By Linda Cole
Growing up, I always had my nose stuck in a book, which was usually about the adventure of a dog, cat or some other animal. One book was about a dog described as having wirehairs sticking out around his muzzle, which gave him a grizzly sort of look. It was an old library book, written sometime in the 1940s or earlier, and about the only thing I remember is the breed of the dog. He was an Otterhound, a unique dog originally bred to hunt only one critter.
The exact origin of the breed isn’t known. Britain is where the Otterhound was developed, but it’s believed the breed began in France because of similarities the breed shares with the French Griffon Nivernais in coat type, appearance and conformation. Although a large dog weighing 65 to 125 pounds and standing 24 to 28 inches at the shoulder, the Otterhound has a rough, unkempt-looking double coat with a somewhat oily undercoat and water-repellent outer coat. His feet are large and webbed which helps him do the job he was originally bred to do: hunt river otters.
The earliest writing that mentions the “Otter Dogge” was in England in 1175. William Twici, a 14th century huntsman, described the breed as “a rough sort of dog between a hound and a terrier.” During the early years in England, fisherman had to compete for trout and other fish with river otters that were considered to be vermin. Hunters used terriers to flush otters from dens dug into banks along ponds, lakes and rivers. Once the otter was on the run, packs of Otterhounds followed the animal on land or into the water.
By Suzanne Alicie
While there are several well known giant breeds of dog available, some folks just want a “big” dog, not necessarily a giant dog. Large dog breeds are thought of as fun and playful while also being quite capable of guarding and protecting their families. For folks like me who love big dogs, the list is quite extensive. Here are four large dog breeds that are popular in America:
For the past 22 years, the Labrador Retriever has been the #1 dog on the American Kennel Club’s Most Popular Dogs list. Labs are intelligent, friendly, loyal and playful. They are good with children and require very little grooming, which makes them an ideal large dog for families.
German Shepherds are often used as police dogs because they are very effective security animals. However, they are also very loyal and loving, playful and gentle. Some of my favorite photos on the internet are from a Facebook group called the German Shepherd Dog Community which features members’ dogs cuddling with their kids, other dogs and even kitties. If you’re looking for a large and loving dog that will protect his family, then you can’t go wrong with a German Shepherd.
By Linda Cole
For centuries, people have associated certain breeds of cats and dogs with mythical legends, and some are still believed today.
Shih Tzu – One of the 14 oldest dog breeds, “the Lion Dog” is the smallest of the Tibetan holy dogs. In Buddhist mythology, Buddha rode to earth on a lion and carried a Shih Tzu. The dog was bred to resemble a lion, and was given high honor as the dog loved by Buddha. It was believed Shih Tzu dogs were incarnations of mischievous household gods. It was also thought they carried the souls of lamas searching for nirvana.
Norwegian Forest Cat – This large feline originated in Norway, and sailed with the Vikings to control rodents. The cat evolved by natural selection some 4,000 years ago, and has a role in Norse mythology. Viking gods are divided into two groups, Aesir and Vanir. Aesir gods were connected to war and victory, and Vanir gods were wise with magical skills. One of the Vanir gods, Freya, was the goddess of beauty and love. During battle against the Aesir, Freya’s chariot was pulled by two large Norwegian Forest Cats.
By Linda Cole
In the Akita’s native country of Japan, the breed is considered a courageous and loyal national treasure. In fact, he is so loved there that an Akita statue is given to the parents of newborn babies to signify health, happiness and long life, and to the sick for a speedy recovery. The Akita is the largest of six national dog breeds of Japan. To preserve the breeds, all six were designated precious natural resources of Japan under the Cultural Properties Act of 1936, which gave the breeds official recognition and protection.
The Akita origins are in the Odate region of the Akita Prefecture, located in the northern rugged mountains on the main island of Honshu. At one time the Akita was called the Odate Dog, but the breed name was changed when the dogs were given protected status. This is an old breed descended from spitz-like dogs with a history that goes back to at least the 1600s, and possibly even farther.
A favorite of the Imperial family and ruling class, the Akita became the “royal dog” of the ruling elites, and they were the only ones who could own this powerful breed. Special leashes for each dog symbolized his rank and the importance of his owner. Elaborate ceremonies were performed for the care and feeding of the Akita. Centuries old sketches depict the breed standing with their royal owners, dressed in lavish ceremonial robes.
Bred as a hunter of big game like wild boar, elk and the huge Yezo bear, the dogs hunted in pairs, usually a male and female. The female nipped at an animal from behind while the male attacked from the front to bait their prey and hold the animal until hunters arrived. The Akita was also used as a guard dog, protecting family members and property. The bravery and size of this dog makes him a force to be reckoned with, and he continues to perform hunting and guard dog duties in his native lands. The dog can also be trained to retrieve waterfowl, and is an able and agile tracker with cat-like movements.
By Linda Cole
To the untrained eye, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between some dog breeds. The Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Husky may resemble each other, but there are differences between them.
The Alaskan Malamute is the state of Alaska’s official mascot, and one of the oldest of the northern sled dogs. Named after the Inuit tribe Mahlemuts, the nomadic people of Alaska used this powerful breed for centuries to hunt seals and pull heavy sleds to move supplies and people throughout the Arctic region. Today the breed looks much like it did 4,000 years ago. The Malamute is taller and heavier than the Siberian Husky. The dog stands 23 to 25” at the shoulder and weighs 75 to 85 pounds, though it’s not unusual for a muscular male to hit 100 pounds.
The Malamute has brown eyes and a broad head with the ears set wide apart. His bushy tail is carried over his back. Because the Malamute is heavier than a Husky, he is less likely to jump a fence, and will use his powerful paws to dig out instead. This breed should not be let off his leash; he has a high prey drive and loves to run. He can be gender aggressive with same sex dogs, but is affectionate with his human family. This is an intelligent, confident and stubborn breed.
By Linda Cole
During WWI, Lee Duncan was a U.S. army corporal stationed in France. On September 15, 1918, he was on patrol when he spotted a dog kennel heavily damaged from a recent bombing raid. Convincing his battalion to change course so they could check out the kennel, Duncan was surprised to discover five newborn puppies and their mom still alive. The pups and mother were rescued and taken back to camp, but only one puppy survived. We know him as Rin Tin Tin, a movie legend who showed the versatile, adaptable and loyal character of the German Shepherd dog.
The German Shepherd is a fairly new breed that was developed mostly during the 1900s. The breed originated in Germany as a top notch herding dog. German breeder Captain Max von Stephanitz wanted a herding dog that was capable and intelligent, with a good work ethic. In 1899, he mixed early versions of shepherd dogs to come up with the Deutsche Schaferhunde, the German Shepherd dog. Standard for the breed was written in 1901. The first dog in the United States was imported in 1907 and shown in the open class at Newcastle and Philadelphia dog shows.
The dog that von Stephanitz developed turned out to be not only smart and adaptable, but had many talents that were discovered during WWI. The Germans put the GSD to work as a war dog. Allied forces took notice of these versatile dogs used by the Germans, and were equally impressed with the breed. German Shepherds were used as Red Cross dogs, supply carriers, guard dogs, tracking dogs, sentinels and messengers.