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MinPin Origins : History of the Miniature Pinscher

History of the Miniature Pinscher

Credit: Steve (a.k.a. Yogi)

Creation of the Breed

Dr. Reichenbach in 1836 wrote of the Miniature Pinscher breed, and upon studying it found that it in all likelihood is comprised solely from the Italian Greyhound and smooth coated Dachshund. Because the Dachshund was a popular German breed of the time and noted for its excellent ratting skills, the Dachshund was crossed with the Italian Greyhound to produce a ratter that could move more swiftly. He noted in his writings that he did consider that the Pug might have been a possible stock breed, but upon more research, he determined that the Pug was not involved.

While some breeders insist that the German Pinscher was used, there is one significant fact that is often overlooked, which is that German Pinscher was not in existence when the Miniature Pinscher was first introduced in Germany. The Miniature Pinscher has history going back to the 1600's. At this time there were no German Pinschers. The German Pinscher is actually a smooth coated Schnauzer that came about in the 1700’s and not til the late 1800’s was recognized by the Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub of Germany.

No one seems to know where the German Pinscher/Standard Schnauzers smooth coat originated, but after a decade breeders decided to emphasize this smooth coated version. In the late 1800's the Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub finally acknowledged the smooth coat as a separate breed and gave it the official name “Deutscherpinscher” (English translation, German Pinscher). The German Pinscher could be registered as long as three generations were clearly documented.

Karl Frederich Louis Dobermann, who was a breeder of Rottweilers as well as German Shepherds at that time, most likely used this breed as the basis for his Pinscher. He had noted with regards to the Miniature Pinscher that he wanted to create one that was 15 times larger.

In addition to the German Pinscher and Rottweiler, many believe that the third breed used was the now extinct German black and tan terrier or even possibly the Greyhound. However, most believe that he called upon the Beauceron. This is nearly a twin to Dobermann’s Pinscher. While the coat is longer and kept with full tail, it has the body structure and temperament that Louis Doberman was seeking. Though a French breed, it was found throughout the farms of Germany in the 1800's as there were no real German bred herding dogs outside of the German Shepherd. The Beauceron was 24 to 28 inches tall, weighed in at 65 to 75 lbs, and had Black with Tan markings similar to that of the Doberman Pinscher; thus, it is likely the Beauceron was third breed stock to be used in his creation.

One notable point is that the Pinscher family of dogs, in all likelihood, are descended from the now extinct German Black and Tan Terrier. However, the word “pinscher” does not translate to “terrier” in German. It is taken from the English word “pincher” and describes the pinching bite that this breed uses when holding its prey.


Clues to the temperament of today’s Miniature Pinscher can be obtained from the breeding of the original Miniature Pinscher in Germany. Similar to the role of the modern feral cat used on farms today, Miniature Pinschers were not bred as house pets, but as feral dogs left to ferret out vermin on farms as their main source of survival. In this way, they were a very independent breed not accustomed to close human contact. Today’s Miniature Pinscher holds true to its basic instincts more than any other of the toy breed group. Thus, the need for extensive socialization is paramount.

Miniature Pinschers prefer to initiate contact rather than having contact initiated by others. In many cases, this attitude can be curbed with much socialization at an early stage, but instinctively this trait is present and is still very strong. The average Miniature Pinscher rarely tolerates excessive handling or touching unless it wants it, but when people initiate the contact of petting, etc., the dog sees this as an intrusion into it’s space, and this contradicts the natural independent trait in the breed. Tolerating contact by strangers instead of nipping, for example, shows the miniature pinscher was socialized and is somewhat accepting of the attention. However, this is not in the true nature of this breed. Moving onto someone’s lap is a Miniature Pinscher’s way of initiating contact and stating that it wants attention. But often, it may easily cease to want handling, and an owner must understand that, at this point, it should not have contact forced upon it. By allowing the Miniature Pinscher to be handled on it’s own terms, it becomes more accepting of being handled because it always knows that when it no longer wants attention, there will be no restraints, and it is as free to go as it was free to come. One must keep in mind that this is a true terrier breed, which is not much different in attitude than that of the Parson John Russell Terrier (JRT, Jack Russell) or the American Rat Terrier. These dogs have instinctive independent attitudes that one must accept if they wish to own one.

Health Issues

Miniature Pinschers do have some issues that can arise. The most common is dry skin; they only have one coat, so heat can play havoc as well as cold and wet weather. Luxation of the knee joints is also an issue. Premature blindness is an issue common among the breed that many of the history sites do not cover. Other issues are seizures and epilepsy. Many diseases and conditions that ail humans may also affect animals. One must keep in mind that although these dogs are a tough breed in their own mind, they are still a toy breed; therefore, while a problem may not be apparent, some conditions such as brain tumors and nerve issues may be present. I have been breeding these dogs for many years. I have had a couple develop nerve damage from jumping down from furniture over the years and thus causing pinched nerves in the neck as well as slipped discs. The Miniature Pinscher truly does not grasp that it is a little dog and so is prone to often biting off more than it can chew. Thus, monitoring is required.

Miniature Pinschers in the U.S.

The Miniature Pinscher received a very bad greeting in the U.S. when it was first introduced to the show ring. It was listed in the Miscellaneous category and was simply called " the Pinscher." The American Kennel Club (AKC) noted "the dog will appear as a Doberman in miniature." With this note, the “Miniature Doberman Pinscher” label was hung on this breed forever. By 1929 the Miniature Pinscher was entered into the "Toy" category. This time the breed club, which was founded in 1929 along with the AKC, erred. It would have been beneficial if the AKC had inquired for information on this breed in determining what category was most appropriate with those in Germany, the home of creation. If they had, they would have placed them in the working group, which is where they belong.

In only one year the dog did compete with other terriers. In Germany, the "Zwergpinscher," (English translation, dwarfpinscher) or Miniature Pinscher (never Min Pin) is a member of the Terrier family of Pinschers. As with Parson John Russell’s Terrier, the Jack Russell, which was created in England, the Miniature Pinscher was meant to work instead of being a household pet.

Upon first seeing the Miniature Pinscher in show, there was a huge demand for the breed, as is typical of so many in this country. The idea of having a cute little "miniature Doberman Pinscher" elated the crowd and within a short time excessive breeding of poor quality was done. Upon purchasing the dog, many discovered the error of their ways. This was not a lap dog, and most found the dog to be more of a nuisance than a pet. That the dog did not act like a lap dog is not surprising because, it was a working dog, and in Germany it did not live in the house, but in the barn. It was bred to work without human direction, and therefore, did not take well to training. In addition, house training was a nightmare. Within a few years, the Miniature Pinscher fell out of favor and there was a large decline in the number being bred, which was, in my opinion, one of the best things that could have happened. However, places like Cinderella Kennels, whose owner was of German ancestry, knew of the breed and its temperament and continued breeding. Thus, a solid true Miniature Pinscher was created. In addition, Cinderella Kennels was able to breed Blues, and the harlequin color, which was natural to this breed.

The Miniature Pinscher Club of America (MPCA) banning Fawns, Blues, Merles and Harlequin coloring only shows their lack of knowledge of the breed. In fact, these colors were around in the breed long before they came to the U.S., and to this day are carried. The merle Black & Blue is in the Dachshund and is referred to as "dapple." The Black and White, as well as the Fawn and Blue, is in the Italian Greyhound coloring. Did you ever wonder where the little bit of white on the neck or the chest originated? It came from the Harlequin coloring--white with black blotches. This gene is prevalent to this day and realistically will never be gone. It is unfortunate that the MPCA does not recognize this characteristic. The history of this dog breed has been around far longer than the MPCA.

Other Pinschers

Another fact of note is that there was another breed of Pinscher originating in the 1600's and extending into 1800's. It was called the Harlequin Pinscher. Although the same color, black with white or white with black, the Miniature Pinscher should not be confused with the Harlequin Pinscher because the Harlequin Pinscher was larger and heavier than the Miniature Pinscher; however it was not quite as large or heavy as the German Pinscher. Also note that today’s German Pinscher, which was only recognized in the last few years by the AKC, is actually from German Pinscher and Miniature Pinscher stock. In the late 1940's, Heir Jung was able to leave Germany with one or two of the remaining registered German Pinscher females. In the 1950's, with no males available and trying to prevent the extinction of the German Pinscher, Herr Jung used three over sized Miniature Pinscher males. Alas, you have today’s German Pinscher.

Lesser Known Colors

Early writings about this breed do support that, in fact, the Harlequin (White with Black blotches or Black Harlequin, Black with White blotches), Merle, and Blues were very popular and sought after. A MPCA requested ban on Blues and Fawns was put into effect approx 20 years ago. Prior to that Blues and Fawns were permitted. Blues and Fawns in fact can be registered with AKC. They can compete in all but show. These are dilutes caused from breeding light color to light color at one point. This was not actually created from line breeding as many once thought.

The Blue is a diluted Black and the Fawn is a diluted Chocolate. At one time, there were Merles (Black and Grey blotched and blended) like that commonly found on Australian Shepherds, which is commonly referred to as Dapple in Dachshunds. There were also Harlequin colored ones as found in the Italian Greyhound as well as the Great Dane. These colors have not been around for many years in the breed (The last AKC recorded Miniature Pinscher “Harlequin”) was recorded with the AKC on June 6, 1960. It was from Cinderella Kennels. They were eliminated by the MPCA over the years, though many Miniature Pinschers will carry a small white spot on their chest or neck, which is directly attributed to the white gene found in the Harlequin color.

The Blues (not the Fawns) were actually recognized by the AKC for many years until a few years ago. There is a breeder of Blue's in California who has made it her mission to get the MPCA to quit trying to dictate what are true colors in breeds.

Breeding for color

Genetically, what you look for when breeding is weakness and strength. Rump, legs, back, head etc. Finding one that is strong in areas where the other is weak will help ensure the pups generally get the best from both. There is no guarantee as to color when breeding. Lineage helps but even then is not a guarantee. Fawns and blues are dilutes. This is a genetic issue. Fawns are diluted chocolates, blues diluted blacks.

Breed Characteristics

The true Miniature Pinscher had a tapered snout, which is not long or short. Males have square bodies with broad deep chests that fall to the elbows with a sleek tummy line. Squared refers to height at shoulders from floor equal to shoulders to rump. The head should be flat, not apple like a Chihuahua. In females, the true Miniature Pinscher will be longer than the male and in many cases have a slightly narrower and longer snout.

Tails and Ears

Ears are usually cropped at 4 to 5 months. The primary reason is two-fold. One, to ensure the crop fits the dog. By waiting, a veterinarian with experience in this breed can get some idea of the dog’s growth to match the crop to the dog. The other is that this increases the chance that the ears are strong enough to stand with crop. Too many are done at 8 to 10 weeks. The problem here is that ears may be too weak to stand, or it is discovered when the dog is fully grown, its ears are too short or are too long. This does not complement the dog’s build and structure. A proper crop will also not be a straight cut like so many seem to think is correct. A proper crop will leave most of the bell intact and a slight outward curve at the tip. Researching photos of a proper crop and the veterinarian you choose will make a difference in the outcome. Many veterinarians who do know how to crop are no longer doing it, and younger veterinarians are generally not experienced enough to know that a crop for a Miniature Pinscher and a Dobermann are similar but not the same. Much of the decision whether or not to crop has to do with whether or not the dog is being shown. AKC no longer requires ears cropped for show but those who still do it do so for cosmetic purposes only.

Summary: “Zwergpinscher”

  1. This is a Terrier and not a toy breed.
  2. This is a ferreting dog that has high energy.
  3. This breed requires extensive exercise daily; walking will not suffice this breed.
  4. Securely fenced yard is always a must.
  5. This breed is extremely independent by nature.
  6. Over handling can create a dog that can nip and bite.
  7. This is not a good dog for children but generally is for teenagers.
  8. Crate training is a must.
  9. They are rated 3rd worst apartment breed.
  10. They are guard oriented, so be prepared for barking.
  11. They are one of the most difficult breeds to house train.
  12. This is not a foo foo dog, and does not tolerate excessive handling or being packed around.
  13. They do not see themselves as small, and so are prone to getting into trouble easily.
  14. Always use a harness and a leash and not collar and leash, as is true with all dogs. The neck is the weakest point.
  15. “Patience” is extremely important with this breed. Just because they are small means nothing. They are small devils in disguise and will try one’s patience regularly.
  16. They are prone to trying to dominate; the last thing you want is a 12lb tyrant on your hands. Be the leader and do not let their cute demeanor deter you from proper disciplining.

Food for Thought

In closing, I find it odd that so many breeders fail to have read Dr. Reichenbach’s finding in 1836, which noted that only the Dachshund and Italian Greyhound were used to create the Miniature Pinscher, since it was written long before any documented writings on the Miniature Pinscher breed. So, if one is to speculate, common sense would dictate that Dr. Reichenbach’s study of the breed and final conclusion from over 170 years ago is logical. This is supported by the fact that he was around with the original breed at the time.

One should keep in mind that the American version of the Miniature Pinscher varies from that of the true Miniature Pinscher of Germany. The original breed was much hardier with a strong chest. Many do not carry this, but in fact the chest should meet the elbows at the front legs. The body should be solid and muscular in appearance. I would like to point out that what many in the U.S. think about the breed is based on information from U.S. breeders and not the breed information from the country of origin. Maybe those who created the game in the first place should be the ones setting the rules.