The Head of the Dobermann Pinscher – Gruenig 1890 to 1925 & Simon Rietveld

By | 15th July 2017

The Head of the Dobermann Pinscher – Gruenig 1890 to 1925 & Simon Rietveld

This article uses the text from Gruenig together with photographs from Rietveld to
show the development of the Dobermann head during the period 1890 to 1925.

For more than thirty-five years the breeding of Dobermanns has marched its triumphant way but in spite of its general success it has failed to evolve a uniform head type applicable to the breed as a whole.
Let us take the head of the English Fox-Terrier as an example and we see at once that with occasional and slight variations the outlines of the head are pretty well standardized and fixed. It is to be borne in mind, however, that the fox-terrier breed is considerably older than the Dobermann, which places the latter under a handicap not so easily overcome.
Much might have been done toward standardizing the head type of our breed had not some of our breeders succumbed to catchwords and devoted their time to the pursuit of phantom forms.
Reversions to types that were common as much as twenty-five or thirty years ago still occur here and there but they are so rare that they have ceased to play an important role in the development of a type. The blood of doubtful ancestors has been so thoroughly diluted that danger arising from its presence is more theoretical than real.
The tempo at which the improvement of the Dobermann was pressed became so precipitate at times that overly great concessions to head type were made in the interest of improved body structure. This was not entirely without justification. The creation of the Dobermann breed within a period of but thirty-five years may well be regarded as one of the lesser miracles of breeding science. Today we have such a solid line of well developed dogs that the interval from the beginning of the breed to this date admits of a clear and precise appraisal. We assert quite confidently, therefore, that the Dobermann’s head type has acquired a homogeneity during the last two or three decades that compares favorably with older breeds.
The worst enemy of a uniform head development was the catchword of the day, and especially the slogan, “Pinschertype.” This term has even found its way into the pseudo-scientific works on dogs, and thus created havoc among confused breeders. Commercial breeders peddled this vicious nonsense with corresponding injury to the breed. The Dobermann Pinscher of today has only the tail end of his name in common with the German Pinscher. The former’s body structure is as far above the latter’s as heaven is above the earth. Thirty-five years of intensive breeding have created a beautiful breed while the German Pinscher remained stationary, to say the least. To compare the head of the Dobermann with that of the German Pinscher is an absurdity of which only a congenital idiot would be guilty.
In the blood synthesis which became the Dobermann Breed the German Pinscher contributed exceedingly little more than his name and even that little has been so thoroughly liquidated by how that nothing of its heredity is observable.
The Rottweiler and sporting dogs contributed infinitely more helpful influences in the shaping of the Dobermann head, a fact to which the heavy jowls and thick skulls of the earlier specimens bear eloquent testimony.
Extraordinary influence in shaping the head type was brought to bear upon the breed by the individuals noted for their potency in this particularly respect. Among them we have Leporello v.d. Nidda, Sturmfried v. Ilm-Athen, Fedor v. Aprath, Leuthold v. Hornegg, Waldo v.d. Strengbach, Sybille v. Langen, Modern v. Ilm-Athen, Lux v.d. Blankenberg, Favorit v.d. Koningstad and Lotte v. Roeneckenstein.
In 1906 we inaugurated the system of proportional and comparative measurement on an exact and scientific scale. Today we are able to appreciate the value of that system when we recount its results and the standard it set for the newer generations.
It is universally agreed that the modern Dobermann must be classified among the long headed breeds. A (human) generation ago this was hardly so. The breeders of that time were concerned, as those of today still are, with the problem of resolving the change in the relation between the length and the width of head in favor of the former. From 1895 to approximately 1903 little value was laid upon a long skull. Color and sharpness of temperament were the main objectives, with conformation of head and body running a poor second.

Skull measurements are made as follows.

Lay a flexible tape measure from the rear of occiput along the line of profile (center) to tip of nose. Let us assume that this shows 28 cm. Next we measure the circumference of the head immediately in front of the ears, here assuming a 39 cm. The width of the skull is calculated by dividing the circumference by Pi (3.1416) which yields a quotient of 12.1 cm. Now divide width (12.1) by the length (28) to obtain the proportion that width bears to length, in this case 0.43, the skull index.

The first dogs of the Dobermann breed which we knew, would probably have averaged a skull index of 0.65. In making these measurements we must not fall into the error of taking dogs too young or too old. The uniform age of one year would serve the purpose best. Care must also be taken in segregating dogs from the bitches. The dog has a somewhat heavier head than the bitch. The quotients may vary in each sex but the bitches will, as a rule, be found to have the longer heads relatively.
The old broad skulled type will hardly be found any longer in shows and certainly are no longer used for breeding. Some of them must have had a skull index of 0.8.
The first dog measured for our records was the black Greif v. Nibelungenhort, whelped in 1905 and measured in June, 1906. The dog was a fine one Ria money order   in his day and received several first prize awards in competition. His head, in keeping with the state of the breed at that time, was 24 cm. long and 44 cm. in circumference: a skull index of 0.58. How far we have progressed is best illustrated by a comparison of this index with that of Eike zum Ziel one of the outstanding modern dogs. Eike’s head is 31 cm. long and has a circumference of 42 cm.,-a skull index of 0.42. All this within the short space of twenty-five years, from 1906-1931. So we record another mighty step forward in our breed as well as in the art and science of breeding, a step which reflects vast credit to every sincere and forward looking breeder.
That these improvements were won at the price of constant battle and heart-breaking effort is best demonstrated by the measurements recorded during the years lying between the two extremes by which the total change is gauged. These measurements, in the form of yearly averages, are as follows:

1908 – 0.57
1914 – 0.52
1920 – 0.50
1922 – 0.45
1930 – 0.42

As only dogs with long skulls are now used for breeding this tendency is proceeding at an accelerated pace. Twenty-five years ago no index could be adopted as a norm (standard) because many localities were committed to distinctive types. The North, for instance, preferred coarser types than the South, but today all sections follow one tendency: that of lengthening the skull. In connection herewith it is necessary to note that climatic conditions are determining factors in this process. In the U. S. A. the climate has a tendency to slenderize both the body and the head of the Dobermann.
At this point let us quote the head measurements of some of the modern, well-known dogs and compare them with those of Greif v. Nibelungenhort placed at the head of the list:

No photograph
1906 Greif v. Nibelungenhort
Age 2 years
Length 24 cm.
Circum 44 cm.
Index 0.58

1931 Fedor v. Buetersburg
Age 8 years
Length 25 cm.
Circum 40.5 cm
Index 0.51

1930 Mars v. Simmenau
Age 2.5 years
Length 27 cm.
Circum 41 cm.
Index 0.48

No photograph
1930 Claus v. Cothenius
Age 2.5 years
Length 28 cm.
Circum 41 cm.
Index 0.46

1931 Big Boy of White Gate
Age 5 years
Length 28 cm.
Circum 40.5 cm
Index 0.46

No photograph
1930 Egil zum Ziel
Age 1.5 years
Length 28 cm.
Circum 39 cm.
Index 0.43

1930 Eike zum Ziel
Age 12 years (advanced age)
Length 31 cm.
Circum 42 cm
Index 0.42

Six Dogs’ Total index 2.76 Average Index 0.46

Bitches: By way of comparison we give herewith measurements of one of the all time best:

1931 Lotte II v. Simmenau
Age 5 years
Length 26cm.
Circum 38 cm.
Index 0.43
Lotte II

1928 Angola v. Grammont
Age 10 years (advanced age)
Length 25 cm.
Circum 41 cm.
Index 0.52

There can be no doubt that the shape of the head has in the past been determined to a large extent by the tastes of the crowds. The head of Matzi v. Groenland, whelped August 1895, was coarse and bore little resemblance to the heads of the modern dogs.

Matzi v. Groenland

However, by the time Belling v. Groenland, whelped May 1898, came along, the outlines of the head had considerably improved. This dog, and his litter brother, Greif, even more so, had pleasing heads and excellent expressions. The expressions of that time were much like those of the German Pinscher.

Belling v. Groenland

Greif v. Groenland

As early as in the year 1902 Leporello v.d. Nidda came upon the scene and, though he was only an interloper, brought with him a head type and expression which was a decided departure from that in vogue up to then. Leporello had a well defined stop, full muzzle, with well placed and soulful eyes.

Leporello v. d. Nidda

The formation of the breed was in full swing and from all corners of the land came news of cross-breeding experiments, some with striking success. The English Manchester Terrier was ultimately destined to produce the new head type, even though in a circuitous manner.
The chief bearer of this new head type was Fedor v. Aprath, whelped May 1906. From his paternal ancestors he received much Manchester Terrier blood. Some time before his appearance the Ilm-Athen line had produced profound changes in head type. The head of this Fedor caught the eye and fancy of the crowd. It is both pleasant and important to record that this dog managed to transmit this head type to his progeny and that it was carried through to his remotest descendants.

Fedor v. Aprath

A full brother of Fedor, Hans v. Aprath, had a head that bore no resemblance to his.

It is significant, and perhaps fortunate, that the great sires of that period exercised but slight influence in the evolution of the breed’s head. This is even true of Hellegraf v. Thueringen, who, like the others, was not without fault.

Hellegraf v. Thüringen

The same may be said of Lord v. Ried. Whether the changes that were taking place in the head structure of the Ilm-Athen dogs were traceable to the influence of blood foreign to our breed has never been authentically proved, though it is positively asserted. One thing, however, is certain, that the head type introduced by Leporello v.d. Nidda had completely disappeared and as early as 1909 was no longer in evidence at shows or exhibitions.

The head of Fedor v. Aprath had definitely become the style but it was not long before another put in its bid for recognition.

Fedor v. Aprath

In 1909 there appeared a strange head type which at first caused almost universal shaking of heads but soon won enthusiastic champions in various quarters. It was first exhibited by Sybille v. Langen, a daughter of Lord v. Ried and Stella.

Sybille v. Langen

Responsibility for the head and its heredity must be placed squarely upon Stella and not Lord v. Ried. This Stella carried a preponderance of Grey Hound blood and transmitted it into the Dobermann breed by way of the Silberberg strain. That Leuthold v. Hornegg, of the same paternal line as Sybille should possess a head in some respects similar to that of Sybille, is a peculiar coincidence. This peculiarity he transmitted to his progeny as an expression of his hereditary power. In his case, as in Sybille’s, no stop between the nasal ridge and the forehead was discernible, instead, these two bones met to form an obtuse angle. Here was a real and decided head deformity. It was marked by a maximum of length and a minimum of width of skull, by an extremely pointed muzzle and quite often by undershot jaw and slanting eyes.

Leuthold v. Hornegg

This same year 1909 marked the rise of another head type: that of Modern v. Ilm-Athen. Our purpose in reproducing this picture is to illustrate to what silly length the mutilation of an otherwise good picture can go. To pander to the then popular taste the lower jaw was pencilled out, creating the caricature shown herewith. The lines formed by the forehead and nose seem to come to a point with that of the lower jaw at the tip of the nose. This gives the face, when seen in profile, the appearance of being depressed in the middle. This type usually is accompanied by too round an eye and an overly developed zygoma (cheekbone) which is often mistaken for too heavily developed musculature. In most cases the muzzle is well filled. No real damage has been done to the breed by this type.

Prinz Modern v. Ilm-Athen
Prinz Modern

The period of Lux v.d. Blankenburg brings us still another head type, which sprang from a mixture of all of the foregoing. In the main it will be found to incline mostly to the type of Leuthold. In Lux we have a dry head, correctly placed eyes but a more or less roman nose. The muzzle could afford to be heavier and stronger.

Lux v. d. Blankenburg

The goal and prototype for a permanent head type can well be found in several of the Dutch dogs, notably Favorit v.d. Koningstad and the newer dogs like Eike zum Ziel. A plainly marked stop with full muzzle and long wedge-shaped head, combined with a correctly set eye (without visible haws) light, thin lip and dry in every respect.

Favorit v. d. Koningstad

1930 Eike zum Ziel

The head of a Dobermann is extraordinarily improved by a correct eye. A too large or protruding (“pop”) eye, as well as a too deep or slanting (“chink”) eye spoil the dog’s entire appearance, and are usually the concomitants of an otherwise undesirable head type. The basic color of the eye should be dark; from deep brown to black in the blacks and conforming to hair color in the browns. This would properly permit a much lighter eye in the blues than in either of the blacks or browns. We ought not to ask the impossible of Nature, but we do it when we demand a black eye in a brown dog. A prominent haw is faulty and should be bred away from. It is a heritage derived from cross breeding to Rottweiler, Mastiff and Hound.

In the process of breeding for a long and graceful head in our breed some of the requirements which were formerly regarded as indispensable must necessarily be dropped. As late as ten or fifteen years ago it was unanimously agreed that the skull line between the ears (as seen from the front and on a plane with it) must be straight: that no ridge or protuberance would be permitted to spoil the outwardly visible straight line. Here we are dealing with a matter with reference to which Nature refuses to be dictated to. It will be noted that the elongation of the head affects the forepart more than the hind section. The Dobermann’s foreskull also exceeds the hind section in length. Our breeding program calls for a full muzzle with strong and correctly articulated dentition in spite of the general elongation of the head. Nature requires some place in the skull for anchoring the muscular assembly necessary to furnish the motive power for this bite. Since the masseter (masticatory muscle) is fastened at the rear of the lower jaw, approximately behind the angular extension of that part in which the molars are imbedded, on one end and on the other end at the sides and top of the skull, it is obvious that it has sufficient anchorage in heads of broad and blunt proportion. A different proposition is presented by the long and slender heads. Here Nature has been obliged to resort to the expedient of raising bony ridges and ledges as a necessary alternative to widening the skull in order to provide the requisite binding posts for the indispensable muscles. The most important of these ridges is that which runs through the middle of the frontal bone and thence to the “temples.” Still another very important ridge is that culminating with the occiput. As the above indicates, these ridges provide excellent fastenings for the muscles employed in biting and chewing. Therefore, if the Dobermann is to be long and slender headed, a readily visible and easily felt protuberance of the hind skull is inescapable if we insist upon a strongly developed biting and chewing mechanism. Short headed breeds, like the Pug and the Toy Spaniel, do not require these ridges and ledges. Bull dogs and Boxers, because of the shorter leverages incidental to their head structure, can and do dispense with them and can thus afford the luxury of a straight line between the ears. A well raised and extended occiput is a prerequisite with dogs like the Dobermann and Greyhound. We regard “cheeky” Dobermanns as faulty and invariably find their skulls free from the ridges and ledges with which Nature compensates herself as the price of reducing or eliminating the anchorages for the jaw muscles in the cheeks.

The position of the ears is an aesthetic factor in the make-up of the Dobermann. If the ear is set too low the top of the head will appear too broad and if too high the dog’s expression suffers, giving him the appearance of some cat-like beast of prey. No definite rule for the position of the ears can be laid down and remains as heretofore, a matter of taste. The shape of the head, however, is closely bound up with the position and carriage of the ears. In attaining the elongation of the head the skin covering it frequently does not keep pace. Especially with the very long headed specimens this lagging of skin growth may cause it to be stretched so tightly that its pull on the ears draws them close to the head. In cases like that the cropper of the ears is frequently but unjustly blamed for their failure to stand erect. This failure lies in the very nature of the case, the reverse of which is observable as well. In the short headed breeds wrinkles and folds of skin are the rule and, in the Dobermann, results in loose heavy lip formation, hang ears and wide open, round, heavy lidded eyes. Nature cannot be coerced or its product reshaped too quickly. The elongation of the Dobermann’s head would never have succeeded as well as it has if the preparatory work of skilful selection (in this case, cross breeding with long headed breeds) had not been so thoroughly and conscientiously performed.

The nasal bone should not be too narrow and its tip should be in proportion to the width. The nostrils may be comparatively large. The color of the nose, eyelids and upper lips may vary but should harmonize with the dog’s coat and markings. In blacks they should all be black. The so-called “Butterfly Nose” (Flesh pink with but occasional pigmentation) is wholly wrong. Fortunately this type is very rare. A more common occurrence is the nasal stripe varying from light to dark gray, to which special attention should be given because it marks the bearer as heterozygote: having a split heredity and capable of transmitting it. Too little attention has been paid to the so- called “monocle” which may be found in all colors but most often in the browns. It is mistakenly regarded as a form of akarus mange but actually is nothing worse than a symptom of weak or faulty pigments. It is, however, intimately connected with a chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva due to light irritation. The “monocle” is a recessive trait which may be aggravated by close inbreeding. To exclude the carrier from breeding would soon stamp it out. The pigmentation of the throat and inner ear will be discussed in the chapter dealing with the breed’s color.

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