The origins of dog breed names
As their breed names often attest, dogs are a truly international bunch. Named for their places of origin and sometimes even their original breeders, dog breed names offer a fascinating look into how we relate to man’s best friend. Let’s take a look at 12 different dog breed names and their backstories.
This Japanese breed is named for the prefecture in the north-west of Honshu, where they are thought to have originated. Sometimes these dogs are known as Akita inu (literally ‘Akita dog’ in English). Also popular is the Shiba inu, most famous for being the face of the doge meme.
The dog of choice for Queen Elizabeth II, who has owned several corgis, the corgi originates in Wales. In Welsh, the name means ‘dwarf-dog’, from cor ‘dwarf’ and gi ‘dog’.
Lop off the hund (German for dog), and you end up with dachs, which is German for badger – what these dogs were originally trained to hunt. You might also know these dogs as wiener dogs, a reference to their long, thin bodies, which are reminiscent of sausages.
Dalmatia is the name for a region that is now part of Croatia and Montenegro, formerly part of Yugoslavia and before that an Austrian province. Despite those famous spots, the Dalmatian is related to the Great Dane.
The name of this breed comes from its first breeder, Ludwig Dobermann (1834–94), a 19th-century German tax-collector. The origin of pinscher, on the other hand, has not been verified, though it has been suggested that Pinzgau, a region of north-western Austria, may be the source.
As much as the literary-minded among us wish that this dog breed were named after Hamlet, the breed name comes from the French grand danois (‘Great Dane’), and likely is descended from a mix of mastiff and greyhound or wolfhound.
Jack Russell terrier
‘Jack Russell’ owners must sometimes wonder who it is that their dog is named after. Jack Russell, as it turns out, was an English parson known as the ‘The Sporting Parson’, who began to breed terriers for sport in the first half of the 19th century.
Named after the Labrador Peninsula in Canada, where the breed was developed, the Labrador retriever is one of the most popular dogs in the US and UK. The name ‘Labrador’ comes from Portuguese explorer João Fernandes Lavrador, who helped to map that section of the Canadian coast in at the turn of the 14th century.
Known for its abilities as a guard dog, the Rottweiler comes from the German town of Rottweil around the turn of the 20th century. Formerly, the dog was known as a Rottweiler Hund, or ‘dog from Rottwei’.
Given that there’s nothing particularly intimidating about these small lap dogs, it’s amusing to learn that the name comes from the Chinese term shīzigǒu, which roughly translates as ‘lion-son-dog’.
Originating in Spain, spaniel comes from the Old French word espaignol (or espaigneul), used to refer to a ‘Spanish dog’. One popular breed of spaniel is the King Charles spaniel, so named due to the great fondness that King Charles II of England had for the dog.
Why exactly is a dog named after Saint Bernard of Aosta (c. 996–c. 1081)? The reason is that Bernard of Aosta founded guest houses in two dangerous passes in the Alps, known both for their hospitality as well as the specially trained dogs that he and the other monks often employed to rescue travellers. Both the passes (Great and Little St. Bernard) were named after him, along with the breed of rescue dogs that he started.
Any favorite dog breed names that we missed?