In all probability, the breed originated in Germany or possibly in Russia. It is known as "Puddeln" or "Pudel" in German, meaning a puddle dog or one that likes splashing water. In France, it is known as the "Caniche" or Duck Dog. All of the Poodle's ancestors were good swimmers. One of the Poodle's ancestors is thought to be the North African Barbet which was imported to the Iberian Peninsula. From there it arrived in Gaul where it was used for its hunting abilities in the water. The Poodle is often called the "French Poodle" because of its popularity in that country where it is the national dog. Toy Poodles were very popular in England as a sleeve dog. All of the different sizes of the Poodle are considered to be one breed. This is an elegant looking breed with a sense of humor. Poodles are loyal, gentle, obedient, and good with children.
In the United States the Standard Poodle is 15 inches (38cm) or more in height and weighs 45 to 65 pounds. It is the oldest of the three varieties and was traditionally used as a water retriever. It is closely related to the Portuguese Water Dog and the Irish Spaniel.
The Miniature Poodle's height range is between 10 and 15 inches (28 cm to 38cm) in the United States. He weighs 10 to 18 pounds and he is shown in the "Non Sporting" group. The Miniature Poodle is probably the best known and the most numerous of the three sizes. He is full of fun, easy to train, and a great circus performer. Because of his keen sense of smell, he was used to search out truffles during winter months. This breed really enjoys obedience work.
The Toy Poodle in the United States is 10 inches (25.5 cm) maximum in height and weighs about 6 pounds. He is shown in the "Toy" group. There is also a "teacup" or "pocket" Toy. This is not an official size designation but a marketing ploy used to sell very small Toy Poodles. These undersized Toys are often plagued with health problems.
European standards have four sizes of poodles. The European Toy Poodle has a maximum height at the withers or 28 cm (11 inches). The European Dwarf Poodle is not a true dwarf. It has a size range between 28 cm and 35 cm (11 to 13.75 inches). Miniatures in Europe range from 35 cm to 45 cm (13.75 to 18.75 inches). European Standards have a minimum height of 45 cm (18.75 inches) and some have a maximum of 60 cm (23.5 inches).
It is shown in the United States in the "Non Sporting" group with two primarily acceptable show clips, the "Continental" and the "English Saddle" being used. They were developed to improve swimming ability, lighten the weight of the dog's coat, and protect joints and vital organs from the cold. Northern European nations leave their poodles in similiar cuts but with the fur long on the entire leg for warmth in snow.
Poodles have had many references in art and literature. Bas-reliefs dating from the first century found along the shores of the Mediterranean portray the Poodle much as it is today. Drawings by the German artist Durer establish the breed in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 18th century, it was the principle pet dog in Spain as shown by the artist Goya. A favorite subject of artists, the Poodle probably appears in more works of art than any other dog.
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Michael Curtiz, director, arranging a scene during Casablanca: "Wery nice, but I vant a poodle.
Prop master: But you never asked for one. We don't have one!
Curtiz: Vell, get one.
Prop master: What color?
Curtiz: Dark, you idiot, we're shooting in color!
[A few minutes later, Curtiz is called out to see a standard poodle.]
Curtiz: Vat do I vant with this goddam dog!
Prop master: You said you wanted a poodle, Mr. Curtiz.
Curtiz: I vanted a poodle in the street! A poodle. A poodle of water!