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spacerDachshund Tales - Hunting with Dachshunds (part 1)

We're going to break these comments into sections - if we left it until it was all completed - it would take ages to post. Here's the first part...

What is a dachshund - what makes it a good hunter?

A dachshund is a "badger dog" - see Gail DaPont's web page for the derivation.

These comments are our opinion - an opinion which is based on breeding standard dachies for the show ring, the hunt, and most importantly, for companionship. Our experience has been with Standard Dachshunds (smooth coats, and long coats) - varieties of the breed which can be considerably bigger than the more common miniature-dachshund.

Dachshunds don't look like Lassie, or any of the other dog film stars. They're different. And they weren't bred for the benefit of Walt Disney either. They were bred a very long time ago to hunt quarry which is likely to go underground. And they still can hunt, if they are so allowed.

In the USA this type of dog is called an "earth dog". Dachshunds (both minis and standards) often participate in earth dog trials there - using simulated tunnels and dens. We don't have such trials here, but our dachies do the "real thing" regularly. Let's forget the show ring fads and fashions for the present and look at the shape of a purposeful dachshund. A shape which is ideal for hunting and earthwork.

  • Those short powerful legs and large feet are ideal for tunnelling.
  • The powerful front end with its enlarged muscle anchor ridges (pro-sternum) provides enormous power to the neck, head, and front legs.
  • The long strong neck and powerful jaws provide a formidable weapon in confined spaces.
  • That long deep body with its generous amount of lungpower (ever wondered why a dachie is so comfortable under the blankets at the foot of your bed? Of course, that's when he's not being a hunter!). Also, a dachshund's bark is often louder and deeper than expected for it's size. Felons doing felon-things about your home, often stop if they hear a dachshund's alarm bark without waiting to see the dog itself. Also, dachies inside a car make wonderful alarms - their batteries never go flat, and they seem to just know when villians are about!
  • Strong hindquarters - to help with excavation of a tunnel, and more importantly, balance and strength when engaging a quarry.
  • A very low centre of gravity - this also helps with balance when "doing battle" on a steep hillside or on rough ground.
  • That lovely loose skin - wonderful to pat, but more importantly, essential for survival in a close tunnel. If a dog gets stuck, it can literally turn inside its suit and get an alternative purchase on the walls.
  • Those eyes and ears are so shaped to prevent damage from underground work (not doing unlawful things in the local mall, but doing honest toil under some hillside), or in conflict.
  • And the tail - I'm sure it wasn't designed for this - is handy to "communicate" with the dog if you can still reach down that far.
  • Stamina is (or should be) a trademark of a healthy dachshund. Our standard dachshunds can, and do, walk for miles over all sorts of terrain. Their legs may be short and they may walk fifty times further than us, but they seem to have unlimited stamina. This is important. Digging is darned hard work, and the dachshund has to have the strength and stamina to both enlarge the tunnel AND engage the quarry which has probably been polishing its own claws and teeth while patiently waiting.

And of course, a dachshund is a hound - an attribute which sets it apart from the terriers in that it can hunt by both sight and scent AND can work co-operatively with other dachshunds. There are many sight and/or scent hounds. The bloodhound and basset are classic scent hounds, whereas some of the sight hounds (also known as "gaze" hounds) include whippets, afghans, and greyhounds. A dachshund is both - sight and scent.

Long legged dogs can dig - there's no doubt about that. Some are very good at it. But it's only the short legged dogs that are good at tunnelling. It's little wonder so much is made of dwarfish miners in books of fantasy - specially if you've more than a nodding acquaintance with a dachie (or a miner)!

In the next part, we will explain the sort of hunting we do here in New Zealand - with some pictures. For those very few of you unfamiliar with NZ (and who need the homework) just open your school atlas at the big map of the world, and there, right in the centre, is New Zealand.
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