The Deutscher Jagdterrier, also known as the German Hunt Terrier, is a relatively new breed, developed in the early 1900s. Honed to German perfection, the Jagdterrier was engineered to be a versatile hunter, both above and below ground. These small, rugged working dogs fearlessly go after the most ferocious prey including wild boar and bear. The Deutscher Jagdterrier was developed by the Germans between the two World Wars in conjunction with a greater scheme to bring back supposedly extinct German species of animals and purge any foreign influences.
Pride, perfection, and purity—these notions were integral to Germany’s obsession with nationalism at that time in history. Combined with a fascination for genetic engineering and Adolf Hitler’s compelling personality, the result was the “perfect storm” of the Holocaust and World War II. When those nationalistic values and genetic engineering ideals were juxtaposed with the worldwide popularity of Terriers, the result was a desire to develop their country’s own “pure” German working Terrier. The end goal being to create a hunting dog possessing such perfect working qualities that it would trump all other Terriers—in particular British and American breeds.
The early 1900s witnessed a veritable tidal wave in the popularity of Terriers throughout Europe and in the United States. The Cruft’s Dog Show, formerly the Allied Terrier Show, became the largest dog show in the world after World War I. Also at that time, the first breed specific dog publication came into existence—a magazine devoted to Fox Terriers. The Westminister Dog Show started in 1907 and its first winner was a Fox Terrier. Fox Terriers took first prize in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1916, and 1917.
The desire to breed back or create a Terrier with the practical, functional qualities needed for hunting, was not without merit. This transition from dependable working dogs to show dogs led to the deterioration of the utilitarian qualities in many lines of Terriers that had been fine tuned over generations of breeding. Dogs began to be bred for attractiveness and show dog standards, while qualities such as scenting ability, keen vision, acute hearing, endurance, and persistence, were allowed to falter.
Fox Terrier enthusiasts debated these changes; as a result three members of the German Fox Terrier Association split from the group over the issue. These three men, Walter Zangenberg, Carl Erick Grunewald, and Rudolph Friess, were hunters and wanted to retain—or actually regain—the hunting traits of the Terrier. Grunewald described Zangenberg and Friess as his best teachers, both specialists in all aspects of hunting to ground and experts on fox hounds. Zangenberg was a cynologist, as was Grunewald; Friess was a forest ranger. They were friends and, prior to World War I, had bred and hunted with Fox Terriers together.
After World War I and their break with the German Fox Terrier Association, they embarked on a new project—developing a “pure” German Terrier with exceptional and versatile hunting abilities, free of foreign influences. Zangenberg bought--or was given, (the accounts vary)--a litter of pups from an almost black Fox Terrier and sired by an imported English Terrier. The litter consisted of two females and two males, all wire haired and black with red markings. Zangenberg named them Werwolf, Raughgraf, Morla, and Nigra von Zangenberg. He procured the pups, which would form the foundation stock for the Deutscher Jagdterrier, from Lutz Heck.
Lutz Heck, curator of the Berlin Zoo and an ardent hunter with a strong interest in genetic engineering would join the men in their terrier project. He was involved in efforts that supposedly back bred primitive cattle and horses such as the aurochs, an extinct species of wild cattle, images of which are found in the cave paintings in Lascaux, France. He is also said to have revived a primitive forest pony called the tarpan and the quagga, a subspecies of zebra.
Dr. Herbert Lackner, a famous cynologist from Koenigsberg, also participated, providing supervision on how to breed for particular genetic outcomes. The creation of the Deutscher Jagdterrier occurred at a kennel outside of Munich. Friess and Lackner provided the land, as well as additional financial resources. Their program was conducted on a large scale with strict discipline and control. They had as many as seven hundred dogs at a time, with no dog allowed outside of the kennel. Any dogs that did not match their desired criteria or meet the level of quality they were seeking, were automatically shot.
The foundation stock, while touted as pure bred Fox Terriers, may have been black and tan Fell Terriers or Welsh Terriers. Grunewald wrote: “First we tried inbreeding…But the results were not good. The picture changed, though, when we bred our four ‘originals’ with our well-trained old hunting Fox Terriers.” (He is referring to the line of Fox Terriers the three friends had bred, hunted with, and trained prior to World War I). This crossing resulted in the predominance of the desired dark coloring. As their breeding program unfolded, they bred the line repeatedly with Old English Terriers. Breed historians believe that Welsh Terrier blood was also added to the mix. After ten years, they achieved a dog that bred true to type. These small, dark dogs possessed a strong hunting drive, aggressiveness, keen scent and vision, the ability to chase prey barking, a lack of fear of water, retrieving capability, and a desire to obey their master. In short, Deutscher Jagdterriers were a hunter’s dream.
The German Hunting Terrier Club was founded in 1926 and the breed was first introduced to the public on April 3, 1927. German hunters utilized the breed’s versatility in hunting both above and below ground to go after a variety of game. The Germans also used Deutscher Jagdterriers as police dogs, for rescue operations in water, from fires, and in mountainous areas. They were also used by the military to carry messages through dangerous territory.
After World War II the breed was dangerously diminished in numbers in their native country. Breed enthusiasts worked to restore the population. Toward that end, an unsuccessful attempt was made to cross some of the remaining dogs with Lakeland Terriers, but the combination of the two breeds was soon abandoned. By 1951, Germany had thirty-two Jagdterriers from nine litters; by 1952 they had seventy five puppies. In 1956 one hundred forty-four Jagdterrier puppies were alive and well in Germany, where the breed continued to rise in popularity.
A German named Max Thiel, Sr. bought the first Jagdterrier in 1938; he used his dogs for hunting until the outbreak of World War II. During the war he lost everything, including his dogs. He and his family fled to Bavaria, where he purchased two female Deutscher Jagdterriers, Asta vom Mairhof and Naja von der Kammlach. Thiel immigrated to the United States in 1951. He brought Naja with him and sent for Asta, who he had bred before she was shipped. She arrived pregnant, giving birth to the first Deutscher Jagdterriers born on U.S. soil, including Freia von der Walkmuehle. In 1954 a man named Armin Schwarz Sr. imported Axel vom Elsterbusch, a Champion male Jagdterrier, to the U.S., where his dog sired several litters. These two Deutscher Jagdterriers are the foundation stock of America’s Jagdterrier bloodlines.
The breed did not gain popularity after it was initially introduced in the United States for a few reasons, one of which was that Deutscher Jagdterrier is a difficult name to pronounce. It was also distinctly foreign—and Germanic—which was most likely off-putting to Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Also, American hunters already had their own hunting dogs established, and they were satisfied with them. The Jagdterriers were used only to a limited extent in the U.S. and Canada, for hunting squirrel and raccoon.
The Nine Jagterrier owners in the United States met in St. Louis, Missouri in 1956 and formed the Jagdterrier Club of America (JTCOA). From 1950-1963 they had their own stud books. The club registered the early foundation stock of the breed in America, including Armin Schwarz Sr.’s Axel vom Elsterbusch and Freia von der Walkmuhle, as well as Max Thiel Sr.’s imported dog, Jago Wiolde Jagd. The goal of the JTCOA was to get the dogs recognized by the AKC, but the club petered out in the 1970s, before it accomplished its mission. Breed enthusiasts tried to restart the club in the 1980s, but internal disagreements caused it to flounder again. From the late 1980s until 2009, Jagdterrier clubs popped up in various states, but none took hold.
In 2009 Mr. Ray E. Delaney, an Irish immigrant to the U.S. who had been involved in promoting show and hunt Terriers for over forty years, successfully restarted the JTCOA. The JTCOA is committed to preserving the breed’s character and original working traits, not compromising these for the sake of show lines. The JTCOA wants show and working Jagdterriers to be identical.
Currently, the United States is experiencing a surge in interest in working Terriers, which is good news for the American Jagdterriers. New lines have been imported and these latest Jagdterriers conform to the Federation Cynologique International (FCI) standard, which means they are smaller and more suitable to both above and below ground work. American owners of the breed report that these newest lines have resulted in Jagdterriers who excel at hunting, flushing, and retrieving both on land and in the water. This versatility for the hunt, their high intelligence, and their desire to please are helping them gain in popularity with hunters in the United States. Jagdterriers are imported today not only from Germany, but also from Ireland, Holland, England, and even Russia.
In 1972 the first Jagdterriers were imported to Russia from Germany by A. Blistanov, a cynologist. In 1975, only one Deutscher Jagdterrier was registered in Russia, but by 1987, four hundred dogs were registered. Less than twenty years later, in 1992, Yuri Rulin imported the first Jagdterriers from Russia to the United States. Yuri Rulin had hunted bear, boars, moose, badger, fox, raccoon, squirrels, hares, and waterfowl with Jagdterriers in Russia. After immigrating to the United States, he used the dogs for hunting wild boar, deer, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, and armadillo. He says his dogs hunt enthusiastically for any type of game and in all weather conditions, adding that the breed has earned its nickname of “Fireball”.
The Knite Hunt Kennel in Tunas, Missouri, owned several of Yuri Rulin’s Jagdterriers including Rulin’s Lea, Rulin’s Graf, and Briarcrest Little Tige. Some of their Deutscher Jagdterriers today are from those bloodlines. Jack and Sharon Jones, the owners of the Knite Hunt Kennel have been hunting, working, and raising this dog breed since 1993, when they acquired Gypsy, their first Jagdterrier. They use their dogs for blood tracking, as well as for hunting hogs, raccoons, and bobcats. Jack and Sharon Jones also owned an outstanding breed specimen named Lex von der Walkmuehle, bred in Max Thiel’s kennel in St. Louis, Missouri. Lex was so powerful he could crush raccoons into the ground, breaking every bone in their bodies. The late Max Theil Sr. was a generous friend to the owners of the Knite Hunt Kennel, teaching them about the breed when they were first getting started and always willing to answer their questions; they consider him the Grandfather of Jagdterrier owners.
The Knite Hunt Kennel offers a description of the hunting capabilities of the Jagdterrier, if properly trained:
“He will retrieve anything he can carry. His manner of hunting fowl is by flushing and retrieving…on Wild Boar…the Jagdterrier maneuvers…to the side of the boar and grabs the ear, hanging on…slowing and hindering the boar. He has been used in bloodhound work tracking wounded game, given the scent 36 hours after the track was made…3-4 Jagdterriers on a bear are like a swarm of bees, making the bear climb a tree to get away…used for herding cattle and complete varmint control…”
The breed’s popularity continues to grow at a slow rate in the United States; since the Jagdterrier is primarily a hunting dog and not well suited to only living as a house pet, its appeal remains limited to hunters and sportsmen. The Deutscher Jagdterrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club January 1, 1993. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the Jagdterrier in 1968. The ARBA also recognize the Deutscher Jagdterrier (by the name German Hunting Terrier).
The Deutscher Jagdterrier is a smallish sized dog, compact and well-proportioned, with an almost square shape. These athletic dogs have a lively demeanor; when at rest they display a regal bearing.
The Jagdterrier’s height, measured from ground to withers, should be no less than 13 inches and no more than 16 inches. The ideal weight for these working dogs is 20 to 22 pounds for the males and 16.5 to 18.7 pounds for Jagdterrier females.
Several proportions are important in the standard for this breed. The circumference of the dog’s chest should be 4 o 8 inches more than the dog’s height. The depth of the chest is 55 to 60% of the height of the Jagdterrier. The dog’s body is just barely longer than the height.
Deutscher Jagdterriers’ thick skin is tight, without folds. They have thick coats that protect them from briars, cold, and dampness. Their dense hair should be hard and rough or coarse and smooth. Coat colors may be black, dark brown, grayish black, with clearly defined yellow-red (fawn) markings on their eyebrows, muzzle, chest, legs, and base of the tail. A light or dark mask is acceptable. Small, white markings on their toes and chest are allowed.
Their longish heads are slightly wedge shaped, but not pointed. The muzzle is a bit shorter than the length of the skull from the occiput to the stop. Their skulls are flat, broad between the ears and narrowing between the eyes. Their small, dark eyes are oval shaped and well placed to avoid injury. The eyelids are tight and the expression is determined. They have V shaped, semi-dropped ears that are set high. Their smallish ears lightly touch the side of their heads. The ears are thick enough to withstand tears or injury from briars and thickets.
Jagdterriers have a slight stop and pronounced cheeks.Their noses are not cleft, and they are neither too small nor too narrow, but in harmonious proportion to the muzzle. The nose is usually black, but if the dog’s coat is mostly brown, then its nose may be brown. Their strong muzzle sports a pronounced chin and a distinct under-jaw. Their jaws close in a scissor bite over a complete set of forty-two teeth. The upper incisors lock over the lower incisors with no gap; teeth stand vertically to the jaws. Lips are tight and well pigmented.
Their strong necks are longish and somewhat arched, widening as they blend into the shoulders. The shoulder blade is long, muscular, and lies oblique and backwards, with plenty of angulation in relation to the upper arm. The Jagdterriers have well defined withers and a straight topline. Their deep, narrow chests have well sprung ribs with a long breastbone. The back is strong and not too short. The underline curves backward with a slight tuck up at the belly. They have short, firm flanks and a well muscled loin. The croup is muscular and flat.
Their legs are well proportioned in relation to the rest of their bodies. Their forelegs are straight and parallel, when viewed from the front. From the side they are placed well beneath the body. The distance from ground to elbows is about the same as from elbows to withers. The upper arm of the forequarters should be long and muscular without wrinkles; the elbows are held close to the body and do not turn inward or outward. The angulation is good between the upper arm and forearm. Their forearms are straight and upright, dry, with strong bones. They also have strong bones in the pastern, which is slightly angulated to the ground; the pastern joint is also strong.
Deutscher Jagdterriers’ hindquarters are straight and parallel when viewed from behind. They have good angulation between the upper and lower thighs and at the hocks. Their upper and lower thighs are long and muscular; the upper is broad while the lower is sinewy. The strong stifles have good angulation between the upper and lower thighs. Their hocks are short and vertical, with the hock joint placed low.
Their tails are well set to their long croups and docked about one third. (Note: In countries where docking is prohibited, the tail may be left in natural state.) They carry their tails slightly raised, never letting it incline over their backs. If it is a natural tail it should be carried horizontally or in a slightly sabre-like form.
The forefeet are often wider than the hind feet. Their feet are oval to round, with the toes close together. Their dark pads are thick and hard. Forefeet and hind feet are parallel, turning neither inward nor outward, whether standing or moving. When in motion, Deutscher Jagdterriers cover a lot of ground with free movements; they exhibit a long reaching stride in the front and a powerful drive in the rear of the body.
Deutscher Jagdterriers are intelligent and fearless dogs who are determined and unrelenting in their pursuit of game. They are friendly toward people, but their high energy, strong desire to work, and hunting instincts require more than a role as human companion or family pet.
Jagdterriers are friendly to people in general, with enough wariness toward strangers to make them capable, sharp watch dogs. These dogs are affectionate and playful with children. As with any dog breed, young children should not be left alone with them and older children should be taught to respect their dog’s boundaries. Jagdterriers may be dog aggressive and, like most Terriers, are not to be trusted with small pets. Socialization and training can help with dog aggression, but because of their hunting proclivities they may always be a threat to small animals. This proclivity means that the dog needs to be leashed on its daily pack walk or run to prevent him or her from taking off after prey, without regard to traffic.
Their high level of intelligence and desire to please makes them quick learners, but that does not mean they are easy to train. Jagdterrier ownership is not for the inexperienced or laidback type of person, because this breed is dominant, stubborn, and has what is described as a “combustible” level of energy. Owners should be natural leaders and experienced at training and handling strong, dominant dog breeds. Deutscher Jagdterriers listen to and obey only one person. When well trained and provided enough outdoor work, they are affectionate creatures, happy in the home and at their work. They need to be socialized and obedience trained from puppyhood, with a firm, fair, and consistent approach. This dog breed will not respond well to harshness or physical punishment.
Jagdterriers need a couple of hours a day off leash running and engaged in vigorous activity in nature. Naturally, hunting would be the optimal daily activity for them. Without adequate outdoor exercise, this breed can quickly become anxious, restless, and hard to manage. They enjoy playing dog games and do well in dog sporting competitions.
This dog breed thrives best living in the countryside or in a home with a generous yard; they can adapt to urban life but they require a great deal of outdoor exercise and activity.
The coats of Deutscher Jagdterriers repel water and dirt, making them low-maintenance. A rub down with a damp cloth between baths should suffice. Bathe only as needed, using mild soap; too much bathing and the use of harsh shampoos can strip coats of needed protective oils. Brush your Jagdterrier once a week to remove any dead hair and maintain the sheen of the coat.
Deutscher Jagdterriers are hardy and robust dogs, who have a lifespan of between thirteen and fifteen years, approximately. They may be prone to a genetic breed disorder known as Primary Lens Luxation, or PLL. Symptoms usually appear when the dog is between three and eight years of age. PLL is a painful hereditary condition that leads to blindness.