The typical appearance of a Jagdterrier is black and tan, with the tan being more of a rust colour on the muzzle and undercarriage. It can also be chocolate or liver brown with white markings although the white markings and the chocolate colouring should be avoided in breeding programs along with a brown nose. Black and tan/rust markings should be the goal. The breed standard calls for an animal that stands 33 to 40 centimetres (13 to 16 inches) at the shoulders, with females weighing from 7.5 to 8.5 kilograms (17 to 19 pounds), and males weighing from 9 to 10 kilograms (20 to 22 pounds). The coat of a Jagdterrier can be either hairy, smooth or broken. All varieties do shed. The tail is normally (but not always) cropped at 2/3 the natural length.
Jagdterriers were developed to be all round hunting dogs. Though often used for quarry that dens underground, especially badger, fox, and raccoon dog, Jagdterriers are also used to drive wild boar and rabbits out of thickets, and to blood track wounded animals, such as deer. Due to their intelligence and adaptability, Jagdterriers can make good pets, but it should be remembered that they are primarily a hunting dog with a strong prey drive.
Between the two World Wars, game managers in Germany were focused on getting rid of “foreign” or introduced species, and bringing back now-extinct species that figured prominently in the mythology of the nation.
One of the pioneers of this peculiar quest was Lutz Heck, the curator of the Berlin Zoo, who went on to “back breed” primitive cattle and horses to “recreate” the extinct aurochs (the kind of wild cattle seen in the cave paintings at Lascaux, France) and the tarpan (a kind of primitive forest pony). Heck was also instrumental in the recreation of an extinct species (or subspecies) of zebra called the “quagga”.
Heck’s interest in dogs was driven in part by his passion for hunting, and in part by an over-heated nationalism that was mixed with a desire to see what could be done with selective breeding. A social climber and decided sycophant, Lutz Heck and his brother Heinz Heck were men who courted power and counted among their friends both Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goring.
Even as nationalism and an interest in genetic engineering were rising in Germany, terriers were also rising to the height of fashion in much of Europe and the United States. The Allied Terrier Show was taken over by Charles Crufts in 1886, and was the largest dog show in the world after World War I, while the first breed-specific dog publication anywhere was a magazine devoted to fox terriers. The Westminster Dog Show was begun in 1907, and the first winner was a fox terrier. A fox terrier won again in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1916, and 1917.
A fascination with terriers, fervent nationalism, and a propensity towards genetic engineering were braided together when Lutz Heck presented four black and tan Fell Terrier—similar to what we now would call a Patterdale Terrier—to Carl Eric Gruenewald and Walter Zangenbert. Gruenewald was a “cynologist” (a self-styled dog man with an interest in genetics) and Zangenbert was a dedicated hunter with an interest in fox terriers.
It did not take much prodding on Heck’s part to convince Gruenewald and Zangenbert that what the world needed was a true German Hunt Terrier to compete (and of course trump) the British and American fox terriers in the field.
Gruenewald and Zangenbert added to their team Chief Forester R. Fiess and Dr. Herbert Lackner, men with land for a kennel, and the financial means to support it over a decade-long quest.
An early problem was that the Black and Tan Terriers selected as the core breeding stock and deemed “ideal hunters” based on colour alone were, in fact, not all that great at hunting. As Gruenewald later wrote:
- “We were glad to own fox terriers with the hunting color, and we hoped to use these four puppies successfully in breeding to establish a hunting fox terrier breed (jagdfoxterrier-stamm). From the viewpoint of hunting these four dogs were not bad, although they left much to desire. First we tried inbreeding, pairing brothers with sisters. But the results were not good. No wonder — after all, the parents weren’t real hunting dogs. The picture changed, though, when we bred our four ‘originals’ with our well-trained old hunting fox terriers. The beautiful dark color continued to be dominate. Dogs with a lot of the white color and spotted dogs were selected and eliminated from further breeding.”
The breeding program for the Jagdterrier was massive in scale and unwavering in its selection criteria. At one point the men had 700 dogs in their kennels, and not a single dog was allowed to be placed outside of the kennel. Dogs that did not look the part, or which were deemed to be not of the quality desired, were shot. Early dogs were both smooth and rough coat, but the breeding program moved to get rid of smooth coats and the coat of the final product can best be described as “slape coated”—a short, hard and wiry coat that sheds water and dirt while providing warmth in winter.
After only 10 years time the dogs were breeding more-or-less true, with a Patterdale-like appearance, albeit with more red on the undercarriage.
The German Hunting Terrier Club (Deutscher Jagdterrier-Club) was founded in 1926, and the dog was warmly embraced in part because it fit well with the rising nationalistic sentiment within Germany at the time. It did not hurt at all that Lutz Heck was a darling of the Nazi regime and counted Hermann Goring among his closest friends.
In 1938, a German by the name of Max Thiel, Sr. bought his first Jagdterrier. Thiel hunted with this dog for only a few years before the start of World War II. During the war Thiel lost his dogs, but after the war he settled in Bavaria and purchased two female dogs, Asta and Naja.
I imported Cory from Vladimir Hudec (Senkov kennels) in Slovakia and he was born on the 18.02.2006 and has a smooth coat which easily sheds the heavy clay soils found at Wimpole. His pedigree goes back a long way and I have the pedigree papers. Vladimir bred his dogs to hunt wild boar so they are very muscular and strong dogs with unusual stamina. I bought Cory to help me with the deer culling as he will follow up on a wounded deer should that happen. One interesting fact about Cory is his ability to sniff rabbits through a foot or more of soil. Many times he has marked a single rabbit hole, spent hours trying to dig it out and then gone into the field to dig another new hole. At first I just let him dig but then curiosity got the better of me and I had to get the spade out and, believe it or not, as I dug down I came across the rabbit, pretty amazing. Also he has different barks for different animals: if he is chasing a rabbit it’s a high pitch but, if a fox comes snooping around the chickens, he’ll give chase and the bark sounds much more serious. He also helps round up my sheep (although sometimes he can get carried away!).
Missie (kennel name is actually ‘Kali’), on the other hand, was imported from Serbia (Shonski kennels) She was born on the 30.11.2012 and has a wire coat that doesn’t shed the Wimpole clays quite so easily. She is smaller and less muscular and will disappear down the larger holes after rabbits; being slighter she has quite a turn of speed which allows her to catch rats. With both dogs working together the rats are easily caught. Last year they caught just under a hundred rats at Home Farm, Cobbs Wood Farm and around the gardens of the Hall.
Last week Missie gave birth to seven Jagdterrier puppies, six males and one female.