In the Middle Ages, schnauzer-type dogs of medium size were developed from herding, ratting and guardian breeds in Western Europe. A dog of the peasant farmer for centuries, with the advent of dog showing in the 19th century they finally captured the interest of German dog fanciers, who began to standardize their look and temperament for the show ring.
Standard Schnauzers were mixed with the German Black Standard Poodle, giving the Standard Schnauzer a "regal" look. In the earliest days of the show schnauzer, puppies from a single litter could be classified as either German Pinschers (short-haired puppies) or schnauzers (long-coated wire-haired puppies), dependent only on coat length. Some original coat types of the German Pinscher may have been lost during World War I, having since been brought back from different stock. The pepper-and-salt coat, that is the trademark of the Standard Schnauzer breed in North America, could be seen in the German Pincher (called the silberpinsch), attesting to the close relationship between the two breeds in modern times. It was also in the late 19th century that the medium-sized schnauzer was developed into three different breeds/sizes: the Miniature, the Standard (the original), and the Giant.
Speaking on the more distant origins of the breed, writers from the late 19th century proposed that the grey Wolfspitz and black German poodles contributed to the early development of the schnauzer, though this has yet to be confirmed through genetic work.
The three schnauzer breeds take their name from one of their kind, a medium-sized show dog named "Schnauzer", who won at the 1879 Hanover Show in Germany. The word Schnauzer (from the German word for 'snout', recalling the long hair on the muzzle) appeared for the first time in 1842 when used as a synonym for the Wire-haired Pinscher (the name under which the breed first competed at dog shows). The schnauzer was first imported into the United States in the early 1900s.
In modern history, the Standard Schnauzer has taken on a variety of roles. The Red Cross used the dogs for guard duty during World War I. Both German and (in one documented instance) American police departments have put the dogs to work as well. Several Standard Schnauzers have been used in the USA for drug and bomb detection, and also as search-and-rescue dogs.
The current Standard Schnauzer excels at obedience, agility, tracking, herding, therapy work and, in Germany, schutzhund. Despite being a popular pet in Europe, the Standard Schnauzer has never gained wide popularity in North America. For the past 20 years, the American Kennel Club has registered only ~540 Standard Schnauzer puppies a year (compared with ~100,000 Labrador Retriever puppies each year).