Poodle History Project

Hellenic Caniche-Griffons and their variations

In June, 2001, the Poodle History Project received the following two very interesting e-mails from Vasilis Lekkas of Athens. We thank him for allowing us to post them here:

Thu, 07 Jun 2001

Subject: Hellenic Caniche-Griffons and their variations

I am writing in relation to widespread populations of companion dogs in Greece unofficially called Caniche-Griffons. Popular perceptions in Greece indicate they are imported, even though there is no such evidence. Alternatively many people think they are a first cross between a Poodle and Griffon. The funny thing is no one seems to know what this "griffon" is. It seems to me the type exists intact without any crossing involved. Dogs with similar names are found in north Morocco, France and Belgium, but I don't know if they are connected in any way to Greek populations.

They are found in Athens, the (Greek) Cycladic islands, and other parts of the Greek mainland. On the island of Cyprus there is a very common type, probably more akin to the Bichon family, sometimes referred to as "Cyprus Poodle". None of these forms are fixed in type, but are bred in increasing numbers. Some of them look potentially more like long coated European/Continental herding dogs. Others have very wavy to loosely curled coats. There are a variety of sizes, but most are small to medium.

I was very intrigued by references, in the Poodle History Project's Ancient images section, to proto-Poodles and early water dogs in ancient Greece, and the association of these with the Greek islands. I was also very impressed by the reference to an Attic corded herding dog. I am inclined more and more to think relic genes of these types have survived in a very elementary way in the general population of Greek dogs. The recent increase in pet dog ownership, has led to a spontaneous proliferation of these Greek dogs numbers.

I was wondering if you know anything about these transitional forms between poodles and wire haired dogs (Griffons), or your speculation on the Greek versions. I am conducting a research on their identity, and conformation, and I would very grateful for your insight.

We expressed great interest, and received the following reply:

Wed, 13 Jun 2001

Subject: Hellenic Caniche-Griffons and their variations

I presently don't have any photos of the various Caniche Griffon types found in Greece, but it shouldn't be too difficult photographing some specimens.

Broadly speaking, I agree that bichon and poodle influences to a certain extent co-exist, as well as a "wire haired" element. At this stage, all three tendencies are not easy to separate and assess.

I inferred that you think these types may be throwbacks resulting from lack of inbreeding. Pure breeding in Greece is at its infancy. Poodles are popular pets, but not popular show dogs. They have few serious breeders, most of them being either profit-oriented or inexperienced amateurs. If the existence of these Canichoids is connected with Poodle breeding in Greece, it will have to do with slack selection and breeding practices. Their numbers suggest that to some extent they are already bred separately from pure Poodles.

Size-wise I would say most Caniche-Griffons are at the lower end of the medium range. They are larger than the majority of the pure poodles in Greece, that are mostly white unregistered toys, although there are other colours. Pure miniature Poodles are rare. Standards also. Some are lower and longer than pure poodles, but this is not a conclusive observation. Many have a squarer outline. Classifieds in the press refer to all three sizes in laymen's terms. The two extreme sizes seem to be more rare. I dare say I have seen representatives of all three. However, smaller sizes may not be as small as conventional toys, and large ones not as as large as standard poodles.

They tend to exhibit colours not accepted in pedigree poodles such as particolours in black, orange and brown, black/tan, black/silver. Many are solid black, various intensities of fawn or white. Blacks may have extensive white chest blazes. There are other colours not usually associated with poodles such as variegated fawns with lighter and darker shades intermixed. Some may have darker ear shadings.

The "Cyprus Poodles" in photos are probably more of a Bichon type with straighter coats. Some CPs have coats that mat, but coats that don't mat are probably more typical. CPs also come in different sizes and colours, are very common locally, used as pets, but not especially appreciated.

I am still investigating the matter. I am writing a long e-mail to a Greek dog magazine DOG's that I may forward to you (when I finish it), if you are interested. I've written the editor of DOG's, Maria Winsor Ginala before in relation to this subject. Mrs. Ginala published the photo of an ancient sculpture of an early bichon or spaniel that was known in Cyprus in antiquity, and wondered if the modern "Cyprus Poodles" indicate that the type somehow survived on the island.

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