It's hard to imagine Munich without the dachshund. The mascot of the 1972 Olympic Games now adorns socks, Christmas baubles, postcards and beer coasters – and is omnipresent in the city's parks and streets. A declaration of love to the unofficial favourite animal of the locals.
For dachshund lady Sissi, her owner recycled her dirndl (women's traditional Bavarian dress): She refined the dark green loden fabric with traditional buttons and tailored it into a little dog coat. Tightly fitting, it now adorns the slender back of the aged dog, tiptoeing one paw in front of the other.
The sky is blue on this Tuesday morning, and about forty dachshund legs are pattering through the foliage of the Englischer Garten (park) in Munich. Once a week, the two-legged and four-legged members of the Bavarian Dachshund Club meet here in the quiet north of the park at Schwabinger Bucht for a walk together. Sissi, Motte, Kneißel and their buddies can be heard from quite a distance.
The storybook dachshund looks like it was drawn by a child: short, crooked legs on a back almost four times as long, on top of which is a head with a grotesquely long snout and googly eyes. There are long-haired, short-haired and wire-haired varieties. The standard dachshund – translated badger dog – was originally bred to hunt badgers and foxes because of its compact build. Smaller specimens are called dwarf dachshunds; and the even daintier breed, the rabbit dachshund, weighing only as much as a domestic cat, enjoys particular popularity in the city today.
The first breeding clubs for this hunting dog were founded in the 19th century: Emperor Wilhelm II outed himself as a fan: He even had a memorial plaque erected to his favourite dog named Erdmann. In Bavaria, the little dog has been stoically wagging its way into people's hearts ever since. Whether as a nameless hunter at the side of Prince Regent Luitpold, or as the pub companion of the pot-bellied cult caricature of the Munich newspaper “Abendzeitung“, Herr Hirnbeiß, in the 1960s. Deeply intertwined with Munich's identity, “Waldi“, a colourfully striped dachshund, became the first ever official Olympic mascot during the 1972 Olympic Games in the Bavarian capital.
“In Bavaria, the little dog has been stoically wagging its way into people's hearts ever since.“
In 2022, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Olympic Games in Munich, Waldi wiggled back to life. The city of Munich even organised a “Dachshund Day“ in its honour. But even without an anniversary, it is hard to imagine Munich without the dachshund. The love for dachshund is evident everywhere: on socks, Christmas tree baubles, postcards and beer coasters. In between, the real specimens on leather leashes press their snouts onto pub floors and city pavements. Even the laps of celebrities are no longer imaginable without them: Duke Franz of Bavaria shares his royal couch with dachshund lady Beppi – and cabaret artist Luise Kinseher even takes her Gustl along on her theatre tour.
For members of the Bavarian Dachshund Club, the dachshund is a way of life. “My husband said that when he retires, he will grow a beard, buy a pair of leather trousers and get a dachshund,“ says a lady walking through the Englischer Garten, laughing. The leather trousers are yet to come, but dachshund Frida has been sharing their bed for a few months now. Most of the more than 250 members of the Munich Section got their dogs from reputable breeders and paid up to 2,500 euros for them. Only a few have adopted their dachshund from animal welfare associations. But they all agree on one thing: “Once a dachshund, always a dachshund.”
“My husband said that when he retires, he will grow a beard, buy a pair of leather trousers and get a dachshund.“
Julia Filipowsky is standing between boxes in her mother's wine shop, which she uses as a showroom, and strokes a piece of fleece fabric the length of a dachshund's back. The 35-year-old from Munich founded the dog fashion label “Dachshund Couture“ five years ago – the “world's first dachshund outfitter“. And of course, her two dogs Diego and Carlos are also part of it, two short-haired dachshunds, a little grey around the muzzles, but lively as a whip. “When I got them from the breeder eleven years ago, my friends asked me why I didn't get a French bulldog,“ she says. For her, it was straightforward from the start: The dachshund is the perfect match for her. She likes the dogs' character: “They are independent, courageous and constantly seeking attention”, she says, while Carlos and Diego synchronously scrub on the carpet.
“Dachshunds are self-confident and enduring, because they have to be for hunting.“
Although the dachshund is considered a robust dog, she soon realised that her two were cold in winter. For a long time, she looked for coats, but none fitted. “At some point, I knew: I have to organise this myself.” Filipowsky had studied fashion design. It was her former partner, who encouraged her to customise coats for her dachshunds. So, she measured them from head to toe and tailored perfectly fitting coats from woollen fabrics from England. She says that in the weeks that followed, she was approached so often about the garments while walking her dogs that she started taking orders. The Instagram account “dachshund_couture“ – which now has more than 80,000 followers – was quickly set up, and she spontaneously took photos in a snowy park. Her first order came from Tokyo.
Today, there are dozens of versions in ten different sizes in her online shop: the Bavarian dachshund waistcoat “Gustl“ complete with staghorn buttons for 300 euros, wool coats with tiger prints, mackintoshes with tartan patterns: still displayed by the two Instagram models themselves: Diego and Carlos – even if they have to be persuaded from time to time to do their job – in typical dachshund fashion.
The members of the Dachshund Club don't like to call their darlings stubborn. “Dachshunds are self-confident and enduring, because they have to be for hunting“, says Susanne Lipp, treasurer of the Munich section of the Bavarian Dachshund Club. She herself hopes that the dachshund will not continue to gain popularity – because many do not take into account how challenging it is to raise them. Joana Krietsch from the Deutscher Teckelclub 1888 e.V. is aware that a dachshund is not a lap dog: “A dachshund may be small, but it's still a really pithy dog”, she explains. Well, the four-legged crowd certainly lives up to its reputation on this day. Dachshund lady Motte is wearing a GPS tracker, because she likes to chase police horses. Sissi lets herself be pushed in the padded dog carriage – she suffers from a bladder infection. And Frodo from Ms Lipp? He ran back to the car park in the meantime – doesn't feel like going for a walk today.
“A dachshund may be small, but it's still a really pithy dog.“
A break at the dog-friendly Mini-Hofbräuhaus, a rustic miniature beer garden near the weir: it's not just the owners who like ham noodles and chips with ketchup and mayonnaise; on this afternoon, more dogs than people visit the Mini-Hofbräuhaus. “They're only very lightly salted,“ you hear them say – and bang, a short-legged dog has a fry in its mouth. “How do you brush your dachshunds' teeth?“ “What kind of chews do you feed yours?“ “Do you also spend more on the groomer than on the barber?“ Chats among dachshund fans. Most of the Dachshund Club members present on this Wednesday are retired. Are there also young dachshund fans in the club? “Do our grandchildren count?“ The group laughs.
The fact that the dachshund is no longer king only in the homes of older people, but is also experiencing a renaissance among the younger generation is evident on Instagram and TikTok. Filipowsky's customers are predominantly young and middle-aged, and many of them share their dachshunds' daily lives on separate social media accounts. Orders for coats come in from all over the world, says Filipowsky: from Switzerland, from Great Britain, even from Australia. The demand is now so great that she has long since stopped sewing the pieces herself. They are now hundreds each month. “Dachshunds are really trendy dogs at the moment.”
“The dachshund is the biggest smallest dog. The perfect mix of a lap dog and a partner in crime.“
When asked why, she has to think for a moment. “I believe that the dachshund fits today’s spirit”, she explains. “At the latest since the pandemic, people are retreating to domesticity, they cook and bake, they appreciate handicrafts and reflect on old values.“ This suits the frugal dog, who doesn't need any dissolute wanderings. Besides, she says, the dachshund is the biggest smallest dog. The perfect mix of a lap dog and a partner in crime. Carlos and Diego are the best example of this: They accompany Filipowsky on road trips to the sea and to work, are fed raw meat, regularly go to acupuncture and have a naturopath. Carlos now sits in front of her and whimpers – dachshund eyes – and only seconds later lies backwards in her arms like a baby. “Are you better this way now?”, she asks.
The dachshund has occupied this throne for a long time. Its favourite thing would be to receive a crown on a regular basis.