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Is Germans' beloved dog dying out?

world Updated: Mar 13, 2007 18:03 IST

DPA
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Dachshund, is a German symbol, with four short legs, also known by its derisive nickname "sausage-dog". Its birth rate is now falling steeply.

In his book 250 Reasons to Love Our Country, German publisher and author Florian Langenscheidt includes the Dachshund as one of them.

Kaiser Wilhelm II even gave his favourite "Dackel" or "Teckel," as the Germans often call the Dachshund, its very own grave. In a park in the northern city of Kassel the Kaiser commemorated "the loyal Dachshund Erdmann (1890- 1901)."

One century later, the birth rate of the Dachshund, whose fans love it for its individualism, is declining. In 2005, only 7,300 pups were born, compared with 12,000 in 1996.

Centuries ago the small hunting and family dog which is one of Germany's oldest dog breeds, was more popular.

In 1972 "Waldi" was the mascot of the Olympic games in Munich. During that time there were 28,000 whelps a year.

"The breed underwent an incredible boom," recalls Dieter Honsalek, President of the club "Welt Union Teckel" and currently owner of 15 miniature wire-haired Dachshunds.

Nowadays they are simply being bred less, Honsalek says matter-of-factly. Like all dog experts, he knows that it is not any good to the race if it becomes trendy. That always attracts commerce and shady breeders. What is better is that people have a heart for the Dachshund, be it if the long, short or wire-haired variety.

The costs of these dogs range from 500 to 600 euros ($650-780). There are three different types: short, long and wire-haired.

"The sausage dog, which weighs 15 to 20 kg and whose belly barely clears the ground is an American version," Hosalek remarks. The German Dachshund has an optimum weight of powerful 9 kg.

What Honsalek likes most is the Teckel's independence and stubbornness. "We have a dog and besides that, a Dachshund," said Honsalek, quoting a hunter's saying.

Among the fans of the Dachshund are such prominent persons as Denmark's Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik. When their former royal court dog "Zenobie" disappeared, the Queen asked people to help find it.

Prince Henrik even dedicated a poem to another royal Dachshund, Evita.

In Japan the "Dackel" is very popular as well. The Japanese football team even brought their mascot named Erwin Rommel with them to previous year's world championship in Germany.

In the course of globalisation, the German trio Dachshund-Poodle-German Shepherd has gained some competitors, such as the Comical Pug, the beautiful golden retriever or the amusing Jack Russel terrier. The latter also named Parson Russel Terrier is not only restricted to hunters or to people who live in the countryside and wearing Barbour jackets.

However, the Germans' trademark dog is not threatened by extinction. "Its birth rate is still very high and its popularity is continuing," remarked Birgit Buettner from the German Canine Association in Dortmund. "One does not have to worry about the race," he added.