"Of the Dog called the water Spaniell, or finder," wrote the English physician, John Caius, in the mid-16th century. "That kind of dog whose service is required in fowling upon the water, partly through a natural towardness, and partly by diligent teaching, is included with that property. This sort is somewhat big, and of a measurable greatness, having long, rough, and curled hair, not obtained by extraordinary trades [OED: skilled handicraft] but given by nature's appointment; yet nevertheless (friend Gesner) I have described and set him out in this manner, namely powled [clipped short] and notted [clipped; cut short (hair or beard)] from the shoulders to the hindermost legs, and to the end of his tail, which I did for use and custom's cause, that being as it were made somewhat bare and naked, by shearing off such superfluity of hair, they might achieve the more lightness and swiftness, and be less hindered in swimming, so troublesome and needless a burden being shaken off.
"This kind of dog is properly called Aquaticus, a water spaniel, because he frequenteth and hath usual recourse to the water where all his game lyeth, namely, waterfowl, ducks and drakes, whereupon he is likewise named a dog for the duck, because in that quality he is excellent.
"With these dogs also we fetch out of the water such fowl as be stung to death by any venemous worm; we use them also to bring us our bolts and arrows out of the water (missing our mark) whereat we directed our level, which otherwise we should hardly recover, and oftentimes they restore to us our shafts which we thought never to see, touch, or handle again after they were lost: for which circumstances they are called Inquistitores, searchers, and finders.
"Although the duck otherwise notably deceives both the dog and the master by diving under the water, and also by natural subtlty, for if any man shall approach the place where they build, breed, and sit, the hens go out of their nexts, offering themselves voluntarily to the hands, as it were, of such as draw near their nests. And a certain weakness of their wings pretended, and infirmity of their feet dissembled, they go slowly and so leisurely, that to a man's thinking it were no mastery to take them. By what deceitful trick they do, as it were, enrise and allure men to follow them, until they be drawn a long distance from their nests, which being compassed by their provident cunning, or cunning providence, they cut off all inconveniences which might grow out of their return, by using many careful and curious caveats, lest their often hunting betray the place where the young ducklings be hatched. Great therefore is their desire, and earnest is their study to take heed, not only to their brood but also to themselves. For when they have an inkling that they are espied, they hide themselves under turfs or sedges, wherewith they cover and shroud themselves so closely and craftily, that (notwithstanding the place where they lurk be found and perfectly perceived) there they will harbor without harm, except the water spaniel by quick smelling discover their deceipts."
The foregoing text was lightly edited from Edward Topsell's The History of Foure-Footed Beastes (London: 1607; facsimile of the Bodleian Library's copy, Amsterdam: 1973), which includes the whole of Johannes Caius's On English Dogges... (London: 1576; 2nd edition, London: 1880), translated by "a student", Abraham Fleming; the Latin text had been published in 1570 (Johannis Caii Britanni de Canibus Britannicis..., and was originally a letter written in Latin by Caius (1510-73) to his Swiss colleague, Konrad von Gesner (1516-65), the most celebrated naturalist of the time, for inclusion in Gesner's Historia animalium (Zurich: 1551-58). Therefore the date of writing (although not the time of first publication in England in Latin--the date usually given), overlaps with that of the earliest use of firearms in waterfowling (see Duck dogs -- guns). Certainly, the writer's perspective entirely predates this use and gives us a unique description of "what Poodles were originally bred to do".
In relation to the arrows, the question arises: were these arrows shot from a cross-bow or a long-bow? English archers were famous for accuracy with the long bow, and frequent practice was mandatory, to the point that it modified skeletal development, as we know particularly from remains in Mary Rose which sank 19 July 1545. Cross-bows were used in hunting in England (although crossbows were tightly circumscribed because useful to highway men, being readily hidden under a cloak) and for both hunting and military use on the continent. Waterfowl seem a tiny target for either weapon. However, whichever bow was used, special "flu-flu" arrows were used for fowling. These arrows, which had special flensing to slow flight, and which gave the type its name (derived from French frou-frou, the sound which silk makes when moved), as well as one or another special points, rendered the arrows safer in the instance that the target was missed, and preserved one's dinner intact for the pot, in the instance of a hit.
Caius describes ducks lying up in close cover. This is particularly true of mallards in moult. The Poodle History Project editor was surprised to receive, in August 1995, a dead mallard fit for the table delivered spontaneously to hand by her Standard Poodle (CKC OTCh/WC). Thinking something must have been wrong with the duck, she put it in the garbage. Next day, the identical service was performed; the second duck was more obviously in moult. Nevertheless, it went straight into the field-training bird-bag in the freezer; and it was understood not to walk near wetlands at that time of year with a Standard Poodle in full possession of Caius's specs. Inevitably, this event made more complex ways of putting ducks on the table seem over-equipped.
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