5 Surprising Dog Breed Name Origins


Do you ever think about the odd names of dog breeds and how they came to be? The stories behind these names can be as colorful and playful as the dogs themselves! Here's a list of five breed names and their respective origins.

1. Poodle vs. Puddle 

Yes, that's right! The german word Pudel from which we get the word "puddle" is the same word origin as "poodle!" The German infinitive means "to splash" which certainly lends itself to the word "puddle," but "poodle" is from the shortened form of Pudelhund which literally translates to "Splash hound." The more accurate translation would be "Water dog" which is indeed a class of hunting/gun dog (e.g. Portuguese Water Hound, American Water Spaniel.) Poodles were bred for duck hunting which involved much
splashing about. In fact, the French word for poodle is caniche which is derived from the French and feminine form of the word duck (cane).  

2. Pug vs. Pugilism 

The term pugilism is maybe not as common today, but back around the turn of the century, if you were going to go see some pugilism, you were going to see some boxing. Now, it is clear that a Boxer dog is named for the combative sport, but the pug may also be named for it. One thought, is that the dog's face has wrinkles and is round in the way a clenched fist does (The term for a clenched fist in Latin is pugnus.) Another suggestion is that these dogs have a "punchy" look -- like mini prize-fighters with their tongues lolling out. Then again, pug may have nothing at all to do with pugilism. For instance, it has been proposed that the name "pug" is a corruption of "puck" -- the impish sprite from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Many usages of "pug" in the Elizabethan age point to it as a term of endearment like "little sweetie;" It soon became a term for a courtesan and somehow down the line became a term for a monkey! These may be the roots of the modern usage of "pug," but it is unclear. Whatever the origins of the three-lettered breed name are, "pug" has come to mean an adorable, scamp of a dog with pugnacity and charm. 

3. Beagle vs. Bayer

"Baying hounds" is not a phrase you hear often outside a novelty song like "Monster Mash," but baying is a slightly antiquated way of saying "barking" or "howling. We get this word from the old French infinitive baiier which was an onomatopoetic word meaning "to bark." Funnily enough, the French bayer which meant "to open wide; to gape" can be added to gueule meaning "mouth or throat" to become becgueule. That word meant literally "gaping throat" or more idiomatically "loud mouth!" And it was only a few verbal hops, skips, and jumps until we received the anglicized "beagle" which, indeed, is an apt descriptor of one of the most vociferous and bellowing breeds of dog! 

4. Dachshunds & Hot Dogs 

Now, the name dachshund is literally a German name meaning "badger hound" because the dogs were originally bred to dig out badger setts (makes sense when you think about their shape!) But what's really interesting is the relationship between the American phrase "hot dog" vs. Frankfurter and Wieners (which were named for the German city of Frankfurt and the Austrian city of Vienna respectively.) We do know that "dachshund sausages" were what a popular sausage butcher in Frankfurt referred to his longer, thinner sausages -- as they resembled the shape of the dog. And this naming convention was likely to have come over with German immigrants who took to food carts in the early 20th century. It is possible that it is these German sausage carts that inspired the name "hot dog." It's been widely-believed that Tad Dorgan, a cartoonist at a Hearst paper in the early 1900's, was making a cartoon based on a Yankees/Giants game; He wanted to lampoon the vendors who were selling dachshund sausages but couldn't spell "dachshund" so he invented the phrase "hot dogs." This bit of lore is wholly apocryphal as the Yale Record was using the phrase at least 20 years prior to this purported incident. These Yalies also started the rumor that hot dogs were dogs, but we can chock that up to the crass college humor of the day. Though no single origin really cuts the mustard, hot dogs and dachshunds will always share a unique cultural past. Oh, and wiener dog is just a name for a dachshund that references the food and not the other way around, fyi. ;)

5. Schnauzer vs. Schnoz 

Literally meaning "growler" from the German schnauzen ("to growl, snarl"), Schnauzers are a terrier known for their gruff growls and rough ruffs. However, the word Schnauzer is also related to Schnauze ("snout, muzzle") from which we get "schnoz" meaning a large nose. So if you're ever in a position to name a Schnauzer pup, Cyrano or Pinocchio might be appropriate ;-)