Early evidence of Poodle history can be found in ancient times. Roman tombs display Poodle carvings as early as 30 A.D and the coins of both the time and location depict Poodle imagery. Even ancient Greeks “coined” the Poodle but it’s not known what they were called at that time or what they later evolved into.
Later in history, the Poodle showed up again in 15th century French, Holland, and Italian paintings and literature with the same cuts (or clips) that we prefer our own Poodles to wear. In France, the Poodle was called the “Poedel” or “duck dog” based on its talent for retrieving hunted game. French literature gave hint to the breed by describing the Poedel as a smart, curly dog.
1500 German literature illustrates today’s Poodle as a black water retriever. It was called a “Pudel” back then, and it was described as a thick dog with a woolly coat. The artwork of the time depicted the dog with a woolly coat or corded coat.
Exact Origin of Poodles
Interestingly, the dog is commonly referred to as a “French Poodle” when it has suspected origins in Rome, Greece, and Germany. Some theories even claim the Poodle originated from Portugal and Spain. With such a wide variety of claims, it’s perhaps safer to say that the true origin of Poodles is unknown. The things that bind these claims however are (1) it’s appearance and (2) its role. All throughout the Poodle’s past exist stories that describe the dog as a herding companion, or a game retriever.
Emergence of Toy Poodle and the Miniature Poodle
We didn’t begin to see variations of the breed until the 15th century — particularly in the artwork of Albrecht Durer. This German artist painted what we now call the toy Poodle. Three centuries later, we found the toy Poodle again in the artwork of Spain’s Goya, and theory has it that the toy Poodle is the result of Maltese and Havanese cross breeding. Their late appearance in art history suggests that the standard Poodle is the oldest variation of the three.
19th Century Poodle History
The toy Poodle and miniature Poodle were seemingly favored by the French — especially during the times of Louis XIV through Louis XVI. Because they’re easy to train, they often appeared as circus dogs. But their popularity didn’t explode until the late 19th century when Poodles commanded popularity in Britain. The AKC registered the first Poodle in 1887. Almost 20 years later, the Poodle reigned as the most popular dog in America and it held that position for a little over two decades. Today, it ranks as the eighth most popular.
As someone who is new to Poodles and Poodle history, be wary of new, developing cross breeds. In an effort to create a shed-less, hypoallergenic dog, some breeders produce what’s called “designer Poodles,” which are a cross between Labrador and a Poodle, or a Poodle and some other dog with low-shedding and non-allergenic characteristics. The problem with these new developments is that there’s no guarantee that they’ll reproduce exact copies of themselves. They’re more likely to reproduce puppies that look like one parent or the other parent.