The German Shepherd breed is relatively new. Compared to dogs like the Basinji, who were the favorite pets of multiple Pharaohs in ancient Egypt, or the Irish Wolfhound, which fought with Celts in Delphi and played with Julius Caesar, the German Shepherd’s history is quite short. The first example of what we think of as a German Shepherd was produced in 1899, and the UK Kennel Club only formally recognized the breed in 1919. However, German Shepherds have had a huge impact on families around the world, and have enjoyed a popularity that very few other breeds can match.
A German man named Max von Stephanitz first bred German Shepherds. Recognizing a need for an intelligent, athletic working dog to be used for sheep herding and other farm activities, von Stephanitz began to actively breed together dogs that showed these characteristics, and which were also aesthetically similar.
A minor noble, Max von Stephanitz, was born in Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony, in 1864. He served in the German army as a calvary officer and captain, and worked for a time in the Veterinary College in Berlin. It was his time in Berlin that influenced his work, and ultimately allowed him to succeed in his mission to create the perfect working dog.
He established the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (S.V.) with a group of men as co-founders. After a few years of development, he introduced the dog in 1901. Trained German Shepherds worked as sheepherders, delivered messages during World War I, served as protection dogs, and aided in rescue missions. Max von Stephanitz passed away in 1936, exactly 37 years to the day after his dog breed was founded. His work has continued to have an impact on the dog world to this day.