If you’re wondering why German Shepherds are sometimes called Alsatians, this post will show you why.
So why are German Shepherd called Alsatians? Britain did not want to call them “German Shepherds” after world war one, when Germany their enemies, so they called them Alsatians instead. The name was reverted back to German Shepherd globally in 1977.
There are actually a number of misconceptions that people have with the name “Alsatian” and there is actually some historical context to the name.
Why German Shepherds are sometimes called Alsatians
German Shepherds were used heavily by both sides during world war 1 and world war 2. The British did not like calling them German Shepherds since Germany was the enemy at the time so they gave them the name Alsatian instead.
This name continued to be used after WW2 for many years but has become less and less popular over time since German is no longer at war with Britain. In 1977 the name was officially changed back to German Shepherd in Britain after campaigns made by German Shepherd breeders.
The name Alsatian comes from the French town Alsace-Lorraine. It is an area that France gave to Germany in 1871 after the Franco-German war.
In USA, they did not have an issue with calling the dogs German Shepherds, so the name Alsatian has never become very common in USA. With that being said, in 1917 the American Kennel Club did rename the breed from “German Shepherd Dog” to just “Shepherd Dog” which was reverted back to “German Shepherd Dog” in 1977.
Common misconceptions that people have with German Shepherds and Alsatians
They are different breeds
Many people think that German Shepherds and Alsatians are different breeds but this is not the case. They are the same breed, the only difference between them is the name and that Alsatians used to be a name used in Britain.
They were bred for different purposes
People also sometimes think that they were bred for different purposes. However, this is also not the case since they are the same dog. Also, both Alsatians in Britain and German Shepherds in other countries were used extensively during the war so they were used with similar purposes anyway.
They are from different countries
Again this is not the case since they are actually the same dog. With that being said, this misconception does have some truth to it since “Alsatian” was a name that was only used in Britain.
Are German Shepherds the same as Alsatians?
Yes, German Shepherds and Alsatians are the same but with different names.
Different types of German Shepherds
While German Shepherds and Alsatians are the same dogs, there are actually a number of different types of German Shepherd breeds.
American Show lines
American show line German Shepherds were bred for shows and they have a narrower head than European German Shepherds and they tend to be heavier and taller. They also have a highly slopping backend and they tend to be slightly calmer due to being bred for shows.
Czech Working lines
This type of German Shepherd originated in Czechoslovakia and tends to be darker, with uniform coloring that is predominantly black, brown and grey. They also have smaller ears than North American German Shepherds and have straight backs. They are also very agile and powerful and were used for border patrol and security.
East German working lines
East German lines are very similar to Czech working lines but East German ones tend to be darker with some red and have bigger heads, a larger chest and large stamina levels. They were bred to work long shifts in order to track people trying to flee East Germany after WW2.
West German working lines
These German Shepherds tend to have saddlebacks and are black with some tan. Their backs will slope slightly but not to the same extent that North American German Shepherds backs do.
West German Show lines
These GSD’s are less dark in color than Eastern German Shepherds, their backs slope slightly, they have a narrower head than North American German Shepherds but tend to be healthier due to stricter breeding guidelines.
Most Recommended For German Shepherds
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Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook (on Amazon) - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.