There is a lot of history and lineage behind the extraordinary German Shepherd dog. Created back in 1889 by Max von Stephanitz, the GSD has come a long way since its inception. However, along the path to the modern-day version of the breed, there have been many twists and turns. Because of that, 5 separate German Shepherd bloodlines have been formed. Each one has its own unique physical attributes, temperament, and traits.
This article will examine each bloodline closely covering the history and what makes each pedigree so special.
American German Shepherd Bloodline:
The American line is the Americanized version of the classic GSD from Germany. It is bred mainly for looks with a signature slanted back.
Just 17 years after the breed’s creation in 1906, the very first German Shepherds came to America. A bitch named Mira von Offingen and two other unnamed GSDs were imported to the states by Otto H. Gross.
She was exhibited a year later in 1907 as Mira of Dalmore. Although she was never registered, she was the Property of Dalmore Kennels of H.A. Dalrymple, of Port Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
After a brief hiatus back to Germany due to a lack of interest, Gross returned with Mira in 1908 and entered her in the dog show as a German Sheepdog. She was beat by a GSD named Queen who was owned by Adolph Vogt.
Queen was most likely Queen of Switzerland from the Krone bloodline who was the first ever GSD to be registered in the American Kennel Club’s Studbook.
Unlike the European working line German Shepherds, the American line was bred almost exclusively for appearance.
This is due to an emphasis on winning dog shows. The American German Shepherd is bigger and longer than the European version with a signature angular back that slopes down towards the hind legs.
It also has a smaller more rounded head compared to the European bloodline which has a bigger more angular head comparable to a wolf. Additionally, the ears and pasterns are softer.
Unfortunately, due to fact that the American German Shepherd line is bred for cosmetic purposes and not for working, the temperament suffers.
Unlike the European GSD, who goes through rigorous testing to uphold the standards for temperament, the American version doesn’t require temperament testing for breeding.
However, Regional Clubs can acquire a temperament test through the German Shepherd Dog Club of America for a small fee.
Generally, American GSDs are bred more for companionship and competition than actual working. This makes them a bit more lackadaisical and easier to maintain than their German counterpart.
They are still loving, loyal and protective but may lack some of the decisiveness that makes the European bloodlines such excellent police and service dogs.
Additionally, they may be overly aggressive, fear-biters, or nervous in certain situations. Their appearance and temperament has given them somewhat of a bad rap around the world and many breeders consider them an inferior breed.
East German Shepherd Bloodline (DDR)
The East German Shepherd is a beautiful working line version of the breed bred for power, strength, and tracking.
This particular bloodline goes back to the cold war era. After Germany was divided into two separate sectors following the end of World War II, East Germany became known as the DDR or Deutsches Demokratische Republik.
GSDs on the Eastern side became known as DDR German Shepherds with separate breeding rights and registration from the West.
They quickly became a staple in the German Military and were developed into superior guard dogs with a fierce and protective nature that suited the border patrol well.
Any DDR German Shepherds that were considered weak were culled from the litters leaving only the top performing dogs to ascend to the top.
They went through rigorous testing to outdo the West and could scale six-foot walls. They were used as attack dogs, sentries, tracking dogs and border patrol dogs.
To increase their fierceness, the Germans would limit their feedings to only once every 10 days. This would make them more hungry and therefore more aggressive towards anyone infiltrating the Berlin Wall.
Unfortunately, the bloodline was short lived lasting from 1949 to 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the border separating East and West, the true DDR German Shepherd dwindled in numbers.
Fortunately, a select group of breeders is focused on preserving the bloodline and to this day they are laboring to improve the breed.
Due to strict guidelines for breeding the DDR German Shepherd, they developed a very distinct look.
They normally have a bigger bone structure and therefore a larger block like head. Typically, they have a darker coat that is either black or sable.
Many of them are bi-color with most of the body and face being black except for a few small accents that are brown or tan in color. Those areas may include their cheeks, eyebrows or under their feet or tail.
The DDR were bred for guarding borders and make excellent police and military dogs because of their protective nature.
They have a stable, even-keeled temperament with a low to medium prey drive. They can be companion dogs but do better with someone who gives them jobs to do.
Their defensive nature may make it hard for the inexperienced to handle. They are aloof to strangers.
West German Shepherd Working Bloodline
The West German Shepherd Working Line is the closest to the original line created by Max von Stephanitz himself. They are hard workers and don’t have as many health issues as the other lines.
Their history goes back to the creator Max, a German cavalry officer turned dog breeder, who developed the German Shepherd from scratch.
He was obsessed with the breed and set the standard for the West Working Class GSD. His journey began with the purchase of Hektor Linksrhein back in 1899. He changed his name to Horand von Grafrath and the rest was history!
Horand was the foundation of the breed and was the main stud used by Max and other breeders at the time.
Additionally, Horand’s offspring were also crucial in developing the breed. His son Hektor von Schwaben and grandsons Beowulf, Heinz von Starkenburg, and Pilot were also key elements in the breed’s pedigree.
German Shepherds from other regions of Germany also contributed to the breeding pool. Their lineage carries on to this day with modern day breeders.
Appearance wise, this line is smaller overall because they are bred for labor and not for dog shows.
Their smaller size allows them to be more agile and quick. This comes in handy when they are working jobs in the police or military.
Normally, they are either bi-color or sable in their color pattern.
Because breeders put an emphasis on work and not show, they have a well-balanced drive and nerves. This lends itself well to the family-friendly aspect of the breed.
The strict standards set forth by the creator have led to low aggression, minimal fear, and hardly any shyness in their temperament.
Like most GSDs, they are full of energy and need to stay active and busy. They do better with an experienced owner who knows how to put them to work with activities and training.
They are extremely tough and durable with a high threshold. This line won’t back down from a fight or cower away from a dangerous situation.
West German Shepherd Show Bloodline:
The West German Shepherd Show Line was bred for dog shows but unlike the American version, still had to uphold strong health and temperament requirements.
Similar to the East and West Working Line German Shepherd, their history stretches back to the split in Germany following World War II.
The only difference was, certain breeders decided to start developing GSDs for the show ring instead of their original intention of working.
Because of this, they lost some of their strong character and temperament originally instilled by the founding father, Max von Stephanitz.
Thankfully, due to the SV, or German registry, German Shepherds are required to get hip and elbow clearances for competition. They must also acquire a working and show title.
One of the main giveaways of this line is a roached back. Similar to a horse, their back curves down in the middle.
Another common feature is their coat color and pattern. They are usually darker overall than their American counterpart and usually come in either traditional black and tan or black and red saddle.
They have a softer temperament overall compared to the Working Lines and have strayed a bit from their true heritage.
Because the focus is on showing, there isn’t much attention given to their working capabilities. Although they do compete in Schutzhund, it is only with other West Show Line GSDs.
Because they are easier to control, they do make good family pets and don’t require quite as much strict training as some of the other German Shepherds.
Czech (Slovak) German Shepherd Working Bloodline:
The Czech or Slovak Line was developed to patrol the borders of communist Czechoslovakia for many decades during the 20th century.
The beginning of this line started back in 1955 when the kennel Z Pohranicni Straze, or Z PS, was created.
It was formed to develop and train German Shepherds that would be used to protect the Czechoslovakian borders. Most of the dogs used in development were DDR GSDs brought over from East Germany.
Only the top dogs were chosen for breeding. The program began in 1956 and was eventually run and managed by Mr. Jiri Novotny who took over the reins in 1981 and retired in 2001.
The program’s goal was to create an elite quality working dog with dark pigmentation, powerful bones, and strong nerves. Additionally, they wanted to produce dogs that excelled in defense, obedience, and tracking work.
To do so, they established 3 breeding facilities that housed 80 females and 30 studs who worked with their handlers. Puppies were raised and trained with military type standards.
After a year, they were taken to Border Patrol facilities to capture intruders attempting to enter Czechoslovakia. They were extremely efficient at their job and would capture on average 20-30 people a day.
After Mr. Jiri Novotny left the program in 2001, the Z Pohranicni Straze became known as the “od Policie Ceske Republiky.” The kennel changed dramatically and the last dogs from the original kennel are for the most part owned by Jinopo.CZ, a group of breeders.
The Czech Line is narrower and more aerodynamic than DDR German Shepherd. Aside from that it is similar in appearance.
They have a wolf-like appearance with erect ears and strong jaws. Their heads are dense and their back is a straight line like the DDR GSD.
Their coat and color pattern can vary ranging from bi-color to sable.
The Czech’s temperament has improved over the last 20 years and is well-balanced with equal parts defense and prey drive.
They are hardworking and very athletic and agile. They do well socially and have a great trainability.
The Czech is an intense and energetic dog that needs jobs to stay active and sharp. They are well suited for an experienced owner who can devote time and attention to training.
Which German Shepherd Bloodline Is Right For You?
Each bloodline has its own unique physical characteristics and personality traits. But certain lines will work better with certain owner scenarios. Here are some examples to steer you in the right direction!
|American Bloodline||More laid back and ideal for a family or someone looking to show.|
|East (DDR) Bloodline||Excellent for police and military work or protection.|
|West Working Bloodline||Also great for police and military work but family-friendly.|
|West Show Bloodline||Good for show with an excellent temperament.|
|Czech or Slovak Bloodline||Good all-around guard dog with a stable temperament.|
If health is a major concern when choosing a bloodline, we recommend a working line GSD. The show lines are more prone to health issues because they were bred more for appearance and not temperament.
German Shepherd Bloodlines In Closing:
Any of the 5 bloodlines in this article are outstanding dogs and most of them would make excellent family companions. Their pedigrees were all shaped over time with some withholding strict guidelines to ensure the proper temperament. If you decide to own a German Shepherd, just make sure you are prepared to give them the time and energy for activities and training. They are high energy dogs that require a lot more work than some other calm dog breeds.
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We really appreciate you taking the time to read this article! Do you own a GSD and if so, what bloodline is it? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal story!