German Language Blog

The History of the German Shepherd Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

You can guess from the name, the German Shepherd originates from Germany. After getting lots of positive feedback from my last post about the history of the Dachshund (which you can find here), I’m keeping the theme of German dogs and will be writing about how and why the German Shepherd came about.

ein Welpe – a puppy. Photo by Marilyn Peddle (CC BY 2.0)

The German Shepherd originated in Germany in the 19th century and was bred to be a working dog. As the name suggests, the German Shepherd was bred to herd sheep. The breed was created by a man called Max von Stephanitz because of it’s characteristics: selbstsicher (confident), klug (clever), schnell (fast) und aufmerksam (observant/alert) – which altogether make the perfect working dog.

A Change in Name
The original name in German is der Deutscher Schäferhund, and literally translates to “the German Shepherd”. During World War I the name was changed by the UK Kennel Club as they were worried that the name would affect the popularity of the breed as it was associated with Germany (similar to the Dachshund, which also became unpopular during World War I and II). They changed the name to “Alsatian Wolf Dog” but after the war they changed it to “Alsatian” as they thought by calling the breed a wolf it might give off the wrong impression. Eventually the name was changed back to “German Shepherd”, although it is still common to hear the breed being called “Alsatian”.


A man’s best friend. Photo by gomagoti (CC BY-SA 2.0)

German Shepherds are still very popular and have appeared in many American films as well as the Austrian crime series “Kommisar Rex” – the main character Rex being played by a German Shepherd.

If you own a German Shepherd then let me know in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed these posts on the history of these two popular breeds of dogs.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Until the next time!


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About the Author: Larissa

Hello I'm Larissa. I live in Germany and I am half German and half English. I love sharing my passion for Germany with you through my posts! Apart from writing posts I teach fitness classes in Munich.


  1. Joseph T. Madawela:

    in Sri Lanka where I am originally from,German Shepherds are called Alsatians and as far as I KNOW Daschunds must be called that

  2. Allan Mahnke:

    We are great fans of Kommissar Rex. Thank you for giving him a plug.

  3. Alexis:

    I really liked this post. I want a German shepherd but I have a bog family and the type of dog we’ll get goes up to mom and dad lol (you also translated my last name!((Klug))