I drove around to the back entrance of the Wienerau
Kennels. The narrow, bumpy dirt road lined with tall trees and
lush vegetation suddenly widened to allow parking for a few cars.
As I walked to the gate I was greeted by four of the most beautiful
Shepherds I have ever seen. This growling, barking, raised-hackled
welcoming committee was composed of none other that the Sieger,
The Siegerin, the V4 and the V23 dogs at this years Sieger
I was almost tempted to put a finger through the fence so that
"Vanta," the crazier one of the bunch (as confessed
by her own breeder), could give me a lingering reminder of my
experience and a possible scar I could tell my grandchildren about.
But my better sense and the timely arrival of Mr. Martin shook
me out of my momentary insanity.
The Wienerau Legacy
From the time I was very young I read and heard about the grandeur
of the Wienerau dogs. Much of the breeding in Germany is currently
based on two pillars of the modern lines: Canto and Quanto Wienerau.
These and a long line of other top winners and producers walked
the green grasses and played as puppies among the abundant bushes
and trees which dot the landscape of the legendary kennel. Stepping
into that arena sent chills up my spine, but my rush of emotions
was quickly brought to earth by the calm and unassuming presence
of Mr. Martin, his wife, his son and of course the aforementioned
"welcoming committee," which by now had settled into
those all-important "doggie-duties" of smelling my clothes,
laying in the sun, and picking on each other. The calmness and
silence of that lazy autumn afternoon in Viernheim drastically
contrasted with the hustle and bustle of four days ago when the
1992 Sieger Show was getting underway in Dusseldorf. Eighteen
hundred dogs and seventy thousand cheering fans and fervent owners
served as a backdrop for one of the most memorable of events.
Reddened, swollen skin and a patch covering a puncture wound
in Walter Martins arm was testimony of the fierce competition
and "fighting drive" of the owners during the running
of the classes.
RC: "What happened to your arm?"
WM: "During the working females class in Dusseldorf I climbed
up the fence to get Vantas attention. It had these sharp
points on top. I had not seen them, and I jumped on and I yelled
Vanta! and I accidentally stabbed my arm with them."
A Hearty laugh over the incident was a clear indication that
the pain was a small price to pay for someone who describes himself
as a fighter.
RC:" A couple of years ago you said that would probably
be your last Sieger Show, that it was time for the younger people
to do it."
I said that because I like to come from behind.
I am a fighter, I never quit. You have to understand how things
are in Germany; it is better if people are not expecting certain
things from you. Then I come out strong with very good dogs. I
like it that way." (Laugh).
And what a time to be at Wienerau because come out strong they
did. No one in the history of German Shepherds has received the
coveted titles of Sieger and Siegerin in the same year. If you
add to this the titles of V4, V23, SG6, SG7 in males and youth
Siegerin, and V5 in females then you have the ingredients of greatness
that can only be matched by the top recognition given to a breeder:
That of top kennel which, needless to say, also went to Wienerau.
The Wienerau Kennel Group
At the beginning of the Kennel groups, Wienerau was first in
the original catalog order. After a few times around the stadium
Mr. Ernest Beck sent Wildsteigerland kennels in front.
RC: "What did you think when Dr. Beck sent Wildsteigerland
WM: "Just for fun."
RC: "Did you think it was going to end up that way?"
WM: "No, no this was for show, for the public, so they can
get the applause."
RC: When you came from behind?"
WM: "Yeah, yeah (laughing) it was not so bad
Two days before the interview I was sitting in the hotel room
going through the history books on Sieger Shows. Somehow I had
just assumed that such an important contributor to the breed had
to have several Siegers over the years
but in my mind I could
not remember any. The research confirmed my suspicions. This was
the first time a Wienerau dog had received the top honor. Then
a thought came to my mind, something I had heard long ago I dont
know where or from whom, but which was ingrained in my memory
forever: "I am not impressed" someone said "with
the breeder who on the first or second litter ends up with some
champions due to luck or having enough money to buy some good
dogs. I am more impressed with the true breeder who has goals
and works towards them in a systematic fashion and after 10 years
he begins to produce exactly what he wants in a consistent fashion,
and establishes a type that everyone can recognize."
The crowning moment for this master breeder did not come after
10 years. Or, for that matter, after 20, 30, or 40. It took 50
years for Walter Martin to see a lifetime of devotion be universally
rewarded not with one, but with three Sieger and Siegerin titles
in the same yearan accomplishment worthy of the Guinness
Book of World Records.
RC: "When did you start in the breed?"
WM: "I came to the dogs when I was ten years old. I bought
a puppy in 1942 during World War II, from a restaurant near our
home. I kept this dog until 1950 when I left home to go away to
school. Back then I did obedience only, but in obedience everything
hangs on the points and I got a bit frustrated. When I came back
home three years later I started going to the shows and handling
dogs. I bought a male here and a male there without very good
results until one day my father told me: When you want to
have a chance in dogs you must breed, and you must breed with
the right female."
RC: "But your father was not a breeder."
WM: "No, he was a Soccer player. He was interested in animals,
but every animal was the same for him, he just loved animals in
general. In 1957 I bought a female for 250DM, including Schutzhund
RC: "Oh Yeah? Not any more huh?"
WM: "I started to train this female for SchH 2 and SchH 3,
and at that time she was the only female at the shows with a SchH
3. I bred her to a very good dog name Gero. He was the son of
a very famous VA dog Casar vd Malmannsheid, VA for nine years.
Gero was not the same quality as the father, however."
At this point in the conversation Zamb decided to come up on
the bench where I was sitting and drinking a very thick German
cup of good coffee. Walter Martin interrupted his recollection
and commented "This dog just cannot sleep on the floor."
WM: "From this breeding we got our first litter, the "A"
litter Wienerau. The bests dog from that litter was named Asso.
My brother (Mr. Herman Martin, current president of the SV) handled
him quite successfully. He came in second in Karlsruhe in 1969."
"Sometime later I went to a symposium with a very famous
judge from Germany. He did a seminar and gave speeches about breeding
and so on. At that event I saw a female. She was large and had
extreme movement, but she was quite immature. At only 19 months
she had no underchest, but she had a SchH3. This famous man critiqued
her as being a female not worthy of breeding because of the lack
of substance and so on. But I kept going around looking at her,
and I bought this female right then. Her name was Bertha, a daughter
of the 1955 Sieger Alf Nordfelsen. And this female is the mother
of all the dogs which are now coming from the Wienerau line."
RC: "Which dogs came out of this
WM: "Out of the first litter with Bertha I had two
females. One went to Ernie Loeb in the United States. It was the
first dog I sold to the U.S.A. The other female which I kept,
Ws the mother of the 1961 intermediate Sieger Elch Wienerau. In
the litter after that came Dixie Wienerau. Dixie in combination
with Jalk Fohlenbrunnen gave me the "L" litter Wienerau,
and all the dogs that have the colors you see today in my kennel
(deep mahogany red and black) come from Liane. Liane was Canto
Wieneraus mother. And Quanto was the product of an inbreeding
2,2 on Dixie. At that time this close breeding was allowed."
RC: "So although we always speak
of the Canto and Quanto lines they were really from
the same line."
WM: "Absolutely. They were the product of close breeding.
In those times we had the situation where two prominent sires
were responsible for the betterment of the breed. One, however,
excelled in producing males, and the other females. Quanto was
the smaller dog but with the better head, he produced the males.
Canto was perhaps the nicer dog but did not have the head, he
gave the breed many very nice females."
RC: "It seems like presently we are facing the same situation."
WM: "Yes we are! You see everything comes back! Now we have
another pair of sires Quando and Uran. From the combination of
Quando and his sister Quana come all the nice males with the beautiful
heads, where Uran (responding more to the Canto type) is producing
the nicer females."
RC: Every few years you have a sire that
makes an outstanding contribution to the breed. Where do you think
the next male will come from?"
WM: "The next big sire in Germany with great genetic potential
to raise the breed again, believe me, will come only from Zamb
Wienerau or from Jeck Noricum (both sons of Odin Tannenmeise,
who is a son of Quando Arminius)only from these two dogs,
not from any other. Never. Never"
Zambs Progeny Group
On Saturday morning large crowds gathered early at the Stadium
to watch the most important part of the Sieger Show: The presentation
of the progeny groups. The fate of the Sieger is greatly decided
by this event. A good sieger is expected to present a very large
and convincing group of sons and daughters. He must prove to the
world that he is capable of contributing excellent quality to
the breed and that his type and genetic power is expressed through
its offspring. Azmb did just that. The group was very uniform
in type: large, powerful males with very expressive, masculine
heads. The females were also very powerful without lacking elegance
and femininity. Above all, they all had the Wienerau trademark:
the red mahogany colors coming through in a great number of Zambs
progeny. Walter Martin is very proud of the color on his dogs.
He jokingly comments: "The Italians tell me Walter
Martin has una maquina d pintura (a spray-paint machine)
and I tell the Yes, but only for me" as he laughs
RC: "When did you realize that Zamb
would be such a good dog?"
Mrs. Martin: "You know, it wasnt until he was one year
old. Walter sold him as a three month old puppy."
WM: "Yes, I sold him. I said the dog was too quiet so I sold
him to Italy, but I made a contract by which I would have the
right to purchase the dog back at one year. Exactly at one year
they came with the dog at 6:00 A.M. to our backyard door. I got
up and came to see the dog and said "oh my god." I purchased
him for much money
much, much money. And then my wife took
Zamb to the training field and he bit immediately. He was young
and out of coat because he came from Naples in the south of Italy.
Later on we showed him for the first time in Ulm and he came in
second. A man came to me later and told me this dog will
be a great performer at the shows. We showed him again under
Ernest Beck and he put a little dog in front of Zamb. No one could
understand. Finally at the Sieger Show he took the Young dog title.
From that moment on he kept going up and up."
RC: "Do you believe that Zamb will continue the Quando Arminius
WM: "Yes, but I also believe he responds more to the Ica
Wienerau type rather than the Quando type, although my brother
will surely claim differently." (laughs)
RC: "So what is more important, the bloodline or the type?"
WM: "No, no the bloodline is most important. Blood is the
juice of life."
RC: "When you are going to combine bloodlines, what do you
take into account?"
WM: "We do not have many lines in Germany. We have basically
two main lines. So when Germans complain that we must have a new
bloodline I tell them Number one, we must know the name
of this new bloodline, and number two, we must improve the breed
by using it. If this new line has the power
of improving the breed we will see it in its results, right?"
RC: "Take us through your mental process as you make the
decision of choosing breeding partners."
WM: "I will give you an example. Vanta (the Siegerin) will
come in season in a couple of weeks, so now I have to make up
my mind. I must look for a dog with a similar type to Vantas,
with three quarters of the same blood but with one part being
completely different, without Rolf, or in other words, without
Canto or Quanto. This I still have to decide. This decision is
not so easy."
"Also, you cannot always breed very good character together,
if you only breed dogs with nice, easygoing dispositions, after
three generations you get only dogs that are so nice and kind
and so quiet and perfect that they never like to work and never
like to run in the shows."
RC: "So what do you do to improve character?"
WM: "Every third generation you must bring in an absolute
"idiot." (Laughs.) Yes, one with very quick blood, a
wild one. This is very good for the working aspect of the Shepherd.
In obedience you see dogs placed on a down and when the handler
says "come," it takes them half an hour to stand up."
RC: "So, are you at the point now when you must look for
WM: "Yes, but with Vanta I am fine because she inherited
the spirit from Xaver Arminius. He was the crazy one, always the
"gangster", and Vanta is quite this way. I cannot leave
her out of the kennel and have you come in. She will bite you
immediately. She protects the car and the house."
RC: "So you dont know yet who you will breed her to?"
WM: " I must look in the Breed Survey Book for the right
RC: "But he must be of the same type?"
WM: "I can only create the Wienerau type, that is my job.
I cannot make another type. Mercedes must build Mercedes-looking
cars, and BMW the BMW type."
RC: " What do you expect from Zamb now?"
WM: "From Zamb I only want females. And Tony, I love Tony.
He is very special. He would like to kill everybody. When he was
six months old I would take him to walk on the leash and he would
approach me. So I started taking food with me and when someone
would come up I would say come feed my dog please.
After one week, when he would see someone approaching he would
start looking to see what they had in their pockets to give him.
He never tried to bite anyone anymore."
RC: "Finally, what would you advise someone who is starting
to breed and wants to do things right?"
WM: "I must tell the people you must buy from a very, very
good leader, from a very, very good father and a very, very good
mother the worst female puppythe worst female puppy. And
do you know why? Because nobody give you the best, so you can
only have the worst, but this dog has the same blood as the others.
Then breed this female to the best line and the best dog possible
and select the one with the best character and anatomy."
"You must be very careful though that you do not fall into
the trap of selecting dogs on the bases of performance only. You
may have two dogs, one has the best genes for working but has
a very bad trainer, the other one may have very bad genes for
working but has a very excellent trainer. Which one gets the highest
RC: "The second one."
WM: "Of course. So the second dog comes into the breed and
the better dog is gone. This is a mistake that we must be aware
of. The breed is built from good genes, not from good training."
At this point other people arrived for a visit. We walked outside
and were greeted by the newest generation of Wienerau puppies.
"This is my next Sieger," Mr. Martin said jovially,
pointing to a large three-month old male puppy with a very large
head and heavy bone, and of course , the typical Wienerau color.
The puppy looked at me with a very intense, curious stare. Behind
that typical innocent pair of raised eyebrows I could see that
oblivious attitude of all dogs: completely unaware of their worth
and their importance. A thought came to mind If these dogs knew
the royal position they enjoy as leaders of the breed worldwide,
would they act any differently than any other dog in the world?
The answer came loud and clear and synthesized probably the bests
impression I retain from the entire experience: Why should they?
The Martin family surely doesnt seem to be affected by it.
Driving out of the kennel I turned and passed through the front
gate. A very old and very small metal sign about 6" x 12"
hung from the gate. It read: "Zwinger von der Wienerau."
Such an understatement of greatness made me realize what true
breeders are all about: Not ostentatious display, but great love
for the breed, great loyalty to their friends, and great pride
in work well done.