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It’s all in the name!

9 March 2016

There are so many dog breeds registered with the Kennel Club, and you may have seen our recent features about some of these. Obviously some breeds are more well-known than others, some have very vague history, shrouded in mystery, whilst some have well-documented origins. We have a few more for you here – and would love it if you would post photos on our Facebook page of your dogs too.


German Shepherd 

German Shepherd
Unsurprisingly, German Shepherds originated in Germany. Max von Stephanitz, an ex cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, firmly believed that dogs should be bred for working. He appreciated the intelligence, strength and agility of Germany’s native sheepdogs, but could not find a single breed that was, to him, the perfect working dog.

In 1899 he met a dog named Hektor Linksrhein at a dog show and Hektor fulfilled all his requirements for a perfect working dog. Von Stephanitz purchased Hektor because of his intelligence, loyalty and beauty and changed his name to Horand von Grafrath. Von Stephanitz then founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog) and Horand von Grafrath was officially named as the first German Shepherd Dog and was the first name on the Society’s breed register.

At the end of World War I, due to anti-German feelings across the world, the breed was officially renamed by the UK Kennel Club to Alsatian Wolf Dog, but eventually shortened to just Alsatian. In 1977, after campaigns by breed enthusiasts, the UK Kennel Club once again allowed the breed to be registered as German Shepherds, however the name Alsatian still remained as part of the formal breed name until as recently as 2010.



The Pekingese is an ancient breed of toy dog, originating in China. Also known as the Lion Dog, Peking Lion Dog and Peke, the breed was favoured by royalty of the Chinese Imperial Court as both a lap dog and companion and it’s name refers to the city of Peking (now Beijing).

Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog. For centuries they could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. During the second Opium War in 1860, British and French troops occupied the Old Summer Palace in Peking, and although the Emperor and his Court had fled, an aunt of the Emperor remained, together with her five Pekingese, who were found standing over her after she committed suicide.

Lord John Hay took a pair home to England and gave them to his sister, the Duchess of Wellington. Sir George Fitzroy took a pair to give to his cousins, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon and Lieutenant Dunne presented the fifth dog to Queen Victoria, who named it Looty.


Tibetan Mastiff 

Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff is also known as the Do-Khyi (which means dog which may be tied or dog which may be kept). It’s primary role is as a guardian of herds, flocks, villages, monasteries and palaces and although it would traditionally be tied up during the day, it is allowed to run loose at night.

The Tibetan Mastiff is not a true Mastiff – it was given this name by Europeans exploring Tibet – most large dog breeds were given the name Mastiff at that time. Western visitors also misnamed other breeds, eg the Tibetan Terrier is actually not a terrier and the Tibetan Spaniel is not a spaniel! A more accurate name for the Tibetan Mastiff would be a Tibetan Mountain Dog or a Himalayan Mountain Dog.

It is believed that the lineage of the Tibetan Mastiff dates back 58,000 years, although it wasn’t until early in 20th Century when King George V introduced a pair in England. During the war years, the breed almost died out in England. Although the breed has begun to gain popularity worldwide, it is still a relatively uncommon breed – and very expensive. In 2014, a golden Tibetan Mastiff was sold for over US$2 million.