R1LEE

Lee (1894)

"There used to be an impression abroad that there were two varieties of poodle, the Russian poodle and the French poodle; but the error, however it arose, is now corrected, and we know that the black and the white poodle are common to both nations, as they are to other countries in Europe. A huge black or brown dog occasionally seen in England, where it went by the name of the Russian retriever, was originally imported to cross with our own retrievers to increase the size of the latter. At any rate this was said at the time, but our retrievers were already quite big enough, and the so-called Russian dog was nothing more than a huge poodle.

"As a fact, there are more than two varieties of the poodle... [big...tiny; poodles 30 - 40 lbs are the most common; ordinary curly-coated poodles; corded poodles...] The poodle is certainly a dog of foreign extraction, but when he was first imported to this country from France or from Germany there is no record. [To establish a bench-mark, see: Army....] But his sagacity, docility, amiability, and all the other complimentary "tys" applicable to a dog, and which had made him a great favorite on the continent, acted in a similar manner here, the poodle soon made a domicile amongst us, and as it were became one of ourselves. In France he had been used, and is still used in some localities, as a sporting dog, in much the same manner as we utilise a spaniel or a retriever; but with us he has always come under the non-sporting section, hence his appearance in this volume.

"It has been said that the larger variety of the poodle...had been found useful in crossing with our water spaniels, especially the Irish variety. Whether this was so or not it is difficult to determine, but we have the fact that in the 'Sportsman's Cabinet' (1803) there is an illustration of the 'Water Dog' as totally distinct from the water spaniel, and which is neither more nor less than an ordinary curly-coated poodle, a black or brown with a white muzzle and four white feet; his coat is untrimmed, but the tail is cut. The letterpress tallies very much with Renaigle's excellent engraving, and there are elaborate instructions how to train the 'water dog' (poodle) for sporting purposes. [William Taplin, The sportsman's cabinet; or a correct delineation of the various dogs used in sports of the field....consisting of a series of engravings of every distinct breed... by a 'Veteran Sportsman' [pseud.] (London: 1803-4, 2 vols.] Youatt (1845) gives us another excellent drawing (please see headpiece) of a poodle--a white dog with dark ears and a few patches on his body,and not at all unlike that in the 'Sportsman's Cabinet'.

"Jardine, in his 'Naturalist's Library,' [see Colonel W. Smith (1843), above] alludes to the 'Water dog or poodle,' which, he says, was of German origin, 'and in its most perfect state is not of British race. It rose into favour first in Germany, and during the revolutionary wars was carried by the troops into France, and only in the latter campaign became familiar to the British in Spain and in the Netherlands. This is probably the case, but we fancy at no time in its history in this country was it used in connection with the gun to the same extent as it was on the continent.

"A recent writer in Le Chenil says the poodle is undoubtedly a dog of very old family--one of our oldest races of dogs. As early as 30 A.D., the poodle was sculptured on bas-reliefs, partially clipped on his coat as he is to be found now; Conrad Gesner wrote of him in 1555 [see Finders... ]; he was put on canvas by the leading animal painters in the sixteenth century [de Vos...'Tobit...' ...Pinturicchio... 'Patient Griselda'... (see ...Visuals...). Next, Lee delivers a four-page excerpt and summary of Clement's contribution to Dogs of the British Islands (to enjoy this, see above).]

"Much more could be written about the poodle as a sporting dog, but as one of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain he is used only as a pet and companion, purely a fancy dog and as a performer on the stage, in the circus, or in the streets. He is a 'show dog' in the proper acceptation of the term, and although there are other varieties of the canine race taught to perform tricks of various kinds, the poodle is accepted as the performing dog par excellence. It is he who stands on his head, climbs ladders, walks on rolling barrels, turns somersaults both backwards and forwards, feigns death, and performs a host of other accomplishments of which terriers are his imitators. Writers on dogs have always had anecdotes to tell of the sagacious poodle.

"Even Colonel Hutchinson, in his excellent work on 'Dog Breaking,' cannot pass over the performances in Paris of a celebrated poodle named Domini [see Circus... and also to read Lee's description of Crawley's Poodles in the early 18th century, and of performing Poodles in his own time (1890s).]

"The writer of 'Stonehenge's' article [Clements, see above] lamented the fact that so few poodles were kept in this country at that time, although they had long been fairly established as a British dog. The Kennel Club Stud Book was first published in 1874, and the following year poodles were included in its pages, but there were only half-a-dozen entries. Later, the variety became more popular, and now each year's registration contains on an average between thirty and forty poodles. This increase is, no doubt, owing to the establishment of a Poodle Club, which was done in 1886. It contains a fair number of subscribers, whose object is, like that of other members of specialist clubs, to improve the dog and to encourage his exhibition at shows, where they provide special prizes for him. [Description of what the author considers to be a well-arranged schedule.]

"Some of my readers may wonder why a dog with all the intelligence and faithfulness of the poodle is not the most popular of his variety. Scientists have told us that his 'cerebral cavity is more capacious than other dogs, that the frontal sinuses are fully developed, and that the general formation of the head and skull exhibit every indication of extraordinary intelligence.' But the poodle is, like most dogs with curly coats, a rather strong smelling animal, and not always a pleasant companion to have in the house. [The editor recollects a remark made by her mother, born in 1901, about what a great difference, within her living memory, deodorants (for people) had made in social relations; also hearing her describe what a difference in the cleanliness of the streets substitution of the horse by the automobile had made. Therefore, we must take into account the fact that Lee's remarks are made before invention of human deodorants and when horse-power provided the main means of transportation; his remarks re strong-smelling must be interpreted in a context of strong smells. Ed.] In other respects no animal could be better adapted for the purposes of a companion, for he is sensible, a good follower out of doors, seldom fights or quarrels, moreover he is a perfect specimen of faithfulness. [Anecdote about constancy of a poodle on the battleground of Castella.]

"As already stated, it has for many years been the custom to shave and clip the coats of some poodles, but whether this was originally done to, in a degree, destroy the strong smell their curly coats, when neglected, possessed, or merely for fancy purposes to make them resemble something Nature never made, we cannot tell. Some of the corded poodles are not subjected to this tonsorial process, or they would be shorn of a great portion of their excellence... [Descriptions of poodles of the day, unusual length of cords...difficulty of telling which the head and which the stern...individual considered large 21½ inches high at the shoulder, weighed 64 lbs., won chief prize at Kennel Club show, Jubilee year, 1887. Discussion of winning dogs and kennels of the time.] ...I believe the trouble to keep the coats in good order will always stand in the way of this intelligent variety of the dog being as popular as it might be under different circumstances.

"I have already alluded to the fashion that obtains of clipping and shaving the poodle according to the ideas prevailing at the time, indeed, a well-regulated and fasionably dressed poodle requires about as much attention as do the jackets of some of our choice little Yorkshire terriers. It is said that the custom of trimming the poodle arose through an anxiety to look after the comforts of the dog, because the long ringlets or cords interfered with the general health of the poor beast that nature caused to wear them. In winter they became matted with snow and dirt; in summer they were uncomfortable and harboured vermin; so it came about that the poodle had to be clipped, and trimmed, and dressed.

"All this is done in various fashions, and there are 'professors of the art,' high in their line, who will dress your poodle for you, and tie him up with ribbons blue or yellow or white, for any charge varying from half-a-guinea to a couple of pounds.

"A poodle ought to have his coat attended to even before he leaves his puppyhood. When four or five months old, it is well for his comfort and appearance, say his admirers, or rather I should say for their fancy, to trim or clip the coat on the face and feet and on the hind-quarters from below the tail and about his buttocks. When he is eleven or twelve months old he should be properly clipped, but, as a matter of fact, it is best to have him clipped three or four times before he is actually what may be called finished, i.e., shaved. This ought not to be forgotten, as were the dog shaved before the skin had become in a degree hardened by exposure to the air, pain would be caused to the dog, and perhaps some inflammation might arise, as the contact of the razor is by no means pleasant to the patient. When once matured, and having undergone the preliminary process, a poodle ought, if the desire be to have him neat and in nice condition, to be trimmed some six times in the year--about every two months."

[Editorial note: Lee's is the first substantial directive--in English--re Poodle coat care. This advice, which occupies 25% of his text, is obviously a veiled caveat; it is also the natural result of a more labour-intensive cultural norm in relation to Poodle hair-dos. (In Del Dahl's recent book, The Complete Poodle (NY: Howell, 1994) the subject of coat-care occupies 16% of the text.) As a matter of interest, the invention of sheep-shears vastly predates even the Augustan continental clip depicted in the headpiece for ...Lit.... Presumably, it was with sheep-shears that pot/market-hunters kept their Poodles in working order; a short coat serves to protect--from cover--the skin of both shearable species. In relation to razors, ancient Egyptians used bronze straight razors; safe use of a sharp straight-razor was a skill--hard-won but necessary--until the invention of the safety razor in France in 1763, by a professional barber, Jean Jacques Perret. This employed a metal guard. Around 1835, in Sheffield, England, an improved design appeared, lighter and less cumbersome. It would be a mistake, however, to think that, after the invention of the safety-guard for the straight razor, these were in common use; many men in the editor's living memory continued to prefer the guardless straight razor, experiencing that it gave a close shave. The modern T-shaped razor was an American invention of the 1880s; King Gillette's replacable blades were an inspiration of the mid 1890s; the electric shaver was invented by Jacob Schick and first sold by him in 1931. (Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), pp. 217-7.) We have not established an initial date for hand clippers. In relation to shaving Poodles, we may infer that Lee is referring either to a standard straight razor, or a straight razor equipped with a safety guard. Ed.]

"Poodles are, notwithstanding their 'clipping,' apt to get dirty, the white specimens especially so. Still it does not do to wash them too often, as the water and soap are not likely to improve the coat, and there is considerable difficulty in drying the jacket. Once a month is frequent enough, even not so often as this, unless in the judgement of the owner the dog actually requires it. As a matter of fact...[certain dog] was repeatedly exhibited with success, and he looked well, too, without being washed immediately prior to the exhibition. He might be washed, say, and benched in January, and at another show held six weeks afterwards, he would again appear and look equally well without having had an additional tub in the meantime.

"Whilst the coats, especially of the corded varieties, require so much attention as to clipping, it is only natural that equal care is required to keep that part in order which does not come under the operation of the shears and razor. There is the 'bedding' to be considered, for it will never do for one of these extraordinarily long-coated dogs to be on a bench covered with straw or shavings. The best bed is to fill a sack with clean straw or dry pitch-pine shavings, and sew up the ends; then this ought to be properly beaten, shaken, and aired daily, so that no dust remains thereon. The straw or shavings strewn loosely upon the bench in the ordinary fashion are too heating, and, besides, little pieces get into the coat and cause endless trouble to remove. Moreover, dirt of any kind quickly makes the coat matted, the ringlets sticking goether near the skin, ultimately causing long tags, which drop off and leave bare places. As a matter of fact, too much attention and care cannot be given the poodle in respect of tending and keeping his coat free from dirt, but he must not be combed or brushed, and the fingers must be used to separate the ringlets. Do not be afraid of soap and elbow grease, but beware of the first appearance of mange or skin disease; the latter is simply ruin to a poodle, at any rate for a time. Here, as in most other matters, prevention is far easier than cure.

"When the ringlets, where they are allowed to remain, grow to such an inordinate length as to be in the way of the dog, either so far as exercise or sight is concerned, they ought to be nicely tied up all round. Then the coat of the black poodle has to be dressed with some emollient, and nothing is better for this purpose than a mixture composed of a quarter of a pound of vaseline to half a pint of paraffin. This should be put into a suitable receptacle, which is to be placed in a heated oven and kept there until the concoction is thoroughly blended. It may be scented with any perfume fancy suggests, and must then be placed in a jar, kept covered, and applied when cold.

"This dressing, which will darken and brighten the coat of a black dog, is also suitable for brown poodles, as too much washing of the latter, transforms the dark chocolate shade into a somewhat mealy tint. Should the paraffin odour remain in the dog, an hour in the open air will soon remove any unpleasantness. The dressing should be applied about three times a week.

"White poodles require equal care in washing, and a great authority on the breed tells me there is nothing that keeps the coat whiter, and in better order, than Hudson's extract of soap, applied in the usual manner.

"In cases where neglect has caused the coat to become matted, it is best to cut off the unpleasant tags close to the skin. Particular attention, too, must be paid to cleaning the coat about and below the root of the tail. It should be frequently washed thereabouts--whenever it seems to be required.

"If these instructions are attended to and the poodle be given a little cooling medicine, such as Epsom salts or magnesia [if the paraffin and vaseline hasn't created some excitement, this should do the trick! Ed.], in his food occasionally, he will not be found to harbour anything offensive about him, nor will the smell from his skin or coat be more objectionable than it is in an ordinary long-coated terrier or collie dog. Indeed, one admirer and connoisseur of the variety will have me believe that his favorite dog has not naturally any offensive smell whatever, and that where such is perceived, it arises solely through neglect.

"Thus carefully have I entered into the management and keeping of the poodle as a house dog, because it is only used as such in this country, and because it is the dog above all others that, through neglect to its cleanliness, will become an eyesore, and offensive to its owner, when a little trouble will make it as pretty and as pleasant a dog as man or woman need desire. As to its intelligence and faithfulness, nothing further need be said by me.

"Perhaps it may be fresh information to some who have kept poodles to know that this 'wool' or 'cords' can be used for manufacturing purposes, and although 'poodle's wool' is not a mercantile commodity, the owner of a poodle can clip him, have the results made into yarn, and in due course converted into socks or similar articles of wear. One gentleman sent a sample of 'poodle's wool' into Scotland, and forwarded me a specimen of the yarn spun from it. The dog from which it was taken yielded four pounds weight of wool, and many of the locks were eight inches in length and over, but the clipping was merely done in the first instance because the coat was falling off. As an old shepherd said when he was told of this, 'Aye, aye, nea wonder sheep is sae cheap when these new-fangled dogs can grow four pound o' wool apiece.'

"The sample of the yarn I saw was of a silky though rather hard texture, and the manufacturer called it 'a very pretty wool;' the spinner said it was difficult to 'teaze' because so badly matted, but he thought it likely to card and spin well. When made, the yarn is knitted into socks; the latter seems rather hard, and their wearer tells me, though they are 'somewhat hard and whiskery, they are calculated to create a healthy friction, and are well suited for a cold climate.'" Lee completes his chapter with a four-page dissertation on truffle hunting (see Finders...), observation of the fact that "a Poodle Club" was established in 1886 and by publication of a breed standard approved by that club, which concludes: "N.B.--Clipping or Shaving.-- We very strongly recommend that only one-third of the body be clipped or shaved, and that the hair on the forehead be left on." Coat counted for 20 points, and colour for 10, for a total of 30% for coat and coat related!

Go back to Rare..., Lee