Article written/researched by Vivienne Peterson BA - First published 2008 - Copyright Protected
For the early History of the Breed go to Early Greek/Italian page
The breed’s continued popularity is evident in Italian art. Carpaccio painted a diminutive small white Spitz (left image), usually identified as a Pomeranian but more accurately a Volpino, in 1502 – The Vision of St. Augustine. French art depicted small white Spitz, such as the one featured in Nattier’s work of 1759, often referred to as a Pom. The Irish artist Hone painted a beautiful smaller white dog in 1776. Evidence suggests that small/medium Spitz dogs could be found throughout Europe for centuries and there are countless examples of their continual popularity.
In the 1830s the famous English archaeologist Sir William Gell, who for many years had lived in his villas in Rome and Naples, owned a celebrated ‘Pom’ called Mr Nix. He claimed his favourite dog could speak some words such as grandmamma. Gell died in 1836 and sadly his loyal dog pined to death within the month.
right - Lord Egremont's mistress circa 1815
Walter Savage Landor (the prototype for Dicken’s Mr Boythorn in Bleak House) was a passionate enthusiast of Italian ‘Pomeranians’. In the 1840s he lived in Italy, apparently owning the villa Fiesole, once the home of Michelangelo. While there he acquired a dog he called Pomero that he brought back to Bath. It was written at the time ‘One attendant he had, a native of Florence, the most cherished attendant that ever poet and scholar was blessed with. This was a black eyed, sharp faced, long- haired Pomeranian Dog of purest breed. The affection between Pomero and his master was beautiful to see’.
Landor would vow to his dog ‘I shall never survive thee carissimo’ – unfortunately Pomero was poisoned and died. Although Landor felt the loss acutely he wisely sent to Florence to acquire another Pomero!
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in 1867 of small white Spitz in Paris with a great muff of stiff hair round their necks. Her words perhaps sum up many early views ‘ he is said to be the most faithful little creature in guarding the property of his owner. What is peculiar to these little dogs is the entireness of their devotion to their master. They have not a look, not a wag of the tail, for anyone else; it is vain for a stranger to try and make friends with them – they have eyes and ears for one alone’.
THE SHOW ERA
Dog shows were already popular events prior to the founding of the Kennel Club in 1873. In pre-KC days any breed was eligible to be shown. At the Birmingham Agricultural show in 1862 both Pomeranians and ‘Vulpino’ (their spelling) or Roman Dogs were exhibited. The Pomeranian was one of the original breeds recognised by the KC in 1873. However, it is clear this name encompassed a variety of European Spitz including the Volpino, the Keeshond, the German Spitz dog and the French Loulou/Loup Loup as stated by canine historians, breeders and exhibitors of the Victorian and Edwardian era including Mr Vale Nicholas in the Kennel Encyclopaedia prepared by the KC committee chairman.
It is quite possible that the original list of 43 Poms recorded in the first Stud Book of 1874 included dogs previously shown as Volpino or Roman dogs with the clue being in their names. There are 4 Carlo’s and one Blanco. An engraving of the 1864 Islington show winners included Topsy, a small/ medium size white ‘Pom’ bearing a marked resemblance to a Volpino Italiano. A story published in 1863 describes the late arrival at a show of a dog called Spitz from Rome and a bitch named Finette from the south of France. Their litter was also exhibited. The engraving that illustrated the story depicted two dogs and puppies of Volpino type.
In the Stud Book of 1885, Volume XII, a bitch named Pan is recorded, sired by Mousky from Florence. Pan was born in July 1880.
QUEEN VICTORIA – FANCIER OF VOLPINO
H.M. Queen Victoria is perhaps the most significant fancier of the Volpino. She returned from her holiday in Florence with her foundation stock. As the Queen preferred small/medium size dogs the size of the Italian dogs suited her. Her son later Edward VII owned a 4lb black Toy German Spitz or Mannheimer acquired in Bad Homburg, so it is obvious she could have bought very small dogs if she so desired. Gena was known to weigh 7.5lbs. Marco (12lbs) was allegedly brought over from Florence but is of the small German Spitz type of that era.
George Krehl, the editor of the Stock-keeper, visited the Queen’s kennel in 1891. This visit was featured in The Scotsman newspaper on Dec 26th 1891. It states ‘ The Queen’s pets are not Pomeranians in the ordinary acceptance of the term, being rather Italian Spitz dogs’. The names of her original dogs and their progeny reflect Italian ancestry - Beppo, Lenda, Nino, Gilda, Alfio, Mina and Lula. The Stud Books of 1892, 1893 and 1894 record some of the Queen’s dogs and show successes. The Queen favoured white, lemon and white, fawn and buff coloured dogs.
Comparision - Queen Victoria's Volpino Beppo next to our own Volpino Sophie
Whenever you read about the Queen’s first Poms (other than Marco) think Volpino!
THE VOLPINO’S CONTRIBUTION TO POM COLOUR
Of great importance was the arrival of Mister T (KC #1742A) a ‘red’ by Prince of Orange and Trappola born in 1894. His colour was admired and thus the Italian Volpino now influenced colour development. Although usually white some were fawn and others were shades of gold, orange or red. Miss Ives reported she exported her two brilliant red Volpinos to America. She noted some were a bright rich orange with black pigment. It was the orange colour that had caught the eye of dog breeders.
Miss Hamilton, the first President of The Pomeranian Club in 1891 owned a Volpino called Trappola, the dam of Ouida of Rozelle in 1896 (KC no.1816C).
In Mr Bendelow’s book (1990) is an article written in 1911 by Mrs Hall-Walker (Lady Wavertree) of Gateacre Poms, she wrote of her acquisition of the wolf sable Ch Dainty Boy and her trip to Italy to find ‘ a little shaded wife for him’. She continued to go to Italy looking for ‘little yellow and white lupetties’ to breed with her black or white Poms. In this manner she acquired her orange, Gateacre Lupino (Stud Bk XXVII – #2081) born August 1897 and bred by Mr Spoletti.
Of interest to those who study breed origins will be the exhibits at the 1913 American Pomeranian Club show in New York from the Royal Kennels of Queen Margherita in Rome, Italy. Mr George Ford of New Haven, Connecticut, had acquired Tulipiano, Violetta, Bello, Bianco and Bambino Caesar from the Queen. The Queen herself had entered a brace at the show. Also bred by the Queen and owned by Miss Maben was Piccina, ‘an exceedingly small orange’. It is very possible that some or all of these ‘Poms’ were in fact Volpino. It is an odd coincidence that Queen Margherita lived in the Quirinal Palace (in Rome) and one of the regional names for the breed is the cane del Quirinale. She also visited Queen Victoria in Florence so one might be tempted to guess she influenced Queen Victoria as prior to this holiday the Queen had never shown any interest in Spitz breeds.
In 1912 at the Toy Spaniel Club show (other small breeds had classes) in New York, Mr Henry Furst was 2nd in Puppy Dog with Florentine Luppetto. Perhaps a clue!
Mr Hicks said in 1907, ‘that a variety of the Pomeranian or Spitz has found a habitat in Italy for many years is well known to all English travellers in that country. The type peculiar to Italy is of a bright yellow or orange colour, and is fast becoming a favourite one in England at the present time.’ Hutchinson called the Volpino a ladies dog par excellence.
However, not all of the Italian dogs were white, fawn or golden orange in colour. Nora Wydenbruck wrote of a little black dog called Nina, a Florentine “luppetto”. John Addington Symonds wrote in 1903 of owning a little black Spitz called ‘Cio’ purchased in Venice and Robert Herrick's 1931 book ‘Little Black Dog’ features an Italian Pomeranian bought for $10 – presumably black.
The Italian Standard published in Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopaedia circa 1935 allowed the following colours; wholly fawn, or white, or black; also allowed, but very little favoured, is light fawn. Two colours mixed together are forbidden. Note – the height at the shoulders was to be ‘under 30 centimetres’ & the weight ‘under 4 kilos.’
SOME EARLY ROLES OF SPITZ BREEDS
Mrs Hall Walker of Gateacre Poms noted the ‘lupette’ was a dog favoured by cabman and carters throughout Italy to ‘guard their belongings.’ In 1864 the writer William Story wrote of a little Pomeranian atop wine casks on a wine carrier’s cart in Villeggiatura, Italy. Ouida’s character, Ruffino, was born to dogs belonging to a cabstand in Rome. In Germany the role was similar. Breed expert Herr Kull noted - from the great or carter’s Spitz (or Pomeranian) to the Toy size their job was to watch and guard their master and his possessions.
Revoil, the French canine historian, noted in 1867 the Loulou in the Pay Bas (Netherlands) guarded barges. Jardine wrote in 1840 ‘Dutch inland navigators commonly use them to protect property on barges’. Spitz in Germany and Italy were also effective sentinels in both farmyard and vineyard. In England Poms were often employed by carters and also could be found accompanying coaches - in France and England they sat atop coaches guarding mail and luggage. In America it was said that in the late 1850s and 1860s no coach was complete without a white Spitz dog on the front seat. In Paris in 1867, Harriet Beecher Stowe saw small white Spitz sitting atop the horses pulling the carts of Parisian washer -women. Many early observers noticed the affinity of the smaller Spitz breeds with horses.
This is possibly why they made great performing dogs in the circus (especially working with horses) and other shows. In America at one time Volpinos and larger white Poms or Spitz dogs (now known as the American Eskimo Dog) were popular performers in circuses. The modern Volpino is known to be very good at Agility.
below - From 1935 - old Volpino Standard - Hutchinsons