It’s hard to miss a Weimaraner, thanks to their unusual gray coats and mesmerizing gray, blue, or amber eyes. Learn more about this dignified breed and its German origins.
1. THEY WERE DEVELOPED IN GERMANY.
A fairly new breed, the Weimaraner first came about in Germany in the 19th century. Nobles were attempting to breed the perfect hunting dog, with qualities like tracking ability, speed, and endurance; the signature silver coat was likely developed by accident. Originally called Weimar pointers, the dogs get their name from the Weimar Republic. The nobles of the Weimar court would keep the dogs as companions and bring them on hunting expeditions. Some say that the Grand Duke Karl August of Sachsen-Weimar single-handedly created this breed, but there is no mention in historical writing that he played any part.
2. THE GERMAN NOBLES WERE FIERCELY PROTECTIVE OF THE BREED.
In order to keep the bloodlines pure, the nobles of the Weimar court were very careful in selecting who could have access to the puppies. The Weimaraner club formed in 1897 to help protect the breed’s integrity. Only members of the club could purchase a puppy, but it was difficult to gain access to the exclusive organization. The club did not promote itself or the breed, taking great pains to stay under the radar—sort of like the Fight Club of dog breeding. Only 1500 dogs were allowed to be registered at a time.
Creating a club in the United States proved to be difficult due to the German fanciers’ protectiveness. It was not until Rhode Island-born Howard Knight discovered the breed in the ‘20s that the dogs showed any promise of ever making it to the States. Knight had heard of the breed through a friend named Fritz Grossman. He brought two dogs home, but the female proved sterile, making breeding impossible. Knight still kept and trained the dogs as a sign of good will, and in 1929, he became the first American member of the Weimaraner Club of Germany. Four more dogs were sent to Knight in 1938 and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1942.
3. THEY’RE CLEVER.
Weimaraners are so smart that they’re sometimes referred to as "the dog with the human brain." Of all the breeds, they are 21st smartest in the dog world. While being smart can make training easier, it’s important to channel that intelligence properly at a young age. Left unchecked, a Weimaraner can use its brains to outsmart its owner. Unlocking fences, stealing treats, and escaping crates are just some of the shenanigans a delinquent Weimaraner can get into.
4. THEIR EYES CHANGE WITH AGE.
As puppies, Weimaraners have light blue eyes, but they don’t stay that way for long. As they grow up, the dogs’ eyes turn either amber or a gray-blue color.
5. SOMETIMES THEY HAVE LONG HAIR.
We mostly see the shorthaired version of the breed, but there are some fanciers who still breed Weimaraners with longer fur. Traditionally, the shaggier variation was used to hunt waterfowl; the longer coat would protect them from the cold water. Longhaired Weimaraners are not accepted by the AKC and the gene is recessive, so they’re very uncommon. Despite this, there are still some longhair enthusiasts out there keeping the trait alive.
6. THEY HAVE A KEEN SENSE OF SMELL.
These dogs are close relatives to the bloodhound—as well as the English pointer, the German short-haired pointer, the blue great Dane, and others—so it makes sense that they would have powerful noses. Their sense of smell came in handy when they worked as hunting dogs, tracking large game like boar, wildcat, bear, and deer. As hunting changed in Germany, the dogs were eventually used as bird-dogs. Today, Weimaraners dominate tracking contests; owners joke that it’s almost cheating because they’re so good at it.
7. THEY PLAYED A PART DURING THE COLD WAR.
Weimaraners are great trackers and have been used in missing person cases and other search and rescue missions. Their reputation as skilled pointers probably led to one of them being chosen to help find missile parts during the Cold War. A Weimaraner named Dingo, along with a German shorthair named Count, helped sniff out small bits of missile after launches so scientists could recover and study them. The parts were coated in squalene, a shark-liver oil, which helped the dogs locate them in the desert sand. In the summer, the dogs wore special terrycloth jackets with pockets that held ice cubes to keep them cool while they were working.
8. SOME PEOPLE CALL THEM THE ‘GRAY GHOST’
When a Weimaraner is out on a dreary day, they tend to get lost in the fog. Owners say that their dogs sometimes completely disappear into the landscape when they walk too far away.
9. THEY NEED TO RUN.
These are high energy dogs, so don’t expect them to lounge on the couch with you. Weimaraners need a lot of exercise and space to move around. According to the Iowa Weimaraner Rescue, these dogs need more activity than almost any other breed. That means daily and rigorous exercise is needed or your dog will get antsy and bored. Fetch, swimming, and other intensive activities should do the trick.
10. THE PUPPIES HAVE STRIPES.
Strangely, when Weimaraners are first born, they have dark grey tiger stripes. These don’t stick around for long: After just a few days, they fade away entirely.
11. THEY MAKE GREAT SUBJECTS.
Many Americans were first introduced to Weimaraners through the work of photographer Williams Wegman. The artist would capture his dogs—Man Ray first, and then Fay Wray, Chip, and others—in poses emulating classic art, pop culture, and other amusing situations. On top of photography, he also made amusing videos, like trying to teach Man Ray to spell. Man Ray was such a good model that the Village Voice named the dog “Man of the Year” in 1982. The charming and witty videos found their way on to all sorts of television shows, from Saturday Night Live to Sesame Street.