Like many art forms, the dachshund represents over 500 years of fine German engineering, though other countries in north and central continental Europe contributed to the breed as we know it today. Ultimately, the dachshund is a representation of how a job can affect the morphology of the creatures people keep.
Though no one is certain, it seems that the dachshund is known and loved today as one of the ten most popular breeds in the US and Western Europe, was bred from a longer legged hound called the Teckel. From paintings and woodcuts dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the teckel dog, originally weighed between 16 and 20 kg (35-45 pounds).
These dogs, first appearing in the areas around the Black Forest (in modern day Germany), are thought to heve been bred from dogs throughout northern Europe - England and France in particular.
The Teckel dog was well known as a keen hunter that was not afraid of anything including wild boar and deer. Indeed, many of the unusual traits that dachshunds now posses were bred into this gifted scent and digging hound to search for particular types of game, most prominently the badger.
Though badgers are normally solitary and placid creatures, they become fierce and dangerous with long claws and sharp teeth. That such a small dog (even at 18kg/40lb) could hold its own with a vicious, trapped creature twice its size, is truly impressive. Some dachshunds were even bred to attack larger animals from below.
It is thought that several terrier breeds were bred into an existing hound breed to encourage some of the tenacious and apparently fearless behaviour into the breed that was so prized by hunters. Though many lamment the tenancy today when attempting to train a dachshund to obey commands, they are designed to make quick, independent decisions that they stick to. Your opinion is usually treated as more of a suggestion than command.
However, the distinctive characteristic of the breed, namely, their very short legs, were once referred to as crooked legged teckel. If you look at the bones in a modern dachshund's legs, you'll notice they hae all the same bones as other dogs - just crooked around and apparently twisted. This mutation was presumably discovered in the 18th century and gave the breed an advantage when going to Earth that was encouraged.
Other traits that were selected for include floppy ears that kept out dirt and bugs when going down into a den. The front paws are good for digging while the rear legs help them move nearly as fast in reverse as forward. Their ribcages are abnormally large for their size to allow them to breathe easier underground. They can also see unusually well underground. These traits were all selected for and carefully inbred during the 19th century when dog clubs first became very popular.
Dogs matching the description of a smooth hair dachshund is first mentioned in print as early as the 16th century, whereas the long-haired and wire-haired varieties didn't actually arise until a few centuries later. Indeed, it is now thought that those other sub-breeds arose from crossings with the pampillon and the schnauzer respectively.
Today the dachshund is highly associated with the modern nation of Germany, for good or for ill. Nearly a century later, few people blame dachshunds for disagreeable domestic and foreign policy of the massive EU nation.