Poodle History – Where Do Poodles Come From?

By Nancy Williams •  Updated: 03/14/21 •  6 min read

Poodle history is controversial and researched a lot, the earliest records of poodles can be found in the 14th/15th century Europe. The dictionaries trace the origin of the word poodle to German word “pudel”.

The poodle were originally created as a water hunter and were very accomplished swimmers, even the famous haircut isn’t a fashion statement but a practical choice as it helps the poodle swim easily and keeps them warm, contrary to popular belief poodles originated from Germany even though they are the national dog of France.

Let’s dive deep into the rich and amazing history of this dog breed.

Poodle History
Poodle history is a rich one as their are many illustrations by famous artists over the centuries

Earliest encounters of poodles

Poodles were present in the European continent since early 14th century and were only introduced to the rest of the world in late 17th century, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in the year 1887 and they were one of the first breeds registered.

Poodles exist in three different sizes i.e., miniature, toy and standard, standard poodle is the one that has existed for the longest time, which can be tracked back to 1400s Germany. Poodles were the dog of the upper classmen and royalty indicated by it’s role as a water retriever.

There are clear records of the French monarchy having own poodles as their pets throughout generations from Louis the XIV to the sun king Louis XVI.

Poodles were a major part of the Spanish culture in the 18th century as depicted by the great Francisco Goya in many of his illustrations.

Are poodles German or French?

There have been many theories over the years regarding the origin of the poodle, some believed that the poodle actually originated in France but that common misconception has been clarified by researchers and organizations.

It’s largely accepted for a fact that Poodles originated in Germany, the British Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club all agree that the standard poodle originated in Germany.

However,  Fédération Cynologique Internationale is an international organization that is widely respected in France as well as Germany as an authority regarding dogs and it claims that the poodles are a descendant of the French Barbet, in order to avoid friction between the two founding members of FCI, Germany accepted the poodle’s French origins.

Poodle History
Poodle were always cherished by their owner and many commissioned painting of them can be found over the years

Origins of the Name

Poodles were originally bred as water retrievers and were used by hunters to gather their bounty near different water bodies, hence the word poodle is derived from the German word “pudel” which comes from low German word “pud(d)eln” which means “(to) splash in water”.

The word “pudel” is closest to the English word “puddle”. American Heritage Dictionary as well as Oxford English Dictionary trace the origins of poodle to the German language.

The french name for poodle is Caniche, which is derived from the word cane (female duck) because the poodle breed was mainly used as a water retriever primarily for duck hunting, credited to its magnificent ability to swim.

Variety of Sizes of Poodle

As determined by the American Kennel Club there are mainly three different types of poodles including standard, miniature and toy. The toy and miniature are sized down versions of the standard poodle.

The toy poodle were bred mainly for companionship and not much else they are mainly a type of show dog and are pampered the most by there owners, they are also the smallest in size.

The miniature poodle is also a type of companion dog but lately has found another use as a truffle hunter dog because of it’s keen sense of smell and the small paws that won’t damage the fungi making them a really valuable type of dog as truffles are very expensive.

The standard poodle were the oldest of the bunch and were used by hunters, they are especially celebrated for their swimming capabilities and sharp noses for gathering the shot animals.

The FCI recognized 4 different types of poodle: standard, medium, miniature and toy respectively descending in size.

The medium and miniature are counted as the same size by the American Kennel Club but the distinction isn’t lost on the FCI.

Poodle History
Here is a standard pet poodle in it’s normal cut

Various Historical Facts about poodles

Did you know that in popular poodle history the haircut is an actual pragmatic choice made by their owner to help them swim through water easily and make it easier for the hunters to spot their companions the cut further helped poodles to get dry faster than a full coat of hair would as they often had to dive into the water.

Poodles were companions of many historical figures over the human history, such as Sir Winston Churchill’s Rufus who was tragically run over, many members of the European royalty were also by poodles during their reign most notable of which are the French royal family and the duke of Cumberland, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, some other famous people to have owned a poodle are Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and many more.

Poodles are also one of the most active breeds of dogs thanks to this unique distinction, it is also recorded that in the year 1988 a team of poodles took part in Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which is restricted to northern breeds of dogs and for good reason as the team of poodle had to be dropped off after a few checkpoints due to their inability to adapt to the cold.

Wrapping up

Poodle history clear that they have played an evident role in the Victorian era Europe and both pre and post renaissance France, the poodle were always a dog of the rich and viewed more as a social symbol due to the status they had achieved as a water retriever, at one point all the high class women of Europe are said to be proud poodle owner or at least wanted to be one, this certain interest in poodle has not died even after centuries.

Nancy Williams

👩🏻‍🦱 Hey, I'm Nancy! Over at PoodleGo, I'm "that passionate poodle lady". At home? Mom to 3 kiddos 👶🏻, ruled by 2 diva poodles 🐩, and one dramatic Persian cat 🐈‍⬛ who thinks he’s king. Poodles might seem all glam, but they’re more than just fancy fur. Dive into PoodleGo and discover the magic behind these curly superstars ✨. For some behind-the-scenes poodle tales 🐾, don't miss our newsletter 💌. Let's embark on this fluffy journey together! 💯