Showsight Presents The Poodle

POODLE HISTORY: NOT A SIMPLE STORY TO TELL

by DEL DAHL

Y ou know it won’t be easy when historians all agree on one point and historians all agree that the Poodle has “undefinable origins”. The existence of three varieties and the acceptance of any solid color won’t make the task of defining its history any easier. As any Poodle person will tell you, the breed is “one of a kind”; this suggests that its history will be as well. As early as 30 AD, Poodle-like dogs appeared on Roman tomb carvings and on Greek and Roman coins. By the 15th century, references to Poodles appeared in both writing and art and the art of that time portrayed the Poodle in a fac- simile of today’s traditional trims. Russia, Germany and France are generally believed to be the homes of the Poodle’s rootstock, but the histori- cal record suggests that there was con- siderable type variance from the start. The Russian dogs were somewhat more Greyhound-like in body type. In Ger- many, the Poodle was more thickset and heavy boned. Even though the Ger- man word “pudel” means “to splash in water” , in early times the German vari- ety was often used a as a cart dog. In France, where the Poodle is the national dog, we find early evidence of the different sizes that are evident in today’s US Poodles. The “Petite Barbet” was a toy-like version found in France long ago and many believe it included

the influence of the Toy Spaniel and the Maltese. However, it is doubtful that any of that early stock survived or is found in the current Toy pedigrees. France started the notion of size vari- ation and the breed’s popularity with the French aristocracy started the “fan- cification” of the Poodle trim. Where the Germans had taken all of the hair off the back half of their dogs, the French fanciers added the pompoms and cou- lettes. In part to protect the dog’s joints when in the water, it without question made the breed more decorative. The popularity of the breed spread to many other European countries. But it was England’s work with the breed that would prove of great significance to US breeders, as much of our modern Poodle foundation would come from English origin. While there were both the French type and the heavier stock found in England, the more refined type was preferred in general. Early impor- tations included dogs of both types. In the US, Poodle registrations were noted as early as the 1890s. English breeder Jane Lane (Nunsoe Kennels) was an early source for US fanciers. Her stock went back to the Labory Kennels of Madame Reichen- bach in Switzerland and was important on several fronts—particularly in the case of Tri Int CH Nunsoe Duc de la Ter- race. This dog popularized the Poodle following his ring career, capped off by

winning the Westminster Kennel Club Show in 1934. The Standards and Miniatures main- tained a separate registry with the AKC and Toys were not part of the scene. While various dogs were imported and recorded during the 1920s and a number of people began breeding pro- grams, the decade was viewed much as the “calm before the storm” by many breed historians. There was, indeed, a spike in Poodle interest, but it was the next decade when the “Poodlelization of America” became a reality. In 1931, the Poodle Club of America was started and while there was a bit of competi- tion among various facets of breeders, it was resolved with PCA becoming a force that has led and guided the breed’s evolution. During its beginning years, PCA National Specialties were held in conjunction with All-Breed shows. But in 1938, the first independent specialty show was held and from that time on, the national show has continued to develop and grow and is heralded by many as one of the most prestigious national specialties in the nation. In 1933, Whippedell Poli of Caril- lon won the Non-Sporting Group at the Westminster Kennel Club and that was a break-through point for the breed. In the same year, the Duc, mentioned ear- lier, came to Blakeen Kennels as the gift of Mrs. Sherman Hoyt’s mother. He did a great deal to launch this new, but rather

“AS ANY POODLE PERSON WILL TELL YOU, THE BREED IS ‘ONE OF A KIND’ THIS SUGGESTS THAT ITS HISTORY WILL BE AS WELL.”

A group of Labory Standard Poodles in Switzerland at play in the 1930s, owned by Madame Lucrienne Reichenbach.

254 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2017

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