What were dachshunds bred to do?

They’re one of the country’s favorite breeds thanks to their spunky, independent personalities, limitless energy, and adorable height-to-length ratio. And it turns out, everything that makes them beloved companions today is the result of very deliberate breeding (for a very specific job!) dating back over 600 years.

So what were dachshunds originally bred to do? Two words: hunt badgers.

“Dachshund” comes from the German words “Dachs,” meaning “badger,” and “Hund,” meaning “dog.” The breed was originally developed by German foresters as the ultimate hunting partner for this tricky prey. Because badgers live in underground dens, they can be tough to locate and even harder to coax out into the open. Enter the dachshund, whose keen sense of smell was key to finding the badger’s den, and whose long, stout body was the perfect shape for tunneling down into it. The dog’s love of digging and very focused (ok, sometimes obsessive) personality came in handy, too, as badger dens can often be 6 to 8 feet underground!

Once underground, the dachshund used his loud bark to help a human companion pinpoint his exact location. From there, the dog’s job was to chase the badger out into the open, where the hunter would be waiting. And if a pup happened to get stuck while digging, his partner could always yank him out by his long, sturdy tail!

Charmed by your dachshund’s determined, lively nature? Back in German badger-hunting days, courage and perseverance were some of the breed’s most valued characteristics. (With badgers weighing up to 40 pounds, it’s easy to see why!) Ultimately, breeders were so successful in creating a fearless little dog that sometimes packs of dachshunds were even dispatched to take down wild boar!

Differences in coat type and size can also be traced back to the breed’s hunting past. Dachshunds likely started out with smooth coats, but soon the wirehaired variety was developed to withstand chasing prey through thorny briar patches. Longhaired dachshunds were conceived for hunting in cold climates. And although badgers were their original specialty, breeders later focused on developing a smaller version of the dog specifically for hunting rabbits: enter the miniature dachshund.

These days, you’re probably not using your dachshund to hunt badgers (or maybe you are, no judgment…), but the next time your pup ignores you because she’s digging in the yard or barking at a distant noise, try to appreciate the hundreds of years of hunting instinct that honed that habit. Or at least, cut her a little slack: after all, it’s in her nature.