, so they’re very uncommon. Despite this, there are still some longhair enthusiasts out there keeping the trait alive. 

6. THEY HAVE A KEEN SENSE OF SMELL. 

These dogs are close relatives to the bloodhound—as well as the English pointer, the German short-haired pointer, the blue great Dane, and others—so it makes sense that they would have powerful noses. Their sense of smell came in handy when they worked as hunting dogs, tracking large game like boar, wildcat, bear, and deer. As hunting changed in Germany, the dogs were eventually used as bird-dogs. Today, Weimaraners dominate tracking contests; owners joke that it’s almost cheating because they’re so good at it.  

7. THEY PLAYED A PART DURING THE COLD WAR.

Weimaraners are great trackers and have been used in missing person cases and other search and rescue missions. Their reputation as skilled pointers probably led to one of them being chosen to help find missile parts during the Cold War. A Weimaraner named Dingo, along with a German shorthair named Count, helped sniff out small bits of missile after launches so scientists could recover and study them. The parts were coated in squalene, a shark-liver oil, which helped the dogs locate them in the desert sand. In the summer, the dogs wore special terrycloth jackets with pockets that held ice cubes to keep them cool while they were working. 

8. SOME PEOPLE CALL THEM THE ‘GRAY GHOST’ 

When a Weimaraner is out on a dreary day, they tend to get lost in the fog. Owners say that their dogs sometimes completely disappear into the landscape when they walk too far away.   

9. THEY NEED TO RUN. 

These are high energy dogs, so don’t expect them to lounge on the couch with you. Weimaraners need a lot of exercise and space to move around. According to the Iowa Weimaraner Rescue, these dogs need more activity than almost any other breed. That means daily and rigorous exercise is needed or your dog will get antsy and bored. Fetch, swimming, and other intensive activities should do the trick. 

10. THE PUPPIES HAVE STRIPES. 

Strangely, when Weimaraners are first born, they have dark grey tiger stripes. These don’t stick around for long: After just a few days, they fade away entirely. 

11. THEY MAKE GREAT SUBJECTS.

Many Americans were first introduced to Weimaraners through the work of photographer Williams Wegman. The artist would capture his dogs—Man Ray first, and then Fay Wray, Chip, and others—in poses emulating classic art, pop culture, and other amusing situations. On top of photography, he also made amusing videos, like trying to teach Man Ray to spell. Man Ray was such a good model that the Village Voice named the dog “Man of the Year” in 1982. The charming and witty videos found their way on to all sorts of television shows, from Saturday Night Live to Sesame Street

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
iStock
iStock

Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
iStock
iStock

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios