The History Of the Poodle
UKC Poodle History
Dogs similar in type to today’s Poodle were carved in Roman tombs as far back as 30 A.D. and can be seen in European paintings as early as the 15th century. Although the breed took its name from the German word “pudel,” which means “to splash in water,” the French were responsible for bringing the Poodle to international attention. The first Poodles in England were known as “Rough Water Dogs” and they served primarily as hunting companions. Poodles were first brought to the United States at the end of the 19th century, but the breed did not become popular until after World War II. By the mid ‘50s, the Poodle was the most popular breed in the United States, a position held for over 20 years. Today the Poodle is divided into two breeds: the Standard Poodle, which serves primarily as a gun dog and companion animal, and the Poodle, composed of the Miniature and Toy varieties, and which serves primarily as companion breed. The standards of the two breeds are essentially identical but for size.
The Poodle was recognized by United Kennel Club in 1914. The Poodle was divided into two breeds, Standard Poodle and Poodle, on January 1, 2000.
AKC Poodle History
The Poodle is the national dog of France, and the French sure do love their Poodles. There is, however, no such breed as the “French Poodle.” In France, Poodles are known as the Caniche, or “duck dog.”
Despite the Poodle’s association with France, the breed originated as a duck hunter in Germany, where the word “pudelin” refers to splashing in water. The Standard Poodle began its development as a retrieving water dog more than 400 years ago. With a crisp, curly coat as protection against the elements, superlative swimming ability, and off-the-charts intelligence, the Poodle was, and still is, a magnificent retriever. (The Standard is the only breed classified as a non-sporting dog that is eligible for AKC Retriever Hunting Tests).
The flamboyant Poodle show coat served a practical purpose in the breed’s early years. Hunters wanted their dogs to have free range of movement in the water, but they also wished to protect vital areas of the anatomy from the cold. They shaved the legs, neck, and tail but left the chest, hips, and leg joints coated. The rounded tufts on the legs, hips, and tail tip are called pompons. (Note the spelling: Cheerleaders have pom-poms; Poodles have pompons.)
The Poodle’s many fine qualities allowed it to move from the lake to the lap of luxury. Elegant Poodles of the Standard and Miniature varieties found favor among the nobles of France and, eventually, all of Europe. The breed’s showy looks and trainability made it a natural entertainer, and Poodles have long been associated with the European circus tradition. An excellent nose brought the Poodle additional work as a truffle hunter.
The Standard was bred down to the Miniature. The Toy was first bred in America, in the early 20th century, as a city-dwelling companion dog. Well-bred specimens of each variety are exact replicas of each other and are bred to the same standard.
The poodle has been bred in at least three sizes, including Standard, Miniature, and Toy. According to the American Kennel Club, the Standard Poodle is the oldest of the three varieties, and was later bred down to the miniature and toy sizes.
Despite the Standard Poodle’s claim on being the older, as a breed, than the other varieties, there is evidence that shows the smaller varieties developed a short time after the breed became what we would recognized today. The smallest, or Toy variety, was developed in England in the 18th century.
It’s this much smaller toy version of the standard poodle became the favorite lapdogs for centuries. Dispute their “miniaturization” the smaller poodles they exhibit the same general characteristics of the larger variety.
It was the popularity of the “Poodle clip,” accentuated in France that led to a concerted effort by poodle fanciers and breeders to perfect the smaller varieties of miniature and toy.
An interesting side note; the British, in the early 1900s, coined a slang term “poodle-faker,” which meant a man who sought the company of affluent women for social and financial advantage; the “poodle-faker” fawned and ingratiated himself to these ladies as one would an adoring pet. Miniatures and Toys have been bred down from the larger Poodles and they exhibit the same general characteristics.
The iconic “Poodle clip” may have had a more practical or utilitarian origin. It was created by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently; with the patches of hair left on the body meant to protect the poodle’s vital organs and joints from the cold water.
It’s agreed that the poodles coat was clipped to help it swim. But, as noted, some believe that leaving puffs of hair surrounding the tail tip and leg joints were also meant to protect the animal during hunting, but there is stronger evidence that implies that this adornment started during the dog’s performing days.
It may have been this “entertainment” connection that led to the poodle’s rise into the French aristocracy. However it evolved, fashionable women in France began carrying around poodles as elegant companions.
It was in the late 19th century that poodles gained access to the show ring. Some of the early show dogs had corded coats which were long matted or thin tresses, instead of the common well-brushed coats. This made the poodles look very impressive, but the problem was that as a style, it was difficult to maintain and the trend waned in the early 1900s and the bouffant styles replaced it, becoming fashionable.
In the 1920’s, however, the popularity of the Poodle waned in the United States and hardly had any dog of breed could be found in North America. The Poodle made a successful comeback after a decade later, which may have been helped along with their role in the military during WWII, and now have become one of the most popular dogs in the U.S.