The Drever is a breed of scenthound developed in Sweden in the early part of the 20th Century. Descended primarily from the Westphalian Dachsbracke and other similar German breeds, the Drever has become one of the most popular deer hunting dogs in Sweden. Although very rare outside of Sweden, the Drever is one of the most popular and numerous breeds in its homeland. The Drever is best known for its keen nose, affectionate personality, and long-bodied and low to the ground appearance. The Drever is also known as the Swedish Drever, Svensk Drever, Swedish Dachsbracke, Svensk Dachsbracke, and the Dachsbracke, although several other breeds are also known by that name.
The Drever is a very recently developed breed, and its history is much better known than that of most breeds. The Drever can trace its origins back to the 1910’s and the 1920’s. Prior to that time, technological and political advancements made it increasingly easy to ship dogs from one country to another. This allowed for Swedish hunters to easily import dogs from across Europe to see how they would function in Sweden. This experimentation was necessary because most hunting dogs are not capable of working in Sweden which not only has some of the roughest and most treacherous terrain in Western Europe, but also some of the coldest climates found on Earth. Many imported breeds proved incapable of working under these challenging conditions, but a few managed to thrive. Some of the most successful hunters proved to be the Dachsbrackes, a group of closely related German hound breeds. The term Dachsbracke loosely translates to Badger Hounds, Badger Scenthounds, or Badger Brackes (a term used to describe German Scenthounds), and that is primarily what these dogs were used for. The Dachsbrackes are typified by their very long bodies, short legs, and excellent senses of smell. Although small, Dachsbrackes have long been used to hunt in some of the coldest and most treacherous places in Europe, such as the Alps Mountains.
Swedish hunters initially imported Dachsbrackes to hunt small burrowing game such as rabbits, badgers, and foxes. However, they quickly discovered that these dogs were excellent scent trailers capable of following any game species found in Sweden. Swedish hunters quickly began to favor using Dachsbrackes to hunt for deer, and dogs of this type became the most popular and commonly used deer hunting dogs in Sweden. The Roe Deer of Sweden are notoriously nervous and skittish. Large hounds that got too far ahead of hunters would often scare them away before the hunter got in range, meaning that short legged dogs that could easily be followed were ideal. In Germany, there are several distinct breeds of dogs which are considered Dachsbrackes, including the Westphalian Dachsbracke, Alpine Dachsbracke, and sometimes the Dachshund. During the early 20th Century, there were also a number of Dachsbracke-type dogs that were not breeds in the modern sense but rather purpose-bred landraces. In Sweden, all of these dogs were imported and cross-bred with each other. Because Swedish hunters favored the Westphalian Dachsbracke, this breed was responsible for the majority of these crossbred Dachsbracke’s ancestry, but all forms of Dachsbracke and possibly a few other German, British, and French scenthounds were used as well. The resulting animal was very similar in appearance, temperament, and hunting ability to its ancestors, but was very slightly (less than an inch) taller on average, possessed a very marginally different appearance, and was more adapted to the cold climates and rough terrain of Sweden.
Swedish hunters did not initially have a specific name for their crossbred Dachsbrackes, and simply referred to them as Dachsbrackes. As the decades wore on and it became increasingly clear that their Dachsbrackes were different from those of Germany, they began to call them Swedish Dachsbrackes or Svensk Dachsbrackes. By the 1940’s, the Swedish Dachsbracke had established itself as the most popular working scenthound in Sweden, and the breed was divided into two distinct sizes. The Swedish Kennel Club became very interested in granting official recognition to this uniquely Swedish breed. However, the club wanted to select a name for the breed that would distinguish it as much as possible from the German Dachsbracke breeds. The club also wanted to distance the breed from Germany because such associations were considered highly negative in the years immediately following World War II and the Holocaust. A nationwide newspaper contest was held in 1947 to give the larger of the two Dachsbracke sizes a new name. The name Drever was selected as the winner. The Swedish word Drev describes a specific style of hunting where the dog drives the prey towards the hunter, and the word Drever literally means, “one who ‘drevs.’” In 1949, the Swedish Kennel Club granted full recognition to the Drever, becoming the first major canine organization to do so. Shortly thereafter, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) also granted recognition to the Drever as a member of the Scenthounds and Related Breeds Group.
Since the 1940’s, the Drever has continued to grow in popularity in Sweden. The breed is now the most popular breed in its homeland, and is almost as popular there as the Labrador Retriever is in the United States. Despite its popularity in its homeland, the Drever has yet to achieve worldwide popularity. A sizable number of Drevers are found in both Norway and Finland, where they are used to hunt deer in much the same manner as in Sweden. Canada, whose climate is very similar to that of much of Sweden, also imported the breed very early. The Canadian Kennel Club became the first major English-language kennel club to grant full recognition to the Drever in 1956. It was not until 1996 that another major English-language kennel club followed suit when the United Kennel Club granted full recognition to the breed as a member of the Scenthound Group. The breed is also granted full recognition with a number of small and rare breed kennel clubs throughout the United States. The Drever is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, nor are there apparently any plans to change this situation in the future. Although a small number of Drevers have been exported to the United States, the breed has not yet become established in that country and it is unclear if any remain.
Unlike most modern breeds, the Drever remains primarily a working dog. Although the most popular breed in Sweden, the vast majority of the Drever population in that country is kept as working or retired hunting dogs. The same is the case in the neighboring countries of Norway and Finland. In Scandinavia, the breed’s future is very secure, and it maintains a dedicated following. Outside of Scandinavia, the breed remains essentially unknown and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future.
The Drever is very similar in appearance to the Westphalian Dachsbracke, and even most experts with years of experience would have difficulty telling the two breeds apart. In America, the breed would probably be mistaken for a Beagle/Dachshund mix, although neither breed figured very prominently in the dog’s ancestry. The Drever is a small to medium sized dog. Most males stand between 12 ½ and 15 inches at the shoulder, and most females stand between 11½ and 14 inches. The Drever has a very long body that is roughly 2 times as long from chest to rump as it is tall from floor to shoulder. Although weight is heavily influenced but height, build, condition, and gender, most breed members weigh between 30 and 35 pounds. The Drever has short legs, but they are considerably longer in relation to the dog’s body size than those of the Dachshund, being about the same proportionally as those of the Beagle. Although not immediately apparent due to the dog’s coat, the Drever is a very well-muscled and athletic breed. The Drever should have a deep chest, and the distance between the floor and the bottom of the dog’s chest should be about 40% of the distance between the floor and the dog’s shoulder. The tail of the Drever is long, thick at the base, and usually carried down. A tail which is carried level to the body is acceptable but not if it is carried higher than the back.
The Head and face of the Drever are very similar to those of other scenthounds. The head is rather large in proportion to the body, and tapers from the back towards the nose. The head and muzzle of the Drever are not entirely distinct but blend in very smoothly with each other. The muzzle itself should be as long as possible to provide the dog with the greatest potential area for scent receptors, at least as long as the rest of the skull, and also very wide. The muzzle may be either straight or slightly convex. The nose of the Drever should always be black, and with large, well-developed nostrils. The ears of the Drever are medium-long in length, proportionately about the same as those of the Beagle. The ears should hang down close to the cheeks and be rounded at the tips. The eyes of the Drever are dark-in-color but bright looking. The overall expression of most Drevers is emotional, soulful, kind, and gentle.
The coat of the Drever is harsh, straight, and close lying. The hair is slightly longer than those of most scenthounds but would still probably be considered short. The hair is generally uniform over the entire body but is longer on the neck, back, and rump. The hair on the underside of the tail forms a mild brush. Color is considered much less important than hunting ability for the Drever. The only requirement is for the dog to have some white markings on its body, which are usually found on the feet, chest, neck, and face. These markings often include a full white collar and blaze, but not always. Although there are no specific rules or patterns for these white markings, they should be well-defined and symmetrical. As long as these white markings are present the Drever may be found in any color, combination of colors, or set of markings. Among the most common are black, tan, black and tan, brown, black and brown (tricolor or hound color), brindle, and fawn.
The temperament of the Drever is very similar to that found in other working scenthounds. Although rarely kept as a companion dog, the Drever has a temperament that would probably be suitable for such a life. The breed is known to be highly affectionate with its family, and most breed members are described as “sweet.” With proper training and socialization, this breed is usually quite friendly and outgoing. Human aggression is very rare in this breed, and many longtime fanciers claim that they have never encountered a human-aggressive Drever which was properly trained and socialized. Some breed members make tolerable watchdogs although their barks are more invitations to play than they are threats. This breed would make a very poor guard dog as it lacks both the size and aggression. Provided the dog has been properly introduced to them, most breed members are good with children, to whom they often show great fondness and affection.
Although often used alone, the Drever was bred to work in a pack with up to several dozen other dogs. As a result, dog aggression is very rare in the Drever, which is usually happiest when kept with at least one (and preferably several) canine companions. As is always the case, it is important to use caution when introducing strange dogs, but Drevers generally adapt well to existing canine families. The breed is considerably less tolerant of non-canine animals. This dog was bred to chase and potentially attack and kill other creatures, and often displays very high levels of aggression towards them. However, this breed does tend to exhibit less animal aggression than many hunting scenthounds, and most breed members can be trained and socialized to leave cats and other family pets (but not necessarily strange animals) alone.
Because the Drever is kept almost exclusively as a scent tracking hunting dog, it is very difficult to say what its trainability is in other fields. The breed is known to be a natural hunter than requires very little training to begin working in that field. The Drever also takes to manners training and socialization with little difficulty. Beyond that, the breed probably poses serious training difficulties. The same traits that make scenthounds excellent and determined hunters, determination, stubbornness, refusal to quit, and a drive to chase anything they scent, also makes them quite challenging to train. This certainly does not mean that it is impossible to train a Drever, but it does mean that owners will have to spend extra time and effort doing so and that the final results may be less than what is desired. Because the Drever is so driven to pursue whatever it senses, it may completely ignore calls to return. For this reason, owners should always keep their Drevers on a leash when outside of a safely enclosed area unless they have been carefully hunt-trained.
The Drever has been bred to pursue quarry relentlessly for hours on end. As a result, this breed has considerably higher exercise requirements than most similarly sized dogs. Drevers should receive at least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. Breed members who don’t receive a proper outlet for their energy will probably develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, nervousness, over excitability, excessive barking, inappropriate greeting, and hyper activity. All that being said, once a Drever has been properly exercised it will generally be relaxed and calm in the home, and most reasonably-active, dedicated families will be able to meet this dogs needs without being run ragged.
The Drever is a low-maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular and thorough brushing. Drevers do shed, and they can shed a whole lot. Many Drevers shed more than breeds several times their size, and they can cover carpets, furniture, and clothes with hair. Although regular brushing can greatly reduce shedding, it cannot eliminate it entirely. Drever owners do have to regularly clean their dogs’ ears. The drooping ears of the Drever can collect dirt, grime, food, water, and other particles which can then become lodged in the ear. Such lodged particles can lead to irritations, infections, and even hearing loss if not regularly and carefully removed.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Drever, which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. Most fanciers believe that the Drever is in good to excellent health, and not specific health problems have been identified as major concerns in this breed. These claims are rather likely considering that the Drever has been spared the worst of modern commercial and backyard breeding practices and it has been bred almost exclusively for working ability, where any defect would be quickly eliminated. This does not mean that the Drever is immune to genetically inherited health conditions, but it does mean that the breed suffers from fewer of them and at lower rates than most modern breeds.
Although skeletal and visual problems are thought to be rare in this breed, it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring. It is highly advisable to request that breeders show any OFA and CERF documentation that they have on a puppy or its parents, which essentially all reputable breeders will have.
Although health studies have not yet been conducted on the Drever, they have been for a number of closely related and similar breeds. Based on those studies, the Drever may be susceptible to the following health concerns: