Five Dogs with Crazy Ré...

  • By Anna Rothschild
  • Posted 04.10.14
  • NOVA

Why do some dogs have short fur, others long tails, and still others wrinkly faces? Many dogs were bred to perform a specific tasks—from hunting vermin to wrangling bulls—and their physical characteristics were chosen to help them do their jobs.

Running Time: 02:58


Five Dogs with Crazy Résumés

April 10, 2014

Your pooch might be an adorable pet today, but it’s quite likely that she was once more than just a cuddly companion. Many dogs were bred to perform a specific task, and their physical characteristics were selected to make them great at their jobs. Here are five dogs with crazy résumés.

St. Bernards were once search and rescue dogs in the Alps. They were kept by monks at a hospice on a treacherous path between Switzerland and Italy and saved travelers from snowy deaths. Originally, St. Bernards had relatively short hair and a great sense of smell to find victims. But in the mid-1800s, the hospice workers mixed them with another, longer-haired dog in the hopes of improving the breed. The result? A larger dog with longer hair that accumulated snow. These longer-haired dogs made poor rescue animals, so they were given away to villagers living nearby. And today there are still long- and short-haired varieties of the breed.

Poodles were bred to be hunting dogs. They have moisture resistant coats, which made them great at fetching prey out of the water. So, what’s with the fancy haircut? Some people say that shaving the dog may have made poodles more hydrodynamic. And the strangely placed tufts of hair were left to protect their joints from cold water. (Other people disagree and think the haircut was first given to poodles who were performing in the circus.)

Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers. Their long bodies and short legs make them great at squeezing into badger dens and maneuvering. They also have strong lower jaws to kill their prey. On top of that, they have tails that are long enough for hunters to grab onto to pull the dogs back out of holes.

The Komondor is from Hungary, where it was used to guard flocks of sheep. Its mop of dreadlocked white hair helped the breed blend in with the livestock. The corded coat is also very thick and could protect the animal if a wolf attacked.

Bulldogs got their name because they were bred to be “bull baiters” in Europe. The dogs would grab a bull by the nose and pin it to the ground, distracting it while the butcher brought his cows in to be milked or slaughtered. Bull baiting was later turned into a sport, but was outlawed in England in the 1800s. Bulldogs have muscular shoulders, large heads, and strong jaws to withstand being shaken by bulls. Their noses are set back to ensure that they could still breath while holding the bull down with their teeth, and the wrinkles around their faces were meant to keep blood from running into their eyes. Despite this fearsome occupation, bulldogs are actually quite gentle animals and are known for being loyal and good with children.

Dogs had tons of other jobs, too, and many dogs still perform the jobs they were bred for. But others have found new roles. Some dogs guide the blind, and some have become therapy animals. And some dogs have found jobs you might never have expected. 



Written, Produced and Narrated by
Anna Rothschild
Production Help from
Mark Zastrow
Original Footage
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2014


Music: Monkeys Spinning Monkeys
Incompetech/Kevin MacLeod (CC BY 3.0)
335/365-A New Camera
Flickr/ShutterRunner (CC BY-NC 2.0)
A Bull and a Bulldog Are About to Attack Each Other
Wellcome Images/Francis Barlow (CC BY 4.0)
A Shaggy Dog Story!
Flickr/foxypar4 (CC BY 2.0)
Babygirl, English Bulldog Puppy
Flickr/Amber Rosenbaugh (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Flickr/I_am_Allan (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Flickr/Ana_Cotta (CC BY 2.0)
Black Labrador Retrievers portrait
Wikimedia Commons/mrpattersonsir (CC BY 2.0)
Cara de quen caui do caminhí£o…
Wikimedia Commons/Anderson Nascimento (CC BY 2.0)
Wikimedia Commons/Belinda Hankins Miller (CC BY 2.0)
Clyde The Bulldog
Wikimedia Commons/Asmadeus (Public Domain)
Wikimedia Commons/LeCardinal (CC BY 3.0)
Dog Sled Rides (6836608704)
Wikimedia Commons/Denali National Park and Preserve (CC BY 3.0)
Great St Bernard Pass
Wikimedia Commons/Soumai Baba (CC BY 2.0)
Guide dog golden retriever
Wikimedia Commons/Hurricane Omega (Public Domain)
Komondor delvin
Wikimedia Commons/Nikki68 (CC BY 2.5)
Wikimedia Commons/Paul Meyerheim (Public Domain)
Miniature Schnauzer Toy
Wikimedia Commons/SheltieBoy (CC BY 2.0)
Wikimedia Commons/Rains27 (Public Domain)
Samuel Henry Alken – Bull Baiting
Wikimedia Commons/Samuel Hentry Alken (Public Domain)
Wikimedia Commons/Vontafeijos
Siberian Husky bi-eyed Flickr
Wikimedia Commons/re-ality (CC BY 2.0)
Silver Miniature Poodle stacked
Wikimedia Commons/Belinda (CC BY 2.0)
Smooth Miniature Dachshund puppy
Flickr/Lachlan Hardy (CC BY 2.0)
File: Weenix A dog over a dead boar
Wikimedia Commons/Jan Weenix (Public Domain)
The Dog Barber
Wellcome Images/Henry William Bunbury (CC BY 4.0)
Brantini Show Pictures
© Marilyn Santell
Early to Rise, Early to Bed
Flickr/Randy Son Of Robert (CC BY 2.0)
Ella the Snow Dog
Flickr/jpctalbot (CC BY 2.0)
Bo the poodle retrieving a duck
Wikimedia Commons/Sally Eller (Public Domain)
Deiker Jagdbare Tiere 1093210
Wikimedia Commons/Carl Friedrich Deiker (Public Domain)
Parti-colour Longhaired Dachshund
Wikimedia Commons/Raven Underwood (CC BY 2.0)
Flickr/Lacklan Hardy (CC BY 2.0)
goofus, jr.
Flickr, greg westfall. (CC BY 2.0)
Standing Proud
© The Komondor Club of Great Britain
Oscar With His Friends
© The Komondor Club of Great Britain
Nelson, Skateboarding Dog
Flickr/CarbonNYC (CC BY 2.0)
No Strings
Flickr/Emery_Way (CC BY 2.0)
Snoozing 2
Flickr/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)
1 Papillon
Wikimedia Commons/2010 PA Kennel Assoc. Dog Show (CC BY 2.0)
Wikimedia Commons/MissTessmacher (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Retrieving Golden Retriever in Water
Flickr/rkleine (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Saint Bernard in Field
© Mary Bloom
St. Bernard Puppy Six Weeks Old
Flickr/ATIS547 (CC By-NC-SA 2.0)
St Bernhard dog (bw)
Wikimedia Commons/Michael Huwiler (Public Domain)
St. Bernard puppy
Wikimedia Commons/dbking (CC By 2.0)
St. Bernard – To The Rescue by John Emms (artist)
Wikimedia Commons/John Emms (Public Domain)
Truth Was All Around Me
Flickr/Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)
We Will Fight Them On The Beaches…
Flickr/me'nthedogs (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Flickr/snailsareslimy (CC BY 2.0)


(main image: St. Bernard Puppy)
Wikimedia Commons/dbking (CC BY 2.0)

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