By Linda Cole
The Schnauzer comes in three sizes: miniature, standard and giant. They may look alike, but each size is a distinct breed. The Standard Schnauzer is the oldest of the three Schnauzer breeds, and the Giant Schnauzer is the youngest. The one thing to keep in mind with any breed is that they were developed because of man’s need for a partner to help perform a job or task. In other words, a new breed was created because of the occupations of man. The Giant Schnauzer was developed to be a drover dog for cattlemen.
In the early years, the breed was known as the Wirehaired Pinscher, but that changed in 1879 when a dog named Schnauzer won first place in a dog show held in Hanover, Germany. People began referring to the breed as Schnauzer because of the dog’s bearded muzzle (German translation for muzzle is schnauze) and because of Schnauzer’s win at the dog show. In their native country of Germany, the Giant Schnauzer is known as Riesenschnauzer, which means “the giant.” This breed, however, is not one of the giant dog breeds; it’s simply the largest of the three Schnauzer sizes.
The breed originated in two neighboring agricultural areas of Germany: Wurttemberg and Bavaria. Shepherds were impressed with the Standard Schnauzer for the dog’s sheep herding abilities, but the standard was too small for working with cattle. At the time, there were no railroads. A larger, more powerful version of the standard was needed by cattlemen as a livestock guardian and drover dog. Giant Schnauzers were also used as draft dogs to pull produce carts to market and then guard them. The Standard Schnauzer, which is the foundation stock for the two other sizes, was most likely crossed with the Great Dane, Bouvier des Flanders, rough coated sheepdogs, black poodle and wolf spitz to create the Giant Schnauzer.
The Giant Schnauzer became common as a guard dog around stockyards, butchers and breweries. Because of their strength, drive and courage, the Giant Schnauzer was used as a messenger dog in WW I and remains popular in Germany as a livestock guardian, all around farm dog, guard dog, military and police dog. On the American Kennel Club’s 2011 most popular dog breeds list, the Miniature Schnauzer is #12, the Standard is #91 and the Giant is #95.