The Prague Ratter is an engaging breed created in the Czech Republic.
Sat, 02/05/2022 - 3:27pm

Bohemian Rhapsody

Czechoslovakian breeds we've never met before

Text and photos by Yossi Guy


While attending this year’s World Dog Show in the Czech Republic, I came across several native breeds that are unknown outside that country. Many Europeans know the Czech Terrier and the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog, but few have heard of the Bohemian Shepherd (Chodsky Pes), Bohemian Spotted Dog, Prague Ratter, Czech Mountain Dog or Bohemian Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon.

This article will focus on the first three mentioned above.

The Chodsky Pes – Chod dog for short – looks a bit like a small version of a German Shepherd Dog. (GSD breeders, please excuse the comparison!) Its long black-and-tan coat is quite attractive, and the breed has a friendly, biddable character.



The history of the Chod dog dates back to the 13th Century, when the Chod family was responsible for guarding the most important roads leading from Domažlice to Němec in the Bohemian Forest on the southern border with Germany. Needless to say, the dogs that always faithfully accompanied them had to be tough and highly resistant. As was usual at the time, these dogs not only helped guard and defend the former Bavarian-Czech border, but were also used for herding and had to be able to track game for hunters.

Every Czech schoolboy knows the drawings of 19th-Century painter Mikoláš Alša, which complemented Alois Jirásek's historical 1884 novel "Psohlavci," set two centuries earlier. Especially well known is the drawing depicting Chod, who carefully observes his surroundings wearing a long cloak and holding a baton, a dog seated at his feet.

Czech priest and writer Jindřich Šimon Baar wrote about the Chod dog in his memories of the famous history of his native Chodsko, noting that balanced and tough breed was the most popular in the vicinity of the village of Klenčí.



This historically documented breed almost fell into oblivion, as did others, in the aftermath of World War II. A small number of enthusiasts tried to compile a proposal around 1948 for the recognition of the Chod dog by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, or FCI. Written notes from the time show that they were not entirely unanimous in their views on some basic features of the breed. Unfortunately, it is not possible to find out anything more about this planned proposal, as not even the former Central Shepherd Club based in Brno has any more information.

Ing. Jan Findejs ignited the possibility of re-creating the Chod dog. Well-known cynology expert Dr. Vilém Kurz sent him photographs of several breeds that he admired and had a real chance of regenerating. Of those pictures, Findejs was most fascinated by the shepherd breed. He immediately took the first steps that led to the regeneration of the Chod dog.

In 1984, pictures of Chod dogs were published in the canine press with a call to any owners of this shepherd breed. Two owners from the Prostějov region contacted the authors to say they had Chodský dogs. The first pair underwent an expert assessment, and were compared with preserved documentation, written materials and period drawings. The basis for the re-creation of the old, clearly historically documented breed was a female named Bessy, a dog named Dixi and a dog named Blesk that was discovered a while later. The first kennel of Chod dogs "na Barance" of Mr. Ladislav Hykl was registered in the studbook. The main goal was to raise healthy dogs with good temperaments.



In 1985 the first litter by Dixi out of Bessy was born, producing six puppies. Then in 1986 came the second litter (Blesk x Bessy), also with six puppies. It’s worth mentioning that in 1987, Chod dogs were introduced for the first time in Brno and then in Rychnov and Kněžnou. In Brno, a group of six Chod dogs met with great interest from the canine-loving public.

Subsequently, from 1987 to 1992, 35 litters were bred. Five years after the first litter of Chod dogs was whelped, new blood was gradually introduced, selected for their type. From 1993 to 1995, there was a rapid and significant improvement in the establishment of Chod dog ​​type and stabilization of height, especially thanks to the contribution of a sire named Birri Chodsky, who was quite prepotent: With bitches of various bloodlines and qualities, he passed on correct type, ideal height, good pigment and rich coat. 

At the show, I saw quite a few of these dogs, some of which participated in obedience and heelwork to music.

Another local breed that caught my eye was the Bohemian Spotted Dog – a breed with quite a few different types, sizes and colors.

The Czech Spotted Dog is a Czech national dog breed that has not yet been recognized internationally. It is a medium-sized companion dog with a cheerful temperament. Non-aggressive and very sociable with humans and with other dogs, it adapts perfectly to all ways of life.



Its popularity is increasing, because of its friendly, joyful and loyal character, and also because it has four different types of coat, so everyone can choose according to their preference. The hair is always of three colors – black-and-tan with white or brown-and-tan with white – and the white patches are always ticked. Dogs of both color patterns can be short haired or long haired.

In overall appearance, these spotted, three-color dogs are medium sized, with a harmonious and not very heavy body structure, balanced proportions, slightly rectangular frame with tilted ears, firm constitution, and no signs of coarseness.



The Czech Spotted Dog had a very unhappy start in 1954 at the laboratories of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science’s Institute of Physiology, where it was used for medical and surgical research. The goal of breeding was a dog of uniform character, particularly calm and easy to care for, with high fertility, and suitable body structure, size and coat. 

The initial pair of animals were of unknown origin: a female similar to a German Shepherd and a male similar to a Smooth Fox Terrier. In the third generation, a German Shorthaired Pointer was crossed with their descendants. In 1960, the breed was officially registered under the name Horák's Laboratory Dog. 

Fortunately, the Czech Spotted Dog is no longer a laboratory animal. In the 1980s, it ceased to be used for research, and under the name of the Czech Spotted Dog, the remaining animals were handed over to the breeding public. After the end of its use in laboratories, the breed quickly became a popular family dog that is a wonderful source of joy for all its fans.

Czech Spotted Dogs are very lively and love activity. They respond well to working in every possible dog sport. Many owners of Czech Spotted Dogs report success in agility, dog trekking, utility dog trials, obedience, therapy dog training, canine Frisbee and other activities.

The third breed that caught my eye was the Prague Ratter. If you think of the Manchester Terrier or the Russian Toy Terrier, you wouldn’t be far off the mark. However, the Czechs have developed this breed on their own.



The Prague Ratter is probably the oldest Czech dog breed. Its origin is inextricably linked with the Czech Basin. Mentions of this miniature breed can be found in the oldest written sources of Czech national history. The breed has been called by several names. The name Ratlík is derived from the German “die Ratte” – “the rat” – reflecting a dog originally kept to kill such vermin. Even today, some of these dogs retain the ability to hunt mice. 

The original rodent species from which the Ratter derived its name was not the current widespread rat (Rattus norvegicus), but rather the common rat (Rattus rattus) – a large pest often found in grain warehouses. It is harmful not only because it consumes grain, but also because it contaminates a large part of the stores with feces and urine, making them inedible for human consumption. (The rat is a carrier of many different infectious diseases, such as typhus and salmonellosis, and is probably the main host of the plague flea, which caused the plague epidemic in the Middle Ages.)

The rat seeks a dry environment and very often hides above barns or granaries. It can climb very well, and in earlier times was abundant in human settlements – which is why in the early Middle Ages the Ratter, which represented a kind of four-legged rodent control, became very popular. 

We don't know what the breed looked like in its early days, but it probably hasn't changed much. In the harsh Middle Ages, it survived without problems, living in castles, monasteries and patrician houses where it rid its masters’ homes of small rodents. 

According to historical records, the Ratter was a quiet, affectionate and submissive dog, definitely not a loud guard. It lived in kennels and castle chambers with hounds and greyhounds, so it was definitely not allowed to quarrel with other dogs – given the weight difference, the Ratter would never survive. On the other hand, it was a spirited, alert and fast dog, with innate agility and dexterity acquired in rodent hunting. It loved its owners, was affectionate, docile and obedient, but also cuddly and kind hearted, so it became a favorite pet for children.



The earliest mention of Ratters can be found by the chronicler Eginhard, also referred to as Einhart, who lives from 770 to 840: He recorded the gift of Ratter by a Czech prince named Lech to Emperor Charles I the Great, who tried in vain to conquer the territory of present-day Central Bohemia in 791. The Ratter was a sign of goodwill – and perhaps part of the peace tribute.

Polish sources contain the story of two Czech Ratters in the kennel of Polish King Boleslav II, who ruled from 1058 to 1076 as Prince of Poland and 1076-1079 as its king. Polish chronicler Gall Anonymous noted “blood donated from sincere brotherly love, coming from fraternal Bohemia.”

French historian Jules Michelet, in his work “Histoire de France,” mentions the gift of three Ratters of Czech origin, which the Czech King Charles IV presented to French King Charles V during his visit to France in the autumn of 1377. On his death, King Charles V bequeathed two Ratters to his son Charles VI – the fate of the third is not known. However, they certainly were not the only three Ratters at this time: Other mentions of the breed relate to the subsequent Czech king, Wenceslas IV (1378 - 1419), who generally did not like dogs, but liked large mastiffs (one of them caused the death of his wife, Johanna of Bavaria, who was suffocated by a Great Dane) as well as Ratters: He was often rebuked by priests for this "unworthy hobby." Even during his secret visits to Prague inns and spas, he had a favorite Ratter with him, which his faithful servant kept in a kind of sleeve.

Ratters are often depicted in the paintings of the Prague royalty and later the imperial court, as well as the paintings of the Viennese and Tuscan courts of the Hapsburgs. 



The fate of Czech statehood almost became fatal for the Ratters. Fortunately, the breed had already been adopted by the lower social classes at that time, where they survived for many generations without any major historical documentation. But over time, their descendants returned to the crowned heads. A Ratter was also bred in the spa city of Karlovy Vary, which laid the foundation for the new Viennese breeding: When spending time in the Karlovy Vary spa, Archduchess Maria Theresa, daughter of Emperor Leopold II and wife of Saxon king Anton, took a liking to the breed and took a female back to Vienna, whose puppies continued the lines in Austria and Tuscany.

Looking at the Czech national breeds, we find that the most popular dogs were black and brown tan, like the Chod shepherd or the now extinct Czech Tarac. This coloration is also typical for the Ratters. Old paintings suggest there may have been another color variant in the Ratter – brown tan with tan. According to records, Vilém of Rožmberk kept another color variant at the burgrave's court in Prague: a blue-and-tan Ratter. At the same time, yellow Ratters appeared, and a harlequin could also be found.

In view of all the historical data, roughly from the year 800, the Ratter is inextricably linked with the Czech country. Twelve centuries … that is more than enough to deserve its preservation and transmission to future generations.



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