Some dog breed names are obvious (just watch a retriever with a tennis ball), but others take some digging to understand. Once you learn the origins of these 13 names, you’re likely to nod your head in recognition.
Most of these are descriptive in that they reflect how people used the dogs before they became the pets that some of us let up on the couch when we shouldn’t today.
Poodles come from Germany, where they were called “Pudelhund.” This meant something like “puddle, water or splashing dog” because poodles were used to hunt water birds, so you can think of “poodle” as meaning “puddle.”
Since we just had the Pudlehund, I bet you won’t be surprised to hear that the dachshund, with that same “hund” meaning “dog” at the end, also comes from Germany. The “dachs” part means “badger” in German, and these dogs likely got their name because they were used to hunt badgers.
Terriers get their name from an Old French word for “earth,” as in “dirt,” because when they are hunting, they’ll go after their prey into burrows. In modern French, “le terrier” actually means “burrow.”
Schnauzers are a type of terrier (this breed was first introduced in 1923), and their name means “growler” in German.
Pitbulls are also terriers. The pitbull terrier may get the “pit” part of its name from the idea of putting dogs into a pit to fight.
4. Doberman pinscher
The Doberman pinscher (and that’s “pinscher” with and S-C-H, not “pincher”) gets the “Doberman” part of its name from a German dog breeder named Louis Dobermann. Even though it’s spelled differently, the “pinscher” part of the name does come from the German word for “pinch,” probably relating to how the Doberman’s ears are usually clipped or pinched.
Siberian huskies were first bred to be sled dogs by the indigenous Chukchi people of Russia and were brought to Alaska by a Russian fur trader during the Nome Gold Rush of the early 1900s. Since they became the sled dogs of the Inuit, the dogs get their English name in a roundabout way from the word “Eskimo,” which was what outsiders called the Inuit.
Earlier versions of the word included “Ehuskemay,” “Huskemaw” and “Uskemaw.” If you focus on the sounds, you can imagine how “Ehuskemay dog” or “Huskemaw” dog would become “husky dog.”
And as you may remember from the recent “words for snow” episode, most of the native peoples of North America prefer not to be called Eskimos. For Canadians, the better term is Inuit.
Our next dog is the corgi, of which there are two types: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. These are very old breeds, and there are a variety of origin stories. However, in one common tale, the Pembrokes were brought to the western part of Wales by Flemish weavers in the year 1107, and the Cardigans were brought by Norse settlers.
There’s no doubt however, about the word “corgi.” It’s Welsh for “dwarf dog.” Cute little dwarves!
Beagles probably get their name from a French word that means “noisy person.”
Bulldogs were originally used for baiting bulls.
Rottweilers come from a town called Rottweil in southern Germany.
Boxers get their name because they are pugnacious like boxers in a fighting ring.
Spaniels were thought to originate from Spain.
12. Shih tzus
Shih tzus were bred in China and come from the Chinese words for “lion dog” because they resemble lions.
Mastiff comes from the Latin word for “tame” or “mild.”
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