Written by Vivienne Peterson and prepared by Vycki Brock Copyright February 2010
Why do we call the breed a Pomeranian?
The name Pomeranian came into general use by the 1760s in England but at the time was a general term and included breeds now separately classified – all 5 sizes of German Spitz (inc. the Keeshond) plus the Italian Volpino. In Germany one of many regional names for the Wolfshund (Wolf dog) or Spitz dog was ‘Der Pommer’ – this name was anglicised to Pomeranian.
Other old regional names for Spitz dogs in Germany translate into English as the Bear Spitz, the Lion Spitz, the Wolf Spitz and the Great (Gross) Spitz. Smaller Spitz also existed such as the Fox Spitz and later the Mannheimer Zwerg- Spitz.
This type was also called - in France the Lou Lou, Chien de Pomeranie or Lulu - in Holland the Wolfshond before the name was changed in 1780s to Keeshond - in Italy the Volpino, Lupino, Cane de Quirinale, Florentine Spitz and Italian Spitz.
However, it was the name Pomeranian that captured the imagination of Georgian England and the rest is history!
It's worth mentioning the Germans did not officially use the classification Pomeranian until 1998. As of 1998 the FCI Standard defined the Pomeranian/Zwergspitz as the smallest size of German Spitz (Deutscher Spitz).
What was the first known reference in British literature to a Pomeranian dog?
James Boswell and Pomer a Pomeranian dog - Mainz and Mannheim November 2nd 1764 First known reference in British literature to a Pomeranian dog.
Boswell on the Grand Tour of Germany and Switzerland Edited by Frederick a. Pottle, Yale Edition, published by McGraw Hill Book Co. Inc. 1953 extract scanned from my own personal collection of Boswell's diaries.
I was delighted to debut this fresh information about Poms in an article about Pom History I wrote in July 2008 commissioned by the American Pomeranian Club's 'Pomeranian Review' and published March 2009 in the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Pomeranian Review.
It is equally gratifying to learn this information along with documentation about the intentional breeding of a Pom female with a semi-tamed Wolf in London in 1765 has now entered main stream Pom information and has recently been cited on Wikipedia!
What is the origin or early history of the breed?
The FCI and German breed historians attribute the origin of the German Spitz (including the Pomeranian and Keeshond) to ‘stone age Peat Dogs (Torfhund) – Canis familiaris palustris Ruthimeyer – and the later Lake Dweller’s Pfahlbau Spitz’.
The FCI and German historians consider the German Spitz to be the oldest breed of dog in Central Europe from which other breeds have been produced. This theory is substantiated by archaeological discoveries in Switzerland and throughout Germany. The German Spitz is considered to be the national breed of Germany.
left - Glass Spitz dog from Wuerttemberg area of Germany c200BC
The Italian Volpino (incorporated in pre-1915 Pom breeding programmes) has the same ancientorigins as the German Spitz according to the FCI and Italian historians and has been a small dog for at least 2400 years as evidenced in Greek artefacts. Skeletal remains of small adult Spitz type dogs found in excavations at Sitagroi in E. Greece dating back to between 5500 – 2200BC (ref. Colin Renfrew) suggest small Spitz dogs have very ancient ancestry indeed.
Therefore historical and archaeological evidence suggests Spitz type dogs are known to have existed in Central and E. Central Europe for at least 4500 to 7500 years!
Note – another breed apparently incorporated in late Victorian Pom breeding programmes in England was the Seidenspitz. This breed shown in Germanyaround 1900 and favoured by wealthy ladies as a lapdog is now extinct – 19th century canine historians (cynologists) thought it was originally developed by interbreeding small Spitz dogs with the Maltese dog so the early origin of this breed would also be the same as the Volpino and German Spitz. They look reallycute in old photographs!
right - Small Pom with child on Greek tombstone - 2300 years old - From The New Complete Pomeranian by V Ricketts 1965
Some websites and books say that Poms are descended from sled/sledge dogs from Iceland and Lapland?
The best thing is to compare the breed history of the German Spitz and the Pomeranian on the American Kennel Club’s website. It states the German Spitz was known as the Pomeranian in England in the 18th century and was very fashionable and popular. This is correct – the Pomeranian figures in many high status paintings from this era. Also described is the FCI version of the breed’s history as given above. The AKC history of the Pomeranian refers to it descending from the sled dogs of Iceland and Lapland and unnoticed in Britain until the mid 19th century (there are other statements that differ from known fact but these will become apparent later).
A bit of logic – if the German Spitz was called a Pomeranian in Georgian England – and the Pom and the German Spitz were one and the same - then the ancestry of the Pomeranian and the German Spitz will be precisely the same.
Now compare the AKC history of the Keeshond and the American Eskimo Dog and contrast this with the Pom and the German Spitz – as both the both AED and the Kees are colour specific breeds emerging after the show fancy abandoned the over 7lb weight of Pomeranians around 1915, it would be reasonable to believe their ancestry is also shared with the German Spitz and the Pomeranian (and the Volpino in the case of the Eskie).
And lastly – the Icelandic breed most often compared to the Pomeranian historically was actually the Icelandic sheepdog, if you read its AKC breed history you will not find any association with sled dogs.
Below - This page from Hutchinsons 1935 is very interesting. Space does not permit adding the previous page but this is what it said - 'The name "Spitz" embraces dogs of a very large and ancient family. On the Continent it stands for the Samoyed, the Elkhound, the Laphund, the Volpino, the Pomeranian, and many other varieties, but the variety usually known by the simple name "Spitz" is claimed by the Germans as their national breed. The first fossil remains of prehistoric dogs were found in Scandinavia, Russia and in Switzerland ... rest on page illustrated.
Please note - Dr Ostrander's DNA research apparently suggests the Norwegian Elkhound is not as old a breed as previously believed.
What was the Fox dog?
The Fox dog may have been the Spitz type described in German books of the early 1800s as Canis Anglicus or 'der Englische Spitz'. They said it was a small, finer boned, white Spitz. It was clearly something other than the typical white made famous by Gainsborough in the 1770s and not of German type.
And then there's ...
the old Swiss type - shorter legs and longer body - described by Max von Stephanitz as closer to the original type of ancient Spitz and appears to have been in England for a long time. Compare this painting by Wheatley (1775) to Gainsborough type and you'll see quite a difference.
This type continued on in time and was favoured by Miss Hamilton of Rozelle - the first two white Pom champions owned by her are almost identical to the Wheatley Pom.
Right - Portrait of a Squire and his Dog by Wheatley 1775 This dog differs in type from other white Poms/Spitz of the era and may be an example of the old Swiss Type. The first 2 Pom champions were of this type.
Left - Ch Konig of Rozelle born 1891 almost identical to the Wheatley Pom (above) 120 years earlier.
Below - Pomeranian Dogs by Gainsborough - note difference in type to Wheatley's Pom
Were Poms called Spitz dogs?
Yes, this was a common alternative name from about the mid 1800s in America and was occasionally used in Britain and frequently used in Germany and Belgium. In America it usually referred to medium or larger sized dogs. As early as 1775 the name Pomeranian was used in America for small/ medium dogs – such as General Lee’s black Pom Mr Spada or Spado.
When his dog was lost in 1775 it was referred to as ‘a black shaggy dog of the Pomerania breed’ – so there must have been others in Colonial America as otherwise people would not know what to look for.
left - Mrs Prosser's Joe featured in Stonehenge's book. In the American edition he is called a Spitz dog in the British edition a Pom. Joe's image is from 1877 after he won a first place at a show in London.
Did the Kennel Club first recognise the Pomeranian as a Spitz dog in 1870?
No this is incorrect! The Kennel Club was founded in April 1873 and did not exist in 1870. The Pomeranian was one of the original breeds recognised in the non-sporting variety in 1873. In the first Kennel Club Stud Book of 1874 the breed was classified as a Pomeranian and not by the term Spitz Dog.
right - From the KC's first Stud Book of 1874 showing Pomeranians were one of the original breeds recognised by the KC
Only in Pom books do you find the 1870 date and this comes about because of misleading information given in Mr G Hicks’ book of 1906 and subsequent authors depending too heavily on his accuracy repeated this date.
According to E.W. Jacquet (for many years the Secretary of the Kennel Club and in charge of compiling the Stud Book 1903 – 1921), - Mr Shirley and some like-minded individuals felt there was a need to regulate dog showing and the exhibition of dogs to minimise fraud and irregular practices – in much the same way as the Jockey Club regulated equine matters. Of the many dog shows in 1869 one was sponsored by the newly created National Dog Club – it was a financial failure and the Club ‘ceased to exist’. In 1870 some of the promoters of the show asked Mr Shirley and some other influential people to help them organise a similar show held at Crystal Palace in 1870.
Many of the same people organised another show in 1871 and although it also ran at a loss the concept inspired Mr Shirley to set about founding a permanent organisation and his dream was accomplished in April 1873 with the founding of The Kennel Club. Along with 12 other gentlemen Mr Shirley set about devising a code of rules for dogs shows and so forth. The Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) became the Club’s patron in 1873. The first KC organised show was held in 1873.
If still in doubt please read this page on the Kennel Club’s website: The Kennel Club
Were all the Poms at early dog shows large and white?
The KC Stud Book of 1874 gave details of 44 Poms exhibited from 1860-1873 at pre- Kennel Club shows. In some cases colours are not recorded but a clue is in the name – Smut shown in 1864 may possibly have been black as every Pom of that name in subsequent early records was black.
A variety of size and type was shown – some illustrations of winners in periodicals of the day demonstrate Volpino type and first hand accounts comment on dogs of Italian and French origin. Several pre-1873 names are Italian - Blanco, Carlo and Nero others German - there were 3 Fritz’s between 1863-1872. Some may have been of the old English Spitz type (Fox- Dog). Larger white Poms equivalent to today’s Gross Spitz (FCI only) were also exhibited and were shown until 1915 when CCs were withdrawn for +7lb Poms.
As of 1874 black Poms – imported from Germany- were exhibited and recorded by the KC. Unfortunately no records exist to determine the size of pre-1886 exhibits but in that year there were sufficient under 10lb black Poms to justify a special class at a dog show. Between 1874 and 1890 32% of the 131 Poms recorded by the KC were black.
From 1896 to 1900 the Kennel Club recorded Poms by weight in the Stud Book – a total of 553 were recorded. Of these 306 were under 8lbs and 247 were over 8lb in weight. Poms as light as 1 ½ lbs were shown and as heavy as 28lbs (Belper Bounce).
The weight division was altered to over or under 7lb in 1909.
below - this is an illustration of dogs winning first prizes at a pre-Kennel Club show in 1864. Dog breeds left to right are - Fox Terrier, Skye Terrier, Pomeranian, Blenheim Spaniel and Irish Water Spaniel. The Pomeranian is Mr Eaton's Topsy by Fox out of Nell. As you can see Topsy was a small medium white Pom. Extract from my personal collection of Pomeranian memorabilia
Is it true no Poms were shown in 1890 as the breed was so unpopular?
This is also untrue! The KC Stud Book for the show year 1890 recorded 13 Poms exhibited at shows in Birmingham, The Toy Dog Show at Holborn, Crystal Palace and Leeds.
The concept that the breed was so unpopular by 1890 that no Poms were shown at all comes about by misinterpreting a comment made by Mr Hicks in 1906 where he noted no Poms were exhibited at the Kennel Club’s show in April 1890. However the breed was shown elsewhere in England.
Did Queen Victoria help make the breed popular?
Yes - her late life interest in the breed was a big bonus, however, other factors also contributed. Interest in the small and small medium size pre-existed the Queen’s involvement. The founding of The Pomeranian Club was also an asset especially as its first President was a young lady – Miss Hamilton.
In 1894 Mrs Stennard Robinson registered The Ladies Kennel Association and in 1895 the LKA held its first (all breeds) dog show. The LKA attracted many influential and aristocratic ladies including the Princess of Wales and encouraged women to exhibit their dogs.
The Queen was only involved in showing Poms from 1891 to 1893 (inclusive).
Was Queen Victoria the first person to show Poms and downsize them?
No, she was not! In the 30 years prior to the Queen exhibiting her first Pom in 1891 about 200 people bred, owned or exhibited Poms according to the records maintained by the Kennel Club (including pre-KC shows recorded in 1874 Stud Book). In 1888 the Queen acquired her foundation stock in Florence, Italy but as of 1886 classes were scheduled for Poms less than 10lbs.
The Pomeranian Club, founded in 1891, quickly changed its remit from over or under 10lbs to over or under 7lbs in weight (1893) and encouraged the exhibition/breeding of the smaller size, known as Toy Pomeranians.
Undoubtedly this decision reflected the popularity of pre-existing smaller dogs being imported from Germany (usually called Mannheimer or Zwerg- spitze) typically black, brown, white or wolf grey in colour.
The Germans required this type to weigh less than 3.5kg with an average height at shoulder of 26-30cm.
left - Queen Victoria's Gena acquired in Florence 1888
Mrs Thomas, one of the original committee members of The Pom Club, imported several from Germany, and, by 1892 was exhibiting her home bred Lady Dinah – a 3½ lb black bitch. The Queen’s son, future King Edward VII, bought his daughter a 4lb black dog (called Blackie) from Bad Homburg in Germany in 1891 having already acquired a similar dog in 1885. By 1896 Miss Hamilton, first President of the Pom Club, offered a 3lb 2oz chocolate dog Manel of Rozelle at stud.
right - Prince of Wales' (future King Edward VII) - 4.5lb Pom Blackie acquired in Bad Homburg Germany c1891
Blackie is a very good example of the Mannheimer Spitz type
The Queen obtained her foundation stock in Florence, Italy in 1888. The Italian Spitz (or Volpino) usually weighed about 7-10lbs. One of these dogs Marco (12lb) is considered to be German in type.
The Queen preferred the small medium size rather than the very diminutive variety – as noted by author and show judge Charles Lane and other visitors to her kennel at Windsor.
Was the modern type Pom developed in Britain?
Yes it was. The late Victorian/ early Edwardian breeders interbred small, imported Spitz from Germany and Italy with a little infusion (occasionally) of smaller stock from pre- existing lines.
By 1895 there was quite a variety of size and type ranging from apple headed blacks with longer bodies to relatively contemporary Poms like champions Prairie King and Dainty Boy.
Champions Sable Mite (1902) and Sable Atom (1903) marked a distinct progression and then came Shelton Merlin born 1905 – he could be shown today! British Poms were exported to America by then and increasingly achieved premium prices – the new look was here to stay.
right - Shelton Merlin, born 1905
When was the first orange Pom bred/exhibited?
Miss Ives noted in 1911 that many Italian Volpinos were a rich orange colour or brilliant red with black pigment – two owned by her were later exported to America. Prince of Orange, a 5 ½ lb dog born 1890, was described by Rawdon Lee as orange and white – his son Mr T born 1894 was red in colour (his dam was a Volpino). Coniston Fop, born in 1895, was the first recorded orange sable.
The first Pom recorded by the KC as ‘orange’ was Lady Wavertree’s Volpino - Gateacre Lupino (8lb) born in 1897 was imported from Italy. G. Lupino is one of a trio of Gateacre show Poms featured in a painting by Maud Earle appearing on the cover of the Crufts’ catalogue 2009 for Toy and Utility day.
Mr W Brown specialised in the colour orange with Tiny Boy, The Boy and Orange Boy (born 1903) doing fairly well at shows until a serious accident resulted in Mr Brown’s retirement from the showing.
Ch Mars (male) born in 1906 is sometimes called the ‘pillar’ of the orange colour. However, he did not have black pigment. Ch Offley Honey Dew a male born 1907 ‘light orange’ was another very successful example for his day.
In 1906 the colour orange (as a whole colour) was added to the Breed Standard.
left- CH Offley Honey Dew
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