6 Dog Breeds With Secret Superpowers
Unlike the lazy, couch-hogging fatbodies they tend to be today, dogs used to be required to work for a living. For centuries, "man's best friend" was more employee than pal, and family dogs were valued much more for their ability to perform difficult (or deadly) tasks than for any snuggling skills. And this winds up explaining a whole lot about dogs that you probably didn't know.
For instance, why are dachshunds shaped like that? Why do shar-peis have all that extra, loose skin? It's because humans have bred all sorts of weird superpowers into these animals to help them do our bidding.
Wiener Dogs Were Bred to Kill Badgers
With their furry kielbasa bodies, stubby little T-Rex arms, and a tendency toward unwarranted yapping, dachshunds are the feisty Rodney Dangerfields of the modern canine community. They may be the ninth most popular dog in the U.S. today (having overcome the stigma brought about during World War I by an unavoidable association with the Kaiser's Germany), but for most people the breed is little more than a running joke, often subjected to open ridicule in the streets.
"I can taste your mockery."
But believe it or not, the goofball qualities of the dachshund were designed with a purpose in mind. Those long, barrel-chested bodies, pointy noses, and paddle paws, combined with that aggressive personality, are all perfect for the job they were created for: murdering badgers.
"Who's a wiener now?"
Yes, the most mocked dog in canine history was designed for mortal underground combat with one of the world's most vicious varmints. "Dachs" is German for "badger," so its name translates to "badger hound." Those tubular torsos and oversized paws help them snake through underground tunnels, while their broad chests allow for better subterranean breathing. Most importantly, those inborn Napoleon complexes they have are vital when the time comes to face the snarling nastiness at the end of said tunnel.
"You're no prize yourself, jerk."
Need more reasons to give dachshunds some respect? What if we told you about the time a dachshund saved John Wayne's family from a fiery death? How about the fact that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel raised them? Or that a dachshund named Lump was a muse to Picasso?
"We will find you and we will kill you."
And if you need further proof of their skills, here's a video of a dachshund murdering the living hell out of a field rat:
The Catahoula Leopard Dog Can Climb Tall Trees
The Catahoula leopard dog (the official dog of Louisiana!) looks like a mishmash of what-the-fucks, because that's basically what it is. In fact, its exact lineage is as murky as bayou swamp water. Some say French settlers interbred their working hounds with red wolves. Others claim the local Native Americans crossed their breeds with Hernando de Soto's war dogs about 300 years earlier. Whatever their origin, leopard dogs can be a startling sight to the uninitiated, with their "cracked glass" eyes and coats that look like a Jackson Pollock entry in a grooming competition. Even more startling, these dogs have an ability one wouldn't normally associate with their kind: They can climb trees.
For those wondering how to say "Fuck you, gravity!" in dog.
This skill actually wasn't the result of creative breeders who maybe worked a cat in there somehow; it likely came about naturally. Food in containers was often scarce back in the old days, so often the dogs were left to fend for themselves. Out of necessity, these dogs became incredibly versatile, developing not only the aforementioned tree climbing ability but also webbed feet for swimming and extremely high intelligence.
No trees were harmed in the making of this article. Though some were peed on.
When their unique talents were recognized, owners became so protective of the breed that their bloodline was kept secure and pure through strict (and often cruel) measures. Able to work in packs, leopard dogs solidify their badass pedigree by being one of the very few domestic breeds capable of hunting wild hogs without being torn to shreds in the process. Oh, and Teddy Roosevelt hunted with them.
Basically making everything else we just wrote there a complete waste of time.
And, again, we wouldn't leave you without video evidence:
Shar-Peis' Loose Skin Turns the Tables on Wild Boars
Let's get this out in the open: Chinese dog breeds can be pretty weird. The list includes such entries as violet-tongued, edible plush toys and spoiled yippy fuckwits who think they are royalty. Those infamous contests for world's ugliest dogs? More often than not, the winners are Chinese cresteds. But the shar-pei sure stands out, because instead of the ability to taste good, or to see you as its servant, or to be hauntingly hideous, this breed is specifically designed to hunt boars. Using the power of its loose skin.
What could go wrong?
The problem with boars is that they are huge, angry wild beasts with bulletproof skin, while shar-peis are not that big at all. They average 18 to 20 inches in height and weigh from 45 to 60 pounds, which on paper is no match for the living tanks boars are. To overcome this problem, the dogs were bred to have an extreme amount of loose skin wrinkles that gave them the option to simply shake off the beast. Whenever a shar-pei was bitten, he could twist in his skin and fight back. The thick layer of skin that gave them their trademark fluffy look is actually a weapon.
"Oh, shit! Run!"
It was probably only a matter of time before someone had the idea to let the dogs fight each other, because hey, the entertainment options were scarce in ancient rural China. But the reason shar-peis are one of today's most hip breeds is that they are by nature kind, loving, and affable animals. So, how would anyone make them attack their own kind? Why, the same way everything has been solved since the dawn of man -- drugs.
Dalmatians Are Fire Department Mascots for a Reason
If you've seen a dalmatian, it was almost certainly in one of two settings: a photo or video of one sitting in the cab of a fire truck or the movie 101 Dalmatians. But while it's true that a large part of Western society probably thinks dalmatians were invented by Disney, this old breed comes from today's Croatia and was primarily used to accompany stagecoaches. This is because they get along extremely well with horses.
But the reason dalmatians are commonly known as firefighters' dogs is that, in addition to their good relationship with the horses that used to draw fire carriages, dalmatians aren't freaking afraid of fires.
"Go get it, boy!"
Back in the days when fires were fought by people in super flammable wooden carriages, someone realized that dalmatians -- a breed so old they are literally painted into Egyptian hieroglyphics -- could be used to run in front of the coach and clear the way. They even comforted the horses that were afraid of the fire (because horses are pussies), and during the action they also guarded the firefighters' belongings (because thieves are huge assholes). The invention of cars changed everything, but dalmatians still accompany fire trucks today.
Sure, they can't hold a hose or unscrew a fire hydrant, but they do hate the shit out of fire.
One oft-told rumor is that these dogs were used to help firefighters because they had hearing problems, and so the sirens wouldn't disturb them. Chris Benoit, president of the Chicagoland Dalmatian Club, calls bullshit on this, but it is true that this breed has had a long history of deafness, and it's only getting worse because the success of 101 Dalmatians encouraged the dipshit kind of breeders to sell genetically deformed puppies. Thanks, Disney.
"Cute! Let's mass-produce them!"
Basset Hounds' Huge Ears Are Used to Catch and Trap Scents
Basset hounds are not exactly known for being canine portrayals of stunning beauty: They have the clumsy, salami-shaped body of a dachshund and the propensity to drool like a St. Bernard. They were bred to track and hunt rabbits, which looks like a rather preposterous premise for a dog with really short, fat legs, given that rabbits are ridiculously fast. Also, male bassets can weigh more than 70 pounds.
Plus, they aren't exactly aerodynamic.
But the truth is quite the opposite: Bassets are perfectly fit to do their work, which is to scent rabbits rather than maul them mercilessly. For starters, they are dogs, so they have an incredible sense of smell. The long, floppy ears, though they have a tendency to rot (bassets are prone to yeast infections that are not to be taken lightly), can gather the scent of the game and hold it close to the dog's nose.
The saggy skin hanging from his head? Same purpose. Of course, this feature makes the dogs vehemently sniff on everything they can find, and if their super-ears and turbo-noses come upon a scent, they will stubbornly try to track it down.
"To catch the enemy, I must become the enemy."
Given the circumstances, the short legs suddenly make a whole lot of sense -- the basset's ear gains its superpowers only in contact with the ground. Their incredible stamina, combined with the inability to go too fast, allowed hunters keep up with them, and once a rabbit was found, the dogs were off duty, because hunters tend to have guns handy.
"And now my goddamned ears are going to stink like rabbit for a week."
Rhodesian Ridgebacks Literally Hunted Lions
Back when Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia, the European colonists in Africa faced a daunting landscape filled with wondrous and dangerous animals unlike anything they'd seen before. Naturally, they wanted to get right down to the business of hunting those animals and mounting their heads on walls. But the dogs they brought along with them were used to chasing things like foxes and deer, not big game. So they crossed their collection of various pooches with the half-wild Khoikhoi dogs kept by the local Hottentots, and the result was the Rhodesian ridgeback, also known as the African lion hound.
With a name like that, it's no wonder they strut around like arrogant pricks.
True to their name, these dogs were used to hunt lions. Not by sniffing them out or pointing in their general direction, but by actually chasing down fully grown Mufasas and bringing them to bay while their masters rode in on horseback for the kill.
Not so philosophically stoic about the "Circle of Life" when it's your ass on the line.
Described by some as the Navy Seals of dog breeds, ridgebacks are immune to insect bites and are able to keep up with a hunter on horseback for 30 miles. While they're perfectly suited for the harsh terrain of the African plains, they've also shown to be excellent home companions. If they don't get enough exercise, however, they've been known to treat the inside of their owners' homes like actual Navy Seals treat San Diego tourist bars.
Which is to say, they come to party.
You may be wondering why these dogs are called "ridgebacks." This refers to the odd strip of raised fur that runs down their back, made up of hair that decided to grow in the opposite direction of all the other follicles.
"Ignore Rex; he's just going through his punk phase."
It's just a mutation, caused by putting so many different kinds of dogs into the genetic bouillabaisse. But what better mutation for a lion-hunting dog than a kickass mohawk? Unless, of course, it were born with one squinty eye and little anchors on its biceps or something.
E. Reid Ross is a columnist at Man Cave Daily, and the proud father of a brand new baby Twitter account that you can coo at here. Dominik is an aspiring writer and musician from Prague, Czech Republic. You can follow him on Facebook while listening to some stuff from his band.
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