When it comes to extraordinary dogs, South Africa seems to be in no short supply. Joining Jock of the Bushveld on our list of legends is Sauer the Doberman Pinscher – the world record holder for best tracking. This rather unknown local hero sniffed his way into the record books way back in 1925 and some of his amazing feats remain unmatched to this day.
Sauer’s story, however, didn’t have quite the legendary start you would expect. Born in 1917 at the South African Police Dog School in Irene, Sauer was of sound breeding, but was deemed too nervous for police work and very nearly didn’t make the cut. It took careful and patient training by Detective-Sergeant Herbert Kruger to improve his skills and the two soon became an incredibly successful crime-fighting duo led by Sauer’s astounding tracking ability.
In one of their earlier cases, Sauer successfully followed a trail which was five and a half days old. This was an already record-breaking feat, but the more cases the pair solved the better Sauer’s tracking became.
Like in 1921 when Sauer led Kruger over 20km in the search of articles stolen from a Worcester shop. Or when he picked up a day old trail and led his handler to a man who robbed a pastor. Or there was the time when Sauer tracked the scent of a thief for almost 41km, then took a train and picked up the scent again to track him to the station in De Aar.
But it was in 1925 when Sauer truly dazzled the world with his tracking and made canine history. It was a simple case of stock theft and Sauer and Kruger were called in to help solve it. Sauer quickly picked up the trail of the thief and led Kruger over 160km across the Great Karroo without stopping to successfully find their man.
Today, almost 90 years later, Sauer’s world tracking record remains intact. It is a testament to the search and rescue abilities of the Doberman breed and a point of pride for Doberman lovers all over the country. But most of all it is the unbelievable legacy of a little puppy that was once thought too weak to achieve.