dalziel

Hugh Dalziel (1879)

"'The garçon perruquier and his bare-bottomed, red-eyed Poodle; though they are both amusing animals, and play ten thousand monkey-tricks, which are diverting enough; yet there is more of human and dog-like sympathy in the wag of old Trusty's tail than if his rival Touton had stood on his head for a twelvemonth.' --Sir Walter Scott

"In dogs ordinarily spoken of as Poodles we find a multiplicity of type, which is doubtless to be accounted for by the commixture of pure Poodle blood with that of other varieties.

"The Poodle has been long known in this country. According to the writer on domesticated dogs in Jardine's Naturalist's Library [Dalziel is probably refering to Smith (1843); see above], the breed is of German origin. He says: 'The Water-dog or Poodle of the Germans rose first in favour in Germany, and was, during the revolutionary wars, carried by the soldiers into France, and it was in the later campaigns only that the Poodle became familiar to the British, who met with it in Spain and the Netherlands.' The work in which this statement is made commands for it respect; but I confess that to me it not only lacks lucidity, but is unsupported by proof, and certainly, so far as the date at which the Poodle became known to the British is concerned, it appears to be contradicted by the fact that Hogarth represents the Poodle in his time as the clipped, shaven, and befooled canine fop he is still made by some of his admirers; which shows that this dog was known in England and that the whimsical fashion of making him as grotesque as possible was practiced, or at least recognized, in this country long before the revolutionary wars in which our troops took part in Spain and the Netherlands. I am not aware that he is referred to by any one of the few English writers on dogs prior to Hogarth's time; whereas Gesner, the German [sic: Gesner was Swiss] writer, to whose book on animals Dr. Caius contributed the chapters on English dogs, describes the Poodle as a German dog. A strong argument, however, in favour of the German origin of the Poodle is the name itself, which is but slightly altered from the German Pudelhund (Poodel-hoont). This name is, according to Skeat, allied to the low-German Pudeln, to waddle, used of fat persons and short-legged dogs. This rendering gives strong support to the view that the heavy-bodied, short-legged dogs referred to hereafter as German Poodles represented the original type.

"Linnaeus recognized two varieties--the large and the small Barbet or Water-dog, which I take to mean the Poodle. 'Barbet,' says Dr. Ogilvie, 'is a name given to a dog on account of his long hair.' Professor E. Roubaud, in his French and English dictionary, renders 'Barbet, a Water-spaniel.' I cannot accept the Poodle as a Spaniel, for reasons which appear in the chapters on Spaniels in the first volume of this work. Dr. Fitzinger, in his book Der Hund und seine Racen, describes no less than six varieties. This I give on the authority of 'Wildfowler,' who wrote the article on Poodles in Dogs of the British Islands [see "Wildfowler"/"Stonehenge" (1878), above], and gave there in detail Fitzinger's description of each; but I do not see that it would be of practical value to transcribe it here. To obtain the six varieties there is a considerable amount of hair-splitting, and where the class division is not a question of coat, it is merely one of size.

"We have Poodles written of as French, Spanish, German, and Russian, but the terms do not convey a very clear means of identification, or, indeed, express any concise thought of the writers, in most instances.

"The black variety has been very fashionable of late years, and has been dubbed the Russian Poodle; and probably those dogs exhibited may have been brought from Russia; but black has by all writers been recognized as a Poodle colour, and is therefore not peculiar to any Russian breed of them. The fact appears to be that they have, whatever their origin and native home, spread over most of the countries of Europe, and doutless have been in different places, more or less modified by selection and by various crosses.

"Youatt [see Youatt (1845), above] says the Poodle was originally a Water-dog, and gives a representation of one black and white in colour [see headpiece], and with long, quilled curls. 'A Veteran Sportsman' describes the Water-dog of the beginning of this century, and Vero Shaw says the illustration to the article, drawn by Reinagle, is that of a Poodle. In my judgement, the drawing in no way resembles a Poodle. It is, in fact, the Water-shough, or Water-shock--that is, long-haired Water-dog--of Shakespeare and of British sportsmen down to the present century, and that was the animal 'A Veteran Sportsman' in his article described and wrote of as a crossbred variety. [The author appears to contradict himself in the last paragraph quoted below! Ed.]

"Probably, when we became possessed of Continental Poodles, some of them would be used to cross with our Water-shoughs, as the Poodle had, and has, a native repurtation as a good waterfowl-dog.

"Linnaeus says of the Poodle, 'hair long and curled, like a sheep,' although the curls are thinner and harder than the variety of sheep I presume the great naturalist here to take for his illustration. Fitzinger accurately describes the coat as falling down 'regularly, in rows of straight cords,' and I imagine this is the most marked characteristic of the breed, and that the fluffy, coarse, open, and woolly-coated are impure, except, of course, where the open coat has been artificially obtained by brush and comb; this, I think, is the case with some of the best samples of those black, shaven ones now in vogue. I some ten years ago saw, at Westgate-on-Sea, a splendid specimen, identical in size and shape with the present winning dogs, but unshaven, and black as jet in coat, which consisted of beautiful corded ringlets throughout. I need scarcely say I consider such a dog as Nature made him infinitely more handsome than one disfigured by the vulgar fancies of the dog barber.

"The white corded variety, with shorter legs, has long been encouraged in our Northern counties; but one of the best specimens in England, shown by Mr. Walter Potts, at Hanover, in 1879, stood no chance against the German exhibits, which included the finest specimens I have ever seen, perfect in the long, equal, quill-like curls or cords, of a rich creamy white, which covered ever part of their bodies. When I was judging, in conjunction with the Rev. G.F. Hodson, at Bury St. Edmunds, in June 1880, Mrs. H.A. Barclay exhibited a pair of the most beautiful creamy-white corded Poodles, of the low-legged, German type, I have ever seen in England.

"On the Continent, particularly in France and Southern Germany, I understand, the larger-sized Poodles are used with the gun, especially in snipe and waterfowl shooting, and are found to be highly useful.

"There is no lack of reasoning power in the Poodle, and his widespread olfactories seize the slightest particle of the tainted gale, and unerringly lead him to his prey; whilst the Spaniel cross, or even a rough Terrier or a hound one, would improve his coat for marsh and river work, and give him more dash and go.

"In this country pure Poodles are not worked, nor is his nearest English congener, the old Water-dog, common in the beginning of this century, any longer to be found unless it be in rare instances; yet I remember having seen specimens of the old Water-shough at work in its [presumably the century's!] fifth decade. There was, some years ago, in the columns of the Field, a suggestion made to introduce Poodle blood in our Retrievers, and the idea met with considerable support. I cannot see the necessity for it, but I should not hesitate to introduce it into my kennels were I an Irish Water-spaniel breeder; and, indeed, I think I could safely undertake, in seven or eight generatioins at most, to manufacture a breed identical with these by crossing Poodle and large land Spaniel.

"The remarkably high intelligence of the Poodle and his marvellous powers of scent mark him out to the sportsman as worthy of a highter destiny than to be compulsorily habited as the buffoon of the canine race, merely to pander to a frivolous taste.

"I by no means object to any person indulging in the exercise of his own peculiar eccentricity in dealing with his dog, if no injury can follow; but to three-parts shave a long, thick-coated dog, and in this climate exhibit him on a show-bench in mid-winter, is not right. Youatt, whose name is still, and will continue to be, honoured by his veterinary brethren, writing of this dog, says: 'It should be remembered that he was not designed by Nature to be thus exposed to the cold of winter, and that there are no dogs so liable to rheumatism, and that rheumatism degerates into palsy.' From a show point of view I also object, unless the system of prize-giving be somewhat modified; and the skill of the purruquier who most successfully displays his fantastic tricks on the dog should receive the prize, and not the substitute for a dog which his craft has created.

"The Poodle is par excellence the 'tricky dog'; a high intelligence, strong love for his master, a naturally cheerful temper, and a liking for fun, make him at once a bright and cheerful companion nad a very apt scholar, and innumerable are the tricks he may be taught. This, however, is not the place to go into that subject.

"In classifying Poodles for show purposes, I should be disposed to recognize only the corded--or, as I prefer to describe them, those whose hair falls in regular, hard ringlets, the thickness of goose-quills, or lesss--and to divide these into the black and the white. I would ignore the coarse and open, woolly-coated or fluffy sort, as presumably having a bar sinister in their escutcheon.

"There are a vast number of small white dogs, or white with lemon patches, open haired, with a more or less strong tendency to curl, accepted by the general public as small Poodles, which I believe for the most part to be a cross of small Poodle and Maltese Terrier. These run from four pounds up to eight pounds, or even ten pounds, and are much prized by ladies. I wish a breed of these small, white, curly-coated pets could be established for the sake of the judges at our shows, where such specimens often turn up, and under circumstances which would render it more agreeable to give a prize than to pronounce the inevitable fiat which condemns them to the abyss of mongrelism.

"A Poodle Club has recently been formed, and, in consonance with the plan I have hitherto followed, I give here the descriptive points of the Poodle as drawn up by that body [breed description follows].... If any of my readers can make common-sense of the above, or believe that a dog answering to the description would bring the price of a rope to hang him with, in Leadenhall Market or Seven Dials, they see the case in a way denied to my mental vision.

"During the last two or three years the points of the Poodle have been much debated, after the usual style in which dog-fanciers treat such subjects. The longest of these controversies appeared in the Fanciers' Gazette, and although the correspondence dealt too much with trivialities, and too little with essentials, it was not uninteresting. In argument, and courteous modes of expressing themselves, the French and Belgian letter-writers had much the best of it; but in dogmatic assertion the foreigners stood no chance against the British. From the latter it will be instructive briefly to quote: 'Only just in time have the committee of the Poodle Club stepped in to save the breed.' 'The judges and reporters are utterly ignorant of what the points of the Poodle should be.' 'I think the club's standard of points admirable.' 'Where we see [in the White Poodle] black eyes and nose, we may feel certain black spots on the body will follow, and then farewell to the pure breed, for there will be a 'black' stain in the pedigree somewhere.' Now, everyone who attends a dog show may satisfy himself that there are white dogs of various breeds with black noses and black eyes, with and without black spots on the skin, and all of unimpeachable purity of pedigree. Such writers as I have just quoted are incapable of taking other than a mere birds'-eye view, even of the very limited portion of natural history upon which they have the presumption to dogmatise.

"About White Poodles, M. Albert Dagois, in reply to above-quoted writers, says that Continental breeders prefer the nose and eyes to be black, and, properly, ridicules the absurd theory that these prove a cross with the Black Poodle. Count Henry of Blandt writing from the Hague, says White Poodles should have black, and not liver or red, noses; and that it does not follow that a White Poodle with black nose and dark eyes will have black spots on the skin of the body. He characterises the theory of breeding based on such a supposition as sheer nonsense. Ernest Le Grand, a breeder, but not a seller or exhibtor, writing from Paris, says that in France a White Poodle is not valued unless it has a black nose, black lips, and black eyes, with a dark rim round them. The above-quoted writers all refer to a White Poodle similar in shape to the Black Poodle now so common, and not to the short-legged White Poodle of Germany to which I have made reference in an earlier part of this chapter.

"Poodles are denuded of coat in a variety of fantastic fashions: the muzzle is made bare, except near the nose, where what is called the 'moustache' is left; from the middle of the back they are shaved, down the thighs, to the hock. In some cases a ruff round the hock is left, and the leg below that shaved--and the forelegs similarly treated; in other cases the long, corded curls are left from hock and knee downward; the docked tail is shaved half-way or more, and a huge, ugly tassel is left to dangle from the end of the stump. Some fanciers leave a tuft of hair growing in the middle of the thigh. I will conclude with the following note as to colour, which appeared in the first edition of this work.

"In colours, the pure white or pure black are to be preferred, but there are good specimens combining these colours, in which cases they appear in patches. Youatt gives an engraving of one [see headpiece] --a black and white--which was copied in 'Stonehenge's' The Dog, and a dog exactly corresponding to that engraving, and a first-rate specimen of a Poodle, was some years ago in the possession of an innkeeper at Burton-on-Trent. There are also specimens of a rufous colour; and although a black or white may be preferred, red-coloured ones, with all points good, should rather be encouraged than tabooed."

The headpiece for this section is taken from Dalzeil.

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