Breed standards are a product of the dog show movement, which got underway in the fourth quarter of the 19th century. They arose from the need to establish a uniform conformation judging standard. Before that, for many thousands of years we had breed descriptions. Most vivid are the illustrated breed descriptions (for example, in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings), but we also have written descriptions, for example in the Cynegeticus of Xenophon (ca 430 - ca 370 B.C.).
Old-time breed descriptions of Poodles include Caius' description of a 16th century Water Dog , Markham's description of a 17th century Water Dogge, and the various descriptions in Rare books. Perhaps the most interesting of these in the context of a discussion of breed standards is that of Furness (1891) who was writing during the period of foundation of the various kennel clubs (The Kennel Club, 1873; AKC, 1884; CKC, 1888; UKC, 1898). Furness wrote a description; however, his text appears--lightly edited--in the first volume of POODLES IN AMERICA (1960) as a pre-breed-standard. Typically, those writing these descriptions were very knowledgeable about sound generic conformation--so they were not uncritical--but they were relatively unjudgemental in relation to regional variations and other inessentials relative to function and correct temperament to perform that function. By contrast, a breed standard is by definition judgmental, and, perhaps most important, is restricted to what the eye can see: the working essentials of correct temperament are merely implicit in any breed standard.
Five years before Furness published his description, The Poodle Club (1886) in England set the linked standard.
Count Henry van Bylandt (Compte Henri de Bylandt; H.A. graff van Bylandt, 1860-1943), a Dutch aristocrat who moved to Belgium during the latter half of the 1890's but remained Dutch, was among the first prominent and popular international dog show judges, and is considered "the father of the breed standard."
His Raspuntenboek van de meest bekende hondenrassen-- Standard Book of the best known Dog Breeds-- (Maarssen: Cynophilia, 1894), 404 pp., 400 illustrations, including standards of over 100 breeds, was first published in Dutch by the Dutch Kennel Club "Cynophilia" in 1894, and therefore has since been known as the Cynophilia Standard Book of Purebred Dogs.
In accordance with demand especially by Francophones, a second, much expanded, French-language edition was was published in Brussels in 1897: Les Races de Chiens (1160 pp; 300 breeds; 1392 illustrations showing 2064 dogs).
Further demand by Anglophones led to publication of the third edition: Dogs of all Nations: their varieties, characteristics, points, etc. (London: 1904) 2 vols. 789, 798 pp.; 2300 illustrations showing 4100 dogs; I: Sporting dogs; II: Terriers and non-sporting dogs; text in English, French, German & Dutch. It seems there was a second printing in 1905. In 1994, this third edition was republished (Kerberos: Neerijnen, The Netherlands; ISBN 90 5360 006 X) in a facsimile edition, with the exceptions that the page size was very moderately reduced, and certain illustrations citations were meticulously completed.
Copies of Bylandt in North American libaries listed in the World Catalogue can be counted on one hand; none are in Canada, and none are available for inter-library loan; the American Kennel Club owns a copy; the Canadian Kennel Club does not. By 2006, we had answered so many questions which could have been neatly fielded by access to Bylandt that we determined to buy a copy for the Poodle History Project and, subsequent to use, give it to a Canadian library. We were struck by the fact that the facsimile seemed rarer among the rare-books dealers than even the (very rare) earlier editions; we bought a copy of the 1994 edition from a rare-books seller in Amsterdam.
Bylandt was himself a Poodle-owner; his "curly" Standard Poodle, Ajax, appears among the illustrations (1904) as well as on page 24 of Poodles in Particular, by Alice Lang Rogers (NY: Howell, 1967), reproduced from Le Chenil. Here is Bylandt's English-language version of the Poodle breed standard. And, here are additional portions of his text.
The headpiece for this section is a promotional photo for Anden's Poodle Act, Radio City Music Hall, ca 1950: an incredible feat of no-hands balance, similar to breeding correct temperament--the essence of any breed-- using a physical description.
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