The poodle has been around for a long time.  Ancient Egyptian and Roman artefacts often depict the poodle's ancestors assisting their owners as they bring in game nets, herd a variety of animals or retrieve selected catches from various marshes. The poodle was originally bred to be a water dog -- retrieving game fowl trapped or shot down by its owners.

Originally, this dog was used for wildfowling.  It descends from the Barbet of which it has conserved many characteristics.  In 1743, it was called the “caniche”: the female of the barbet in French. The French word “caniche” (Poodle) comes from “cane”, the French word for a female duck. Thereafter the Barbet and the Caniche (Poodle) were gradually separated. The name "poodle" is a derivative of the old German extraction "pudeln" which translates roughly as "to splash in water."  Breeders worked hard to obtain original dogs of uniform colour.  The Poodle became very popular as a companion dog because of its friendly, joyful and loyal character and also because of its four sizes and different colours which everyone can choose according to preference.

Poodles don't do well with the mainstream uninformed, who see them as pampered pets sporting outlandish haircuts being doted upon by old dowagers.  However, it wasn't always that way.  The poodle's true ancestry is as murky as the marshes it originally learned to work in.  One commonly held belief is that it descended from Asian herding dogs then travelled west with the Germanic tribes known as Goths and Ostrogoths to eventually become a German water dog.  Another theory holds that it was brought out of the Asian Steppes by the conquering North African Berbers and eventually found its way into Portugal in the 8th Century with the Moors. Even today, it's believed that the poodle is related to the famous Portuguese Water Dog (a working dog with a long curly coat, renowned for its intelligence, speed, agility and ruggedness both in and out of the water).

Unlike many other breeds of dog that were bred to certain sizes, the poodle's three primary sizes (toy, miniature and standard) have been around for centuries.  Apart from companionship, the toy versions served as hand-warmers within the large sleeves of the nobility and emerging merchant classes around the time of the Renaissance.   So common was this practice, that they and other similarly small dogs became known as "sleeve dogs."

For centuries, the poodle's intelligence and personality made it a favourite with gypsies and other travelling performers who trained it to perform all kinds of tricks and skits to the delight of the paying audience.  Throughout history records tell of famous royal command performances and amazing street shows.  Variety shows featuring poodles dressed in all sorts of costumes and displaying their amazing  intelligence, balance and agility became all the rage in the 19th century.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of poodles is why they are clipped in such an array of seemingly bizarre styles.  The fact is that the distinctively shaved areas and tufts of hair - the unique poodle "look" are a direct result of the poodle's working and sporting heritage.  In order to protect the poodle's vital organs and joints from the biting cold of constant water retrieval, certain areas were shaved for added mobility and to lessen the chance of snagging while other key areas were left densely covered for warmth.  The ribbon commonly found tied into a poodle's topknot, is believed to have originally been a means of finding and identifying the dog when it was working in water. Gypsy performers often sheared their performing poodles in fanciful styles much to the delight of their spectators.  Soon the ladies of the court and upper classes discovered that they could clip, dye, and decorate these newfound companions in an almost endless array of styles, adding their own variations on an otherwise utilitarian theme.  This reached a peak during the heyday of the French nobility.  The French adopted the poodle with a special zeal and brought clipping to the level of high art.  Even today, most people associate the poodle with France instead of Germany.  That's just fine with the French who have subsequently named the poodle, "the national dog of France."

Through the centuries poodles have been employed in virtually every role a dog is capable of working in.  From cart-pulling draught animal to parlour-room trickster, from sled dog to assistive guide dog, from warrior to rest-home companion, from truffle-hound to eminently competent bird dog, and from watchdog to show ring master, the poodle excels at everything it sets its mind to.  Indeed he poodle is a master of all trades thanks to his rich and varied history.


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