"The determination of the origins of domestic animals is one of the most difficult zoological problems and in spite of all research, much is still hidden in deep darkness.
"Specifically regarding the origin of the domestic dog in its many various breeds, little is known other than a variety of hypotheses of greater or lesser value. Buffon, Linnaeus, Cuvier and others postulate that all domestic dogs belong to one and the same species (canis familiaris), modified only by such considerations as climate, lifestyle and environmental conditions.
"Other authors are of the opinion that differentiation occurred in prehistoric times (much like branches of the same tree moving away from each other) and base this belief on fossil finds of extinct canines. Yet others view still living varieties of wolves and jackals as the ancestors of the present domestic dogs. Another researcher, L. Fitzinger, who devoted nearly all his life to this problem, considers our many different breeds as descended from seven major types which, on the basis of their physical and mental qualities, cannot be descended either from each other or from presently still-living examples of the canine family (wolf, jackal, etc.). He therefore considers them independent types which originally existed in wild or semi-wild condition but which over time became fully-domesticated. Fitzinger categorizes these as silky (coated) dogs, house dogs, badger dogs, hunting dogs, bull biters, sight hounds, and hairless dogs.
"All other forms he considers the results of climatic changes, changes in lifestyles and the effects of culture. He also concedes the possibility of hybridization either with each other or with wolves or jackals. As regards the Poodle, he held him, with absolute certainty, to be a pure, unadulterated form of the old silky-dog brought about by acclimatization, living conditions, and deliberate breeding. This view is seemingly supported by the strong genetic influence Poodles exert: 'A single infusion of the Poodles' genetic material persists for many generations as shown by the experiences of Poodle-Pointer breeders.' (See Ströe, Our Dogs, Neudam: 1902.)
"Fitzinger's views are nowadays looked upon as untenable, having from the beginning lacked adequate documentation; they were finally put to rest by various zoological researchers on the basis of careful comparisons of skulls of prehistoric dogs with those of our present breeds.
"Of the various works published in this connection the most interesting and useful is Prof. T. Studer, Prehistoric Dogs Relative to Present Breeds (Zurich: 1901). It deals in greatest detail with the ancestry of the Poodle. Studer, who had access to extremely rich remains of prehistoric breeds (or rather types of canines), notes that Poodle skulls show a great expansion of the brain-capsule and a high and arched forehead. 'In most cases there is a strong break between face and skull, however there are others in which this is less pronounced and which show a more gradual transition.' 'On the whole only the latter forms appear to be sheepdog related: in most cases the characteristics of hunting dogs predominate, especially those of the small pointing breeds, except that such traits as strong foreface, marked stop and enlarged brain capsule are even more pronounced. Given that the Poodle has hunting abilities, an excellent nose, a love for water, is easily taught to retrieve and is used in many places for hunting, and additionally can be successfully crossed with hunting breeds, it is obvious that he represents a highly differentiated form of canis intermedius than a herding dog.'
"These suppositions of Studer's are supported by the history of the Poodle. He is unquestionably the result of a cross between coarsely-coated sheep dogs and hunting dogs brought about to give the latter a more wear-resistant coat as well as possibly greater size; however, the blood of hunting dogs predominates.
"The original home of the Poodle is viewed by Buffon and later by Fitzinger as the north-western part of Africa, especially Morocco and Algeria, from where he must have come to Europe very early. The ancient Greeks and Romans must certainly have known a breed of this kind, inasmuch as ancient reliefs, especially those of the time of Augustus, show dogs 'shorn' in the manner of Poodles as well as Poodle-like dogs. There are, however, no written references. Even in the Middle Ages there is no mention of the breed. Not until their very end do we find any traces. In the famous gothic cathedral of Amiens there is a stone sculpture of a dog, unmistakably a Poodle, and astonishingly in a modern clip. In the choir enclosure are depicted various episodes from the life of the martyr St. Firmin. In one of them, the saint is shown in bishop's vestments, kneeling with folded hands and submissively bent head, while next to him stands the executioner, sword in hand, ready to sever the head from the body of the pious servant of God. The third figure in this group is the Poodle in question, even by modern standards skillfully groomed, with mane, bracelets and pompom at the tip of his tail. This representation dates from 1499 AD.
"Similarly, originating from the end of the 15th century, a painting, now in Munich's Pinakothek and painted in 1492 by Piero de Cosimo, titled 'The Three Archangels and the Young Tobias,' shows a small dog resembling an adolescent white Poodle running alongside Raphael, after the words of the Bible: 'And Tobias went forth and a little dog accompanied him.'
"Even though the art of printing was discovered in the middle of the same century and the art of woodcuts perfected, another century was to pass until finally the first work showing illustrations appeared. This was the famous Historia Animalis by C. Gesner (1516-1561) describing the animals then known from a historical point of view. In this as well as in De Quadrupedius Viviparis, an encompassing work, Gesner has a chapter entitled 'De Canis' in which appears among others a picture of a Poodle-like dog, called canis aquaticus aviarius, water-bird dog. He did not see this animal himself but received its picture from his friend and fellow scientist, the Englishman Johannes Caius [see Finders...] with the following brief description: 'English. Water-spaniel, a waterfowl dog used for hunting in bodies of water, for which, as Caius informs me, by nature is so suitable that a minimum of training is required. He is larger than the upland bird dogs and his entire body is covered with long hair. Nevertheless, I have shown him clipped from the shoulders to the hindquarters even to the tip of the tail, as this is our practice. Freed from his coat, he is more agile and less encumbered when swimming.'
"It is tempting to view the description as not pertaining to the Poodle, but rather to a close relative, the English or Irish Water Spaniel. I, however, lean towards the opinion that Gesner's canis aquaticus was in fact a Poodle, since the spaniels, although structurally very similar, differ from this dog materially, inasmuch as the coat is substantially different; the facial hair is short and smooth, the tail short and smooth, and the hair on the body rather shortish and tightly curled, so that first of all it is not possible to shear him as shown in the picture and secondly because of the much shorter coat, shearing is not necessary. The fact that Caius used the term 'water spagnelle' is of no significance, since among old authors names are routinely used interchangeably if not carelessly.
"Following Gesner's publication there does not appear to be another work mentioning Poodle-like dogs or their pictures for another 100 years. [Sic. See "...Visuals" 16th - 18th century Natural Histories.] It is particularly astonishing that the famous work of U. Aldrovandi [1522-1607] does not show even a hint of a Poodle-like dog, even though many other breeds are described in great detail. The only conclusion to be drawn is that a dog neither seen by Gesner nor described by Aldrovandi cannot have been widely distributed in central Europe.
"An extract from Gesner's work appeared in Frankfurt, Germany in 1669 under the title of Gesner Revisited or General Book of Animals. It contains a picture of a sitting, long-haired and unshorn dog, strikingly similar to our present-day Poodle and is accompanied by the following text: 'About the Water-dog, canis aquaticus. The Water-dog, also known as Barbet, is a particularly well-mannered and charming animal with lovable characteristics. Of these dogs, some hunt beaver, otter and wild ducks, while others retrieve anything that either falls or is thrown into water.' This shows not only the hunting ability but also the suitablility of these dogs as companions and so we may safely assume that they were actually Poodles.
"In 1719 appeared a book entitled: The Complete German Hunter, which contains the following in the chapter on dogs: 'Shepherds have some small to medium-sized drovers with rough, untidy coats. Most of these dogs come from Nordic countries, especially Iceland. When these are interbred with hunting dogs, the offspring has long ears and dense, heavy coats. In order to facilitate swimming, the heaviest part of the coat is removed, eyebrows and beard (moustache) are left and the tail is docked. Because of the beard the French call this dog Barbet. Because the Icelandic dogs are generally grey and the hunting dogs generally red or brown, the crosses can show those colours, but also white with brown markings, as in the Pointer, and sometimes pure black. These dogs are energetic and faithful. Their training begins by having them retrieve wooden sticks for which birds are later substituted. In this manner the dog is made eager to follow the hunter in order to retrieve the downed birds. He will even swim after winged birds [wounded birds; runners], catching, killing, and retrieving them.
"'It is important never to use stones as objects for retrieves! First of all they cause the dog to dive as they sink, causing water to enter the ear and resulting in all kinds of problems including deafness; secondly, stone will dull or damage the teeth. These dogs are excellent at quartering among reeds, marshes, and swamps. They will also flush, just as well as hunting dogs, foxes, otters, and wild-cats, as well as pheasants, snipe, moorhens, killdeer, and other birds.'
"This passage is especially noteworthy since it furnishes a 200-year-old substantiation for Studer's theory that the Poodle was the result of interbreeding of hunting and herding dogs. Additionally, it contains the first reference to 'Pudel' or, as was then the spelling, 'Budel'. It also informs us that among the names then in use, in addition to 'Budel', were 'Shooter', 'Spy', and 'Diver.'
"In 1746 Döbel's book titled Jäger Praktica or The Hunter's Handbook appeared, which contains a section on 'The Poodle or Hungarian Water-dog': 'He should really be referred to as the joker inasmuch as he learns so easily and well that can imitate or mimic almost anything and makes anything his own. He learns so well that one can have great fun with him. He is especially fond of water; so much so, that he has been known to break ice in order to retrieve ducks. It is possible to train him to act as Pointer on chicken-like birds as well as hares, rabbits and others. While not as fast as the Pointer when tracking or quartering, he is industrious and useful under the gun. Very devoted to his master, he will pay constant attention to him and even guard him. During the summer he is shorn, the hair sometimes used in the making of hats. If the coat is not removed it will felt and the dog is then plagued by fleas.' The author considers the Poodle superior to Pointers and Barbets when it some to the search for truffles.
"Buffon's Natural History appeared in translation between 1750 and 1774 and is the first to contain detailed descriptions of Poodles. For the first time there is talk about a large as well as a small Poodle. 'The large Poodle is also called Water-dog since this kind of dog loves the water and is easily taught to retrieve. This kind of dog has a thick and rounded head, broad and long ears, a short and strong foreface, a short, strong body, and a tail which hangs almost straight down. He is covered with long, curly hair to such an extent that its true outline cannot be discerned. These dogs are generally white, or yellowish-white, but there are also reds, blacks, browns, etc. As regards size, there are two kinds, the smaller will be referred to later. It is the custom to shear off the coat for summer, since otherwise matting and felting occurs. Poodles are capable of all kinds of tricks and can be taught to search for truffles. Their inclination to go to water, one can strengthen by making them retrieve sticks, small birds, ducks, and other waterfowl. They work the reed-beds until the downed bird is found. They also hunt wild otters, killdeer, and foxes. Apart from that, they are superior to all breeds when it comes to devotion.
"'The small Poodles are the results of crosses between the large ones and small spaniels. They resemble their larger cousins in every respect apart from the muzzle which is proportionately less strong and the hair on top of the head, on the ears and the tip of the tail is almost as silky as that of a spaniel.'
"For decades there were no publications which differed materially from the foregoing and these many may thus be ignored. It was not until 1834 that Reichenbach's Friend of Nature supplied material, hitherto not touched upon: talks for the first time about a corded Poodle, but views it clearly as a variety: 'Coat of wool, which twists itself into cords, hanging straight to the ground. A rare variety, possibly caused by climatic conditions, from Spain, Portugal, and possibly Greece. A large white dog is described as having cords as follows: greatest length, 3 ft.; on the ears, 1.5 feet; body hair over 2 ft. Another dog, this one black, is described as having cords touching the ground.'
"We have already shown that the Poodle cannot have been widely known in our part of the world (central Europe) during the 16th and 17th centuries. This changed drastically because since 1700 Poodles were widespread and very popular and actively bred and appeared not only in scientific publications but in literature generally. Most authors and poets since then have either accorded them a role in their works or at the least referred to them. They also began to figure prominently in proverbs and sayings. From this can be seen that the Pudel can without question be viewed as many others as a German breed.
"In 1860, however, his star began to pale and began to take a back seat to many other breeds. This seems to have had to do with the predominance of corded dogs which in bad weather speedily turned into walking dirtballs, for the grooming of which required the engagement of a full-time servant.
"It is my personal opinion that the above explanation was not the chief reason; that being the ever-increasing importation of English breeds, well-bred and soundly-made, easily cared for and of the most beautiful colours. To own dogs of such high quality was highly desirable. Only when the German breeders, with ability and perserverance, began to breed for similar quality, did the Poodle begin to regain lost ground. Today, when German Poodles are of equal quality as foreign breeds, numbers are recovering."
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