American and British dog dealers love to toss around the word "span" when it comes to working terrier chest size.
It's a term lifted from the world of horses, and refers to placing your hands around a dog's chest at its widest part, with thumbs touching and middle fingers at least touching.
The problem is that "span" is so vague that it covers far too much sin when it comes to terrier size. Whose span? A small woman's? Wilt Chamberlin's?
When a dog cannot be spanned, the dog dealers always mumble that they have small hands!
The good news is that the Germans are not vague. Known for precise engineering and quality construction, they define the proper chest size of their native working dog, the Teckel or working Dachshund, with considerable precision.
The term "Dachshund" means "badger dog" but despite that moniker, the Germans are very precise about chest measurements because they understand that for a dog to be a "gebrauchshund" (i.e. a "useful" hunting dog), it cannot be too big to fit into a tight den, nor can it be nose-dead and unable to find in the field.
What is most remarkable about the FCI working Teckel standard is how very precise it is about chest size -- perhaps a reaction to what happened in England and in the U.S., where Dachshund chest size was allowed to balloon up to the point that show dogs now have chests as deep as the keel of a boat.
As the FCI standard for Teckels makes clear, the ideal chest size of a standard working Dachshund in Germany is just under 14 inches in circumference (35 cm. or 13.78 inches). The chest size of a miniature Dachshund (often used to work fox) is set at 30-35 cm (11.81 inches to 13.78 inches). A third working Dachshund, for rabbiting, is even smaller in circumference.
This 35 cm chest size of a full-sized working Dachshund was not invented whole-cloth; it is about the size of the average red fox chest found the world over and it is the same 14-inch chest measurement defined as ideal for working terriers by Barry Jones in the UK and by Ken James in the U.S.
Does that mean European Badgers cannot come a great deal larger than 14" in the chest? They can!
The picture below is of five well-trained German Teckels doing a down-stay next to two just-dug European badgers. Quite a shot!
But badgers are built like groundhogs -- as squishy as a bag of water, and in the real world underground, that wide roll of fat and skin can squeeze through some very tight passages -- hence the 14" chest size of a working "badger dog".