Poodle History: What Do You Really Know About This Elegant Breed

Picture taken from www.teacuppoodlepuppies.com

Picture taken from www.teacuppoodlepuppies.com

From the desk of Sharda Baker.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hi and welcome everyone!

This is Sharda with your Poodle newsletter.

Poodle History records indicate that the poodle breed is the oldest known to man.

In fact, their origins cannot really be traced back to any particular time, age or place.

But poodle history does tell us that as early as 30 A.D. poodles made their first public appearance in carvings on Roman tombs and on Greek and Roman coins.

This proves that the breed was highly prized by the nobility and royalty of those times.

Ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts also bear portraits of poodles assisting their owners in bringing in game nets, herding a variety of animals or retrieving selected catches from various marshes.

Though the first printed reference to the poodle was by Conrad Gesner in 1953, the poodle made its way in writing and art in France, Holland and Italy as far back as the 15th century.

At the time, contemporary art depicted him in trims, similar to today’s show trims. Around the same time, there were smaller versions of the poodle too—the miniature and the toy—that were depicted in paintings of the time.

It is said that Queen Anne of England saw a group of poodles dancing to music and fell in love with the breed instantly.

Poodle History also bears testimony to the fact that Russia, France and Germany were the countries that contributed the most to promote this special breed. Whereas the Russian poodle was portrayed as being similar to the greyhound in its physique, the German poodle was shown to be more thickset with a wooly coat texture.

The poodles of both these countries with different coat types—curly and corded—did not go unnoticed. As a result, this breed got its name Pudel (Canis Familiaris Aquatius) or “Water Dog” in Germany; Caniche (Chien Canard) or “Duck Dog” in France.

In England, however, the poodle was best described as “Splash in water.”

The poodle was called a “Water Dog” because he began his working life in the swamps as a dog trained to retrieve fallen birds for hunters. The fact that all poodles are ace swimmers also goes back to its great ancestry—a fact first documented in 1642.

In fact, it is generally believed that the poodle is really the original water spaniel, particularly since it was known to be a working hunter and duck retriever. Its trademark stylish hair trim was more than just chic.

It was also functional because its coat protected it from water and debris in the water.

The hair trim would buoy the poodle and add padding to keep its joints and the rest of its body warm while it worked away in the swamps. In addition, the hindquarters of the dog were shaved to enable the poodle to swim more easily rather than being weighted down with its coat.

France was the first to recognize the poodle breed as its national dog. At the time, it was found in several forms—there was a small dog known as the Petit Barbet.

Historically, the poodle was variously known to be a water dog, a circus dog and the pampered pet of royal households in France. Experts suggest that the poodle may be the result of combining the Toy Spaniel and the Maltese. Being toy-sized, it led a charmed life of being pampered and primped to match the lifestyle in the royal courts.

The French Caniche was a larger dog and was aptly used for duck hunting. Researchers claim that its size and stocky build are due to its Spaniel ancestry. However, the poodle as we know it and the Irish Water Spaniels are similar.

And finally, there was the Truffle dog that was used in search for that flavourful morsel that was used by so many of the French chefs.

It was parti-coloured, and therefore did not meet the standard size of poodles—medium size with a black and white coat. When the miniature poodle was crossed with a terrier, it produced a Truffle hunting dog that helped sniff out delicate, flavourful fungus truffles that grew directly under the soil surface.

Often, they hunted potatoes too, when accompanied by a dog similar to the Dachshund. Of the two breeds, the poodles usually found the truffles and the Dachshund dug them up.

Originally found in France, poodles were exported to England in the 19th century. People also believe that the Toy poodle and the Maltese are related, but no one can say for sure if the Toy poodle helped develop the Maltese strain or vice versa.

Over the centuries, the poodle has essayed a variety of roles—sometimes it has been a retriever, sometimes a working dog and other times as a herding dog—while also entertaining crowds as a circus performer.

In the early 15th century, it was depicted in the paintings of German artist Albrecht Durer and the Spanish artist Goya. Breed historians usually agree that the poodle’s natural home is Germany, with a dash of influence from Russia.

The result is what we know as the standardized and distinct breed that France recognized as its national dog.

This is why the poodle is commonly known as the “French Poodle.” Apart from its European connections, the poodle’s true ancestry is not clear to everyone. According to one school of thought, it descended from Asian herding dogs, then moved west with the two Germanic tribes—the Goths and Ostrogoths—to evolve as a true German water dog.

Yet another school of thought propagates the theory that it was originally in the Asian Steppes from where it was taken by the North African Berbers who invaded these lands, and finally entered Portugal in the 8th century with the Moors.

This is why the poodle is often believed to be related to the Portuguese water dog—whose appearance bears a sharp likeness to the poodle with its long curly coat, intelligence, speed, agility and ruggedness and easy adaptability to working in water and on land.

For centuries, the poodle’s intelligence and personality were so well-known that gypsies and other traveling actors trained it to perform a variety of tricks and skits to entertain paying spectators. Historical records are punctuated with accounts of famous royal command performances and stories of street shows that delighted audiences.

In these shows, poodles would be dressed up in various costumes and would be trained to display their intelligence and sense of balance and agility—thereby making them superstars of the 19th century.

People often wonder why the poodle’s coat is clipped in such a unique style. When you see certain areas of the poodle’s body are shaved while certain others have tufts of hair, giving it what is now called the “poodle look,” it is a direct result of the breed’s working and sporting heritage.

The story harks back to historic times when the poodle’s services were used in the capacity of a hunting dog.

This meant that it worked in water, often in the most inclement weather.

In order to protect its vital organs from the biting cold whenever it stepped into water to retrieve fallen birds or game, certain areas of its coat were shaved off to increase its mobility.

The rationale was that the less of a coat it had to carry, the easier it would be for the poodle to move around. However, other key areas of its coat were left intact so as to lend it warmth.

Additionally, poodles are known for wearing a red ribbon tied into its topknot and that is so its owners could find and identify them when they worked in the water.

Gypsies too often sheared their poodles and manicured their coats into fanciful styles to delight their audiences. Very soon, the gentry and ladies of the court also realized that this could be done for their own amusement.

So, they spent hours clipping, dyeing and decorating their pet pal in all kinds of crazy styles, sometimes adding a dash of imagination and at other times, an overdose of fun.

This reached its peak of absurdity during the zenith of the French nobility.

The French were especially zealous about their poodles and raised the art of clipping or shearing their darling pets to a fine art.

This larger-than-life attachment to their pets is one more reason why this pet is more French than German.

In 1874, the French poodle crossed the English Channel to enter Great Britain, where it became quite popular towards the end of the 19th century. In the same year, the Kennel Club of England took in its first poodle.

In 1910, the curly and corded varieties of poodles were separated into their respective divisions, as was the Miniature. The foundation laid down by the Kennel Club of England grew into the cornerstones of this breed in the United States.

Though no one knows exactly when the poodle made its entry into the United States, the American Kennel Club registered its first poodle in 1886.

A decade later, the Poodle Club of America (PCA) was founded. Soon after, it split only to be reorganized in 1931. The PCA used the Standard and Rules of the Curley Poodle Club of England as its base to establish the Standard in the U.S.

Since then, the name Standard has been an umbrella term for all three sizes of poodle, with a difference only in the height measurements of each.

The poodle achieved popularity only after WW II, when it was considered fashionable to be seen with a poodle. In the 1960s, it was the most popular breed in America and held sway at that prestigious position for the next 23 consecutive years.

In 1994, the poodle was the fifth most commonly registered breed by the AKC, testimony to its ever-growing popularity.

The Standard poodle is perhaps the oldest of this breed, but it is generally believed that the smaller types followed soon after.

In time, the poodle’s popularity grew in Holland and Belgium too, where it was known as the “Poedel.”

Collectively, however, all these names are given to the breed we know to be the poodle.

I hope you had fun listening to me babble about Poodle history and the background of this fine and elegant creature.

All the best and take care

Sharda Baker