St. John’s Water Dogs

When I hear people calling and talking to their dogs, the names I hear are amazing. I’m sure each owner has their reasons and stories behind the names they bestowed. But what about the actual breed name? Where did that come from?

Thanks to the friendly staff at Mental Floss I have uncovered the historical stories of some popular dog breed names.

Labrador Retriever

Strangely they originally came from Newfoundland. Fisherman perfected this wonderful breed they called the St. John’s water dog. These dogs were great swimmers that hit the water and hauled back the fishing nets to shore. Sometime in the early 19th century the Earl of Malmesbry discovered these dogs and brought them to his English estate and trained them to retrieve ducks he hunted. He referred to them as his Labrador dogs, even though he obtained them in Newfoundland. The name stuck.



These are the original “water dogs.” They were not the fancy proud dog we think of today, but a great swimming retriever of waterfowl. The German word “pudeln” means “to splash.” They became know there as “pudelhunds” or “water dogs.” We eventually evolved the word to Poodle.



Dog on green meadow. Beagle puppy walking

American Kennel Club traces the name back to the 16 century. These little hounds were associated with the French word “becquele” meaning “noisy person.” I’m sure they were called that from the constant howling during hunts.


Lhasa Apso
Lhasa Apso
This dog with the strangest name
has the simplest breed name origin. This dog was bred to be a watchdog in Tibetan palaces and monasteries. Bred in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, they added the Tibetan word for “bearded” which is Apso.


Jack Russel Terrier
Jack Russel

The human Jack Russel was from Dartmouth England, born in 1795. He was a hunter. While studying to become a clergyman he met a milkman who had a white terrier bitch named Trump. Thinking the little dog would make a great fox hound, he convinced the mailman to sell him the dog. Russell began breeding Trump and made a line of terriers that had great stamina and could hunt foxes all day. They also had courage and would dart into holes after game that slipped away.

Jack Russel also bred a separate breed, similar to the Jack Russel Terrier, but with longer legs. It is recognized as a separate breed and called the Parson Russel Terrier.
I guess old Jack graduated from clergyman school.



In the early 17th century this was a ferocious little breed, created to dig its way into a badger’s hole and do battle. A badger is also ferocious.  In German, “dachshund” means “badger dog.” So stop with the wiener dog jokes.


Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel

This great family dog goes way, way back to the 14th century. Believe it or not, they were bred as a gun dog. They were skilled in tracking woodcocks. Yes, that’s where they got the name “cockers.”



When I was a kid our next door neighbor had a Weimaraner. It scared me all the time. They have crazy eyes. Now decades later, my next door neighbor has two Weimaraners.  When I gently ask them to leave my yard they look at me like I’m on borrowed time. But, they are beautiful animals.
They are a recent breed of the 19th century. Supposedly Grand Duke Karl August of Weimar started selectively breeding hunting dogs with speed, courage and strong noses. He wanted them for wolves or wildcats.  The Duke’s fellow Weimar noblemen loved the breed and they also became popular bird dogs as well.

I saw a strange breed of dog last week. It was a Bulldog and Shitzu mix.

I guess it’s called Bullshit.

See ya next week!

About bakoheat

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One Response to St. John’s Water Dogs

  1. Don Mitchell says:

    Magoo – Love the blog. We’ve had Weims for 35-40 years on and off. Really great breed. Like most “Sporting” breeds, good dispositions, usually get along with most people. Yeah the eyes are different, but still great family dogs and companions. I missed the picture of the “BullShitz”. I’ve know a couple salesmen of that breed.

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