French Standard Poodles
French Poodles from the Languedoc, South of France
Retrievers At least until the end of the 19th century, the
Poodle remained a favoured breed of market gunners and pot-hunters
along the north European coasts and the marshes of the great north-European
rivers. Here is a quotation from Lewis Clement, writing under
the pen-name"Wildfowler" in The Poodle, his contribution
to Dogs of the British Islands published in London in 1878.
"... for one or two poodles that may be used by British wildfowl
shooters, a hundred - nay, thousands perhaps - are used by their
... confrères ... in the vast marshes of the Continent, and especially
in those marais of the French departments of Pas-de-Calais, Nord,
and Somme; in Belgium, in Holland, in Denmark, in Northern Germany,
and in Russia, where night-decoying [using tethered live ducks]
of [wild] ducks to the hut [duck blind] is extensively practiced
.... at least half the birds fired at are only winged or disabled,
and thus, without a dog gifted with sense, nose, and pluck, it
would be perfectly impossible for the shooters, in the dead of
night, to collect their game. This the poodle does, with a rapidity
and intelligence which are simply unsurpassable."
Hawking Medieval dogs were used in falconry. Acting as
a pointer, the dog would indicate a puddle-duck in cover, and
then remain still and silent until the falconer and the bird of
prey positioned themselves. The dog would then flush prey on command.
Modern falconers use other breeds for exactly this water-work,but
we know from 15th and 16th century Flemish hunting tapestries
that this job belonged to the Poodle or proto-Poodle. These Poodles
are easy to spot when they wear their characteristic Clip, then
a warmer-weather working clip. They are not so easy to identify
when they wear a 15th or 16th century cool-weather shaggy coat.
The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, was a poet, a patron of
troubadours, architecture, philosophy and science. He wrote a
great work called De arte. Frederick devoted the whole
of Book VI to "Hawking at the Brook with the Peregrine Falcon".
He recommends which sort of dog to use in falconry: a special
breed improved, for generations, for the purpose; thick-set and
with a good coat of hair so as to endure hard work on rough ground
and resist cold and wet; of medium size: big enough to see over
cover, not so big as to endanger the falcon if he dashes against
her or steps on her; agile, so he doesn't readily tire; male,
so as to be constantly in condition for hunting; courageous: no
fear of wading or swimming through water; quick to understand,
trainable, obedient, and avoiding what is forbidden.
He follows this description with several pages of instructions
in relation to how to train the dog to go to the aid of his "own"
falcon and the falcon to accept the aid of her "own" dog: the
dog must understand that the falcon belongs to the handler and
is therefore not to be harmed, and to grip firmly the relatively
oversized bird the falcon is attempting to hold underneath herself;
the falcon must be used to the dog but defer to him.
Truffle Hunting Poodles were used for truffle hunting
in Italy, Spain and France, and those areas of Germany where truffles
grow. A German book of 1746 says that poodles are superior to
all other breeds, and another published in 1907 recommends them
because of their excellent nose.
Guide Dogs for the Blind Guide dogs for the blind are
not a recent invention. Poodles were used for this purpose at
least as early as the eighteenth century. Until the secular age
the blind often had to beg for a living, and an intelligent poodle
not only guided its owner from village to village but also performed
tricks and collected alms. The dog would hold the alms dish in
its mouth, not only presenting an attractive novelty, but ensuring
that no immoral fingers would consider stealing any coins already
given. They are reported to have been common in Paris in the mid
nineteenth century. Accounts often remark the dogs' selflessness,
declining all manner of temptation to lead and protect their blind
companions. Elzéar Blaze, Histoire du Chien (Paris, 1846) relates
seeing a poodle begging on its own account. On being given a coin
it immediately ran off to a shop for food. On inquiry, it turned
out that the poodle's blind master had died and the poodle had
had the wit to continue its accustomed way of life on its own.
Poodles, and labradoodles, are still used as guide dogs for
the blind, and there has been a recent example of a standard poodle
guiding its blind sibling.
French customs use poodles to search for drugs and explosive