Theories on the precise origin of the Poodle vary from authority to authority, but it has been agreed that three sizes could be found throughout Europe: small (but not toy), medium and large. The desired color of well-bred Poodles was black, with white, brown or partial colored dogs being regarded as lesser quality.
The large and medium-sized dogs were extraordinary swimmers and eager retrievers.
Since they had to work in extremely cold waters, Poodles made good use of their profuse coat; however, the very thickness of the coat was a hindrance to their swimming and potentially hazardous in the swamps and reeds in which they worked.
To overcome this problem, hunters devised styles of shearing that bared the hindquarters to allow for free use of the back legs, which in turn gave the dogs more swiftness and lightness in swimming.
Regardless of variety, the Poodle is one of the most intelligent of the canine race, having within its own breed great variations of character.
In fact, there is something more human than canine about most Poodles, which quality makes them unique dogs and enchanting companions.
Whatever its origin, the Poodle is a well-established breed, for – as far as standards and records show – it has scarcely changed through the centuries, and the various standards of different countries today are much alike. The Poodles of today are a lot higher on the leg, as well as longer and narrower in the head and muzzle than formerly.
If this fashion in type does not become too exaggerated, it improves the natural grace and beauty of the breed.
Today’s Poodle Styles
The various styles of clipping the Poodle are a matter of taste. The two seen most today are the Continental, which leaves the hindquarters bare, with rosettes on the hips and hocks; and the English or saddle clip, in which a short, clipped blanket of hair covers the hips. The fashion of clipping the Poodle has sometimes been called artificial, even detrimental to the dignity of the breed, but it is such an ancient tradition and in many ways so practical, that it is certain to continue. One has only to know a Poodle for a brief time to realize that its great natural dignity, vitality, and sportsmanship are not diminished but rather enhanced by this unique and ancient style of clipping parts of the coat.
Until recently, Poodles in the show ring could be seen with bright ribbons adorning their topknots. This tradition began when different colors of ribbons were used to distinguish one dog from another when they were in the water hunting for their masters. The method by which the Poodle hunted on land entailed his flushing of the game for his master, or, in some cases, actually attacking the game himself. During the period in which the Poodle was known as the “Water Dog” his hunting was not a sporting diversion for his master, but a very serious and necessary means of obtaining food. Thus, because of the importance of the hunt, those Poodles selected to work in the woods had to meet exceedingly stringent requirements. Hunters required dogs that were intelligent, obedient and reliable, traits still present and revered in the Poodle today.