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Weimaraners: The Grey Ghosts of Germany


With names like Man Ray and Fay Ray, they were bound to be stars, but who would have thought that two Weimaraners would become one of the most iconic art images of the past thirty years. Even if you don’t know the names of the dogs or even the photographer, you are bound to be familiar with the images created by photographer and videographer, William Wegman. Since the 1970s, he has been posing his Weimaraners in unusual and often humorous situations, often taking anthropomorphism to new levels. Throughout it all, his dogs — sometimes startled, sometimes deadpan – add a new level of beauty and thoughtfulness to the images.

From early photos to recurring sketches on Sesame Street, Wegman’s Weimaraners have become instantly recognizable, taking the breed to artistic heights that their original breeders may never have imagined. After all, the Weimaraner was first bred as large game hunter. If they were going to appear in works of art, it would be at the feet of the royalty who owned them, not as the stars of the images.

Court Appointed

The Weimaraner is a relatively new breed, having been developed in the early 1800s, specifically to supply Grand Duke Karl August of Weimar (Germany) and his court with a top-quality hunting dog. Ownership was highly restricted and the dogs were so prized that they often lived with the families, rather than being kept in kennels as was common at the time. As a result, the breed has a well-developed need to be around people.

Although the specific breeds used in the development of the Weimaraner are unknown, most likely they included the bloodhound, and may also have included the German shorthaired pointer, and perhaps the Great Dane. Because the Weimaraner was specifically developed to serve as a gun dog and assist in hunting — both large game and fowl – it is a strong, consistent, reliable dog. It even has webbed feet to allow it to work as a water dog, retrieving birds and other game from watery environments.

Shades of Grey

The final result of the careful breeding of the Weimaraner has produced a dog that is athletic, elegant, well-balanced, and eye-catching. The coat is hard, short, and smooth, although a recessive gene can result in a long-haired version, which is recognized by many kennel clubs, although not by the American Kennel Club. In the United States, the tail is usually docked, although many countries now prohibit docking, so Weimaraners elsewhere may have a full-length tail.

The Weimaraner’s eyes are pale blue, grey, or light amber, adding to its striking image. The nose should be grey, and the areas of the body without fur or with little fur should be a pinkish shade. The Weimaraner’s distinctive grey color, which has earned the breed the nickname of Grey Ghost, has been a part of the breed since its early development. It can range from a mouse-grey to a charcoal or silver grey. Some Weimaraners have a distinctly blue cast to their coat, but while these dogs are recognized as Weimaraners, they are usually not allowed to compete in conformation shows.

The Velcro Dog

The Weimaraner is a naturally athletic dog that excels at numerous dog sports, such as agility and schutzhund, as well as the hunting for which it was originally bred. However, this also means that this is an extremely active dog, who needs daily intense exercise to avoid the development of problem behaviors. A short daily walk will not be enough for this active breed.

Although the Weimaraner enjoys being outdoors, running and playing, it will still want to spend most of its time with its family, even indoors. This is a highly social animal who always wants to be with his owner and family. They are known to lean against family members, when sitting or even when standing, and have earned the nickname, Velcro Dog.

This attachment can be heartwarming, but it can also create problems. The breed is prone to separation anxiety, which can manifest itself in wailing, excessive drooling, and destruction of property, which can also lead to physical harm to the dog. Thus it is important to properly train and socialize the dog, while providing enough exercise and attention on a daily basis.

The Weimaraner is a truly beautiful breed that makes a loving and devoted companion. Intelligent, courageous, and easily trainable, the Weimaraner will make a wonderful pet for anyone who is active and willing to return the same amount of love and attention.

  • As well as their appearances of Sesame Street, William Wegman’s Weimaraners have appeared on Saturday Night Live and in the New Order video for the song Blue Monday.
  • The comedy film Best in Show featured a neurotic Weimaraner named Beatrice.
  • Famous Weimaraner owners have included: Trent Reznor, Grace Kelly, Brad Pitt, and Dick Clark.
  • The cover of Kate Bush’s album Hounds of Love features her with two Weimaraners.
  • Numerous political figures have had Weimaraners, including President Eisenhower; the first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; and French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

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