The German Shepherd dog came into existence in 1899. The history of the breed is well documented but a synopsis is given here for information. The history is important to the case being made for the creation of The Alsatian as a separate breed and bears study.

In the late 1800s in Germany local communities were trying to develop standardized dogs for the purpose of herding sheep. As a result there were dogs produced that, although suited for their purpose, varied markedly in appearance from place to place. In 1891 the Phylax Society was formed to try and bring these types together and produce standardized breeds. The society disbanded after only 3 years due to internal differences but several ex-members went on to pursue the same aims.

One such person was Max von Stephanitz who was ex-cavalry and a former student of the Berlin Veterinary College. With his friend Artur Meyer he went to the Karlesruhe Exhibition on April 3, 1899 where he purchased a dog Hektor Linksrhein. The dog was renamed as Horand von Grafrath. On 22 April 1899 Stephanitz and Meyer founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (S.V.) - Society for the German Shepherd Dog. Along with establishing a breed standard the S.V. also developed a Zuchtbuch fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SZ), (Breed Register) and Horand von Grafrath was the first dog registered.

Horand became the centre-point of the breeding programs and was bred with dogs belonging to other society members that displayed desirable traits. Although fathering many pups, Horand's most successful was Hektor von Schwaben. Hektor was inbred with another of Horand's offspring and produced Beowulf, who later fathered a total of eighty-four pups, mostly through being inbred with Hektor's other offspring. In the original Zuchtbuch within the 2 pages of entries from SZ #41 to SZ #76, there are 4 Wolf Crosses. Beowulf's progeny also were inbred and it is from these pups that all German Shepherds draw a genetic link. Intense inbreeding also concentrated undesirable recessive characteristics originating from the mixing of the original strains. Von Stephanitz then inserted unrelated blood of herding origin through Audifax von Grafrath and Adalo von Grafrath.

The German Shepherd (GSD) was introduced into America in 1906 and was first shown there in 1907. In 1908 the first GSD was registered with the American Kennel Club and it was at about this time that the first GSD came to England.

It seemed that the very qualities that made the GSD such an exceptional sheepdog could well be put to good use by government departments. This was the thinking of Von Stephanitz and this was to be his next campaign. As always, he achieved this and during World War I it was seen as a messenger dog, rescue dog, sentry dog, and personal guard dog. Servicemen from the USA, UK, and the Commonwealth would see firsthand the dog’s bravery, intelligence, and steadfastness, and many stories were taken back home. Not surprisingly, a number of dogs were acquired by servicemen and transported home with them.

At the end of the War it was thought that the breed would not flourish if the word German were to appear in its name and it was therefore decided to call the breed the Alsatian Wolf Dog after the German-French border area of Alsace-Lorraine. The “Wolf Dog” tag was later to be dropped—again as it was felt that this would prejudice the breed. In 1919, when the English Kennel Club gave the breed a separate register, some 54 animals were included, but by 1926 the ranks had swelled to 8,058, such was the unprecedented success of the dog. The "Alsatian League" and the "Alsatian Wolf Dog Club" united in the early 1920's under the name of the Alsatian League and Club of Great Britain. In France the dog was called Chien de Berger d'Alsace and in America was called simply The Shepherd Dog. All these name changes were as a result of anti-German feeling after WW1. However, with slight variations, most countries now call the dog The German Shepherd.

In 1922 Germany introduced a system of regular breed surveys - a criticism of each dog, with a graded description and recommendation for (or against) breeding. From this each year the best dog was chosen as the Sieger.

Max von Stephanitz was unhappy with the way the breed was developing and in 1923 published his book The German Shepherd in Word and Picture, which clearly sets out his views on what the dog was and should be. The importance of this cannot be underestimated as in 1925 von Stephanitz personally selected Klodo von Boxberg as world Sieger. This dog was dramatically different from the type of dog that had gone before him. He was of lower station, deeper and longer in body, short in loin and with a far-reaching gait. As it turned out Klodo proved to be a potent sire, successfully heralding a "new" type of shepherd.

In the same year Klodo was imported to America by A. Gilbert of Maraldene Kennels in Hamden, Connecticut. Klodo, through a number of important sons and daughters, is largely responsible for the faults and virtues of modern North American lines.

It can be clearly seen from the picture above that the shape of the GSD, as specifically judged by von Stephanitz, corresponds almost exactly with the shape of those dogs currently being shown as 'Alsatian' type dogs in the UK.