Vero Shaw, 1879-1881

The following excerpt from Shaw comes from Poodle Variety, January 1987, pp. 112-122:

"Poodles are on the Continent usually divided into at least four varieties, each of which is apparently descended from one common ancestor--the Canis Aquaticus--but which have become almost distinct from being crossed with other breeds and subsequently in-bred amongst themselves.

"Mr. T.H. Joyce, an ardent admirer of the breed, kindly supplies us with the following information:--

"'In England the Poodle proper is the least understood, and consequently the least appreciated of almost any known breed of dog. Indeed, as a rule he is looked upon with a feeling approaching contempt, as a canine mountebank, amusing enough in his way, like a "plum-pudding" trick horse in a circus, but of no practical use in real life. And yet in a great measure those very characteristics which render him first and foremost among canine performers are due to the simple fact that he is far superior in intelligence to his fellows, and capable of acquiring a greater variety of accomplishments, from walking about on his hind-legs with a parasol and petticoats, to retrieving on land or in water; while it should not be forgotten that so great an authority as Sir Edwin Landseer painted him as the type of wisdom in "Laying down the Law." In fact, in Germany, and indeed throughout a great portion of Northern Europe, he is looked upon as every whit as useful a companion as he is ornamental, and the appearance of a Poodle harnessed to a cart, or carrying his master's basket, is a very common one in the streets of Germany, Holland, and Belgium. He is also used for shooting purposes, as he is a capital water-dog, easy to train either to retrieve or to point. Opinions certainly differ with respect to his pointing abilities, although all acknowledge that his scent is exceedingly delicate. He is a steady and willing worker, moreover, and when well trained is extremely tractable; and it is this quality of extreme docility which makes him a most valuable dog in the house, as he is full of fun, ever ready for a romp with a child, to fetch his master's slippers, or to carry a note to some other member of the family, and patiently await and bring back the answer. He is also a capital watch-dog, and is never backward--perhaps a little too anxious--to defend the interests or the person of his owner, for the thorough-bred Poodle, when not demoralized by too much coddling and over-feeding, is decidedly pugnacious, and is rarely adverse to do battle with his own kind. A black Poodle in the possession of the writer has had many a tough fight with a Bull-terrier who is also a member of the family, and always comes off victor, while he never hesitates to attack a Newfoundland or St. Bernard twice his size should he feel himself in any way insulted. Another of the writer's Poodles, this time of the white French breed, was sometimes wont to take a dislike to a passer-by in the street, and suddenly rising on his hind legs would dance round him, uttering a most menacing bark and showing a startling display of teeth, to the intense alarm and astonishment of his victim, whom, however, he was careful never to bite, apparently looking upon the whole matter as a practical joke. Again, a third, of the large black German breed, was a little too officious in defending the house from visitors, and would keep people waiting outside the garden gate until a servant came to guarantee the good faith of the applicant for admission. This gentleman had one frailty: he was addicted to pocket-picking, having been taught this doubtful accomplishment in his early youth; and finally had to be sent away according to his devotion to what the "Artful Dodger" would have called "fogle-hunting."

"'Marvelous anccdotes, far too numerous to detail here, are told of the Poodle's faithfulness, affection, and versatile talent, ranging from the celebrated Munito, who in 1818 astonished all Paris by his clever card and arithmetical tricks, or the once well-known Paris Poodle of the Pont Neuf, who used to dirty the boots of passers-by in order that his master--a shoeblack--might have the benefit of cleaning them, to a white Poodle who, snubbed by his lady-love, committed suicide at Queenstown a few years since. Like a child, however, he requires careful handling, for while he is very easily trained, he is exceptionally sensitive, and is far more efficiently taught when treated rather as a sensible being than as a mere quadrupedal automaton, and will learn twice as quickly if his master can make him understand the reason for performing his task.

"'The history of the Poodle and the details of his lineage are somewhat obscure. That he is of German origin there is no doubt, the name being identical in both languages--Pudel-and there he is ordinarily classes as the Canis familiaris Aquaticus, being very closely allied to the more crisp and curly-haired water-fowl dog well known to our sportsmen of the marshes. He assuredly dates his existence from some centuries since, for in various illuminated manuscripts of the sixteenth century, and notably in one depicting an episode in the life of Margaret of York, the third wife of Charles the Bold of Burgundy [the Poodle History Project lacks a more precise reference to this image], and in another representing a family group of Maximillian of Austria and his wife and child ("The Abridged Chronicles of Burgundy") there is certainly the portrait of a shaven dog, which, allowing for the artistic shortcomings of that period, closely resembles the Poodle of the present day. Again in Martin de Vos' picture of "Tobit and his Dog," which also dates from the 16th century, the faithful animal is an unmistakable shaven Poodle, while in two of the series of paintings of the story of "Patient Griselda," by Pinturicchio (1454-1513), in the National Gallery, a small shaven Poodle is conspicuous amongst the various spectators of Griselda's vicissitudes of fortune. Thus, as far as ancestry goes, he is doubtless entitled to the numerous quarterings so valued by the Teutonic nobility. Why, however, the Poodle should have been half-shaved from time immemorial is not clear, unless it be to imitate the Lion Dog (Canis Leoninus), of which a degenerate scion still exists, I believe, in Malta. At the present day the Poodle is found throughout Europe from Amsterdam to Naples, where, completely shaven, he may be seen taking his siesta under the shadow of some friendly wall or doorway. Poodles, however, considerably differ in the various countries. Thus, in Eastern Germany and on the confines of Russia he is as a rule black, and the Russian Poodle proper should be lithe and agile; while coming more into Central Germany the black Poodle seems to thicken in the legs and to shorten slightly in the muzzle, assuming more staid, and aldermanic proportions. The white Poodle also presents marked variations, ranging from the great muscular fellow who draws a milk-cart in Antwerp and Brussels to his more slender French brother familiarly called the Mouton, who is so constantly met with on the French boulevards. The size of the two breeds differs considerably, the larger one averaging some 30 or 40 lbs., while the smaller, generally known under the name of Barbet, only weighs about half that figure. Of the various breeds mentioned the Russian is the most valuable. As a rule he is highly intelligent, and is altogether a handsomer and more gracefully-formed dog, while his coat, being black, is free from that soiled appearance which is so great a drawback in the white breed. The hair of the various breeds is also somewhat different--that of the Russian being more wiry and less woolly than the French, who, from the texture of his coat, frequently merits his pastoral nickname. There is also a "sheep" Poodle in Germany, but his coat is long and pendant, inbunches something resembling the Musk Sheep, and presenting a heavy and uncouth appearance. The Poodle appears to have been introduced into England during the Continental wars at the beginning of the century, although performing dogs were known previous to this era; but he was a favorite in France long before that date, and in a fashion plate of the time of Louis XVI he is represented, shaven and shorn, begging hard for a biscuit from a child of the period.

"'A word, to conclude, about training Poodles. In the first place, teach your dog when you give him his meal of biscuit, letting him have it piece by piece as every trick is performed; secondly, never attempt to teach him two tricks at a time, and when instilling into him a new trick, let him always go through his old ones first; thirdly, never be beaten by him. If--as is frequently the case with young dogs--he declines to perform a trick, do not pass it over or let him go through something that he may like beter, but when you see that he definitely refuses, tell him that he cannot eat without working, and put away his food for an hour or two. If he once sees he can tire you out you will have no further authority over him, while if you are firm he will not hold out long; and, once beaten, will not make a second attempt. It is, however, a bad plan to make a dog go through a trick, which he may apparently dislike, too many times during one lesson. A whip is of little use when training, as the dog will learn to associate his tasks with thrashing, and go through them in that unwilling, cowed, tail-between-legs fashion which too often betrays the unthinking hastiness of a master, and is the chief reason why the Poodle has so often been dubbed a spiritless coward. The Poodle, properly treated, is a true and intelligent friend, and deserves more attention than is bestowed upon him by English fanciers.

"'In selecting Poodles the chief points to be observed are:--

"'1. The Head.-- This should be broad, well developed, and carried high.

"'2. The Muzzle in the French and Russian breeds should appear comparatively long when shaven, but in the German somewhat shorter and thicker, while the nose of the first-named should be a clear pink, and in the black breed the colour of jet. The roof of the mouth should also be black.

"'3. The Eyes are a great criterion; they should be dark hazel, and clear, and look you straight in the face when spoken to; this in itself being no small test of the animal's intelligence and previous training.

"'4. The Ears should be long, and thickly covered with long silky hair.

"'5. The Neck should be well proportioned to the size of the animal, while the shoulders should be firm, but not too thickly set, the fore-legs being muscular, not too long, and perfectly straight.

"'6. The Chest and Body.-- The chest should be broad and fairly deep, while the loin should be muscular without being thick and ungainly, and well arched beneath.

"'7. The Tail, which is usually considerably docked in puppyhood, should be carried jauntily at about an angle of 45 degrees with his back. A drooping tail is a great disfigurement.

"'8. The Colour should be either pure white or pure black, though it is difficult to obtain the latter without a blemish of white on the chest.

"'9. The Feet should be slightly webbed, and when clipped the fingers should appear distinct and well-shapen.

"'10. The Coat of a Poodle differs considerably, ranging from the wiry horse-hair of the Russian to the curly wool of the French; or, again, to the long ringlets of the corded breed; so that it is difficult to lay down any general rule, save that the hair should be exceedingly thick and of a fine springy texture, which, while completely free from grease, should wear a well-groomed glossy aspect.

If possible, it would be well to see him have a run, as there is a wavy snake-like motion imparted to the back of every well-bred Poodle, which decreases as age creeps on, when he becomes more staid and sober. Care should be taken in purchasing puppies not to part them too early from their mother, or to expose them to cold, as infantile Poodles are exceedingly delicate, and are rapidly carried off by an attack of bronchitis or pneumonia.'

"In the present day we find mention by numerous authorities of at least three or four different varieties of Poodle. Some writers, indeed, extend the number of distinct sorts to even more, but we confess that the differences between some of the varieties appears to us to be so subtle as to become hardly discernable. For our own part we feel strongly inclined, from conversations we have held with gentlemen interested in an acquainted with the breeding of Poodles, to divide that breed into but two distinct classes, viz., the curly-coated and the corded-coated Poodle. The former is most certainly the commoner variety, and may in its turn be sub-divided into two branches, viz., the large and the small sized, as the structural development of each sub-variety is essentially the same. Those Continental authorities, on the other hand, who add a third or medium-sized to the curly-coated variety, by doing so, in our opinion, open the door to difficulties in breeding which we think could easily be done away with. When the chief distinction between dogs of a similar type resolves itself merely into a matter of weight, it can hardly be successfully contended that the animals belong to different breeds, and if only for simplicity sake this slight distinction might be advantageously abolished in the interests of the breed. Such expressions as 'Der grosse Pudel,' 'Der mittlere Pudel,' and 'Der kleine Pudel,' look well on paper, but when these formidable adjectives are simply translated into large, middle-sized, and small, their value comes to be considerably discounted; and we do not believe that even those writers, who for their reputation's sake have to notice them, really believe in the desirability of such distinctions being perpetuated.

"The large-sized Poodle is essentially a Continental sportsman's dog, and is by many of them considered in that capacity almost a paragon of perfection. He is quickly broken to gun, and can be taught anything in the way of tricks. His devotion to his master is beyond any question, and, as a descendant of the Canis Aquaticus, it may be surmised that he takes to water kindly. Under such circumstances it can hardly be surprising that the Poodle is a general favorite, and set great store by in countries where the good qualities of our English sporting dogs are either unknown, or the dogs themselves cannot be procured.

"The small breed, on the other hand, though equally intelligent, are naturally enough inferior as sporting companions, and may therefore be considered more in the light of toy dogs, even on the Continent, than their larger relatives.

"The corded Poodle is, however, a totally different dog in appearance to the curly-coated ones alluded to above. Though the structural development is the same, the vast difference in coat proves the distinction between the two varieties. Instead of the thick curly coat which is possessed by the large and small curly-coated dogs, the jacket of the corded Poodle appears at first sight to consist entirely of lengths of twisted cords or rope, which give the dog a most peculiar appearance. there is a complete line down the skull, neck, and back; the cords of hair hanging down and sometimes trailing on the ground from this line. The tail is also fully furnished with 'cords,' and the only parts exempt are the muzzle and feet. It is not often, however, that this variety is met with in this country, and the best collection we remember to have ever come across at English shows was at the Nottingham Canine Society's exhibition in 1875, when three or four excellent specimens faced the judges.

"Herr R. Von Schmiedeberg, the great German authority on canine and sporting subjects, kindly writes to us as follows:--

"'We distinguish two breeds of Poodles, one the woolly breed, or as we say, the Schaaf Pudel--sheep Poodle. The other is the Schöner Pudel--pedigree Poodle. The former has long woolly hair, which naturally forms little bunches, but which by combing becomes silky, and forms single hairs. the latter has its hair grown in long spirals, which sometimes touch the ground, even from the ears and tail. Some writers distinguish Poodles from each other on account of their size, but that is not correct. Poodles have all other peculiarities alike. Colour is either white or black, and sometimes brown, which is considered a bad one. White ones with black or brown patches appear also, but they are discarded. The long curly hair grows on the whole body, even on the muzzle and the legs. Frequently it is shaven, so that there is a sort of moustache growing around the nose; the feet are also shaven from below the knee.

"'The first record we have of the breed is by Conrad Gessner in 1555, but it seems the ancients knew the breed, as little poodles are represented upon some monuments about the time of the Emperor Augustus, about A.D. 30.'

"The engraving which accompanies this chapter represents both the above-described varieties, one of which is trimmed in the manner described. [This engraving, "German Poodles" is a domestic scene: someone (we see only a hand, holding a pipe) lying in bed is blowing smoke rings while a black Poodle "sits pretty" on an upholstered straight chair; in front of this dog stands a white Poodle with a very moderate corded coat. Pair of boots cast aside on the floor; on the wall hangs a pair of fencing gloves, a crossed pair of foils, a powder horn, and--a small hand gun.]

The following may be taken to represent the points of the Poodle:--
Skull high and well domed.
Muzzle short and rather blunt.
Eyes rather small and dark, but very intelligent.
Ears large, and lying flat to the head.
Body moderately long, with a deep chest.
Legs thick and rather short.
Coat either very tightly curled, or corded as above described. In any case the jacket must be thick and dense.
Colour white or black. The latter is far rarer than white, and especially so in the case of the corded varieties. An excellent black-and-white pied specimen, called Domino, was exhibited at the Brighton dog show in 1879, but his peculiar markings apparently did not find favour with the judges, for he failed to secure a prize.
Tail, generally docked.
General Appearance.-- An active and highly-intelligent dog, capable of great speed and exertion on land or in water.

"N.B.-- It is customary to shave curly-coated Poodles, at all events in the summer months, in a rather peculiar and quaint manner. The muzzle is shaven with the exception of a good-sized tuft of hair on either side of the nose, which corresponds with the moustache of a human being. The rest of the head, the neck, chest, fore-quarters, and fore-legs, are often left intact, the shaving commencing again two or three inches behind the fore-legs. This is not always the case, as it gives a heavy appearance to the dog, and many only clip to just above the elbow, with a bracelet of hair left on the pastern. this results in all the body being bare with the exception of a patch on the outside of each thigh, a little above and behind the stifle joint. The hind-legs are usually shaven down to an inch or two above the hocks, and a tuft is left on the end of the tail. All the feet are shaven. Of course corded Poodles are not subjected to this ordeal, their personal attractions being considered sufficiently powerful not to necessitate the assistance of art.

"The following are the measurements of Mr. T.H. Joyce's Russian Poodle Posen. This dog is a male, weighing 31 lbs., and aged 3½ years. He measures from nose to stop, 3 1/8 inches; stop to top of head, 4 inches; length of back, 17 inches; girth of muzzle, 9½ inches; girth of skull, 14 inches; girth of neck, 12½ inches; girth of brisket, 17 inches; girth of shoulders, 21 inches; girth of loins, 14 inches; girth of fore-arm, 5 inches; girth of pastern, 3¾ inches; height at shoulders, 20½ inches; height at elbows, 10 3/8 inches; height at loins, 20 1/8 inches; height at hock, 5½ inches.

"Standard of points for judging Poodles.
Skull, 5
Ears and eyes, 5
Neck and body, 5
Legs, 5
Coat, 15
Colour, 10
General appearance, 5
.... [total: 50; since 40% of points are given for coat and colour, this is a breed-standard for a coat-rack!]

"The Truffle-dog. The Truffle-dog is nothing more or less than a bad small-sized Poodle, and is never, or very rarely, met with under the designation Truffle-dog. Its cultivation is due to the existence of truffles, which it is employed to discover when they are lying in the ground by the help of its acute nose. Any credit, therefore, attained by the Truffle-dog is certainly due to his better-bred relative the Poodle, as the main distinction between the two lies in the former being the leggier dog of the two, and therefore further remarks on the points of the Truffle-dog would be superfluous."

The headpiece for this section is taken from Shaw.

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