top of page

Article written/researched by Vivienne Peterson BA - First published March 2008 - Copyright Protected

Please Note - This is the summary version - you can also read the full story by selecting that option on the navigation bar


A year ago I came across an intriguing comment, by Vale Nicholas, in the chapter on Pomeranians in the Kennel Encyclopaedia of 1907. He noted the larger white size had been banned from New York Dog Shows in the 1880s as it was felt they were prone to develop rabies.  

Another canine historian, Rawdon Lee ( 1894), also expressed this viewpoint. 

Additionally, I have always wondered why so little was known of the pre-1900 history in America of the Pomeranian. In most books this era is summed up in a couple of sentences with a mention of 2 or 3 Poms in the 1890's. 

 To my great surprise the answer to this mystery is in the wonderful archives of the New York Times newspaper. The mad dog scare in New York commenced in 1876 when a journalist singled out the white Pomeranian or Spitz Dog as the cause of 75% of human deaths in New York from hydrophobia - the term then used to describe humans suffering from rabies. 

Unwittingly, this research has also revealed a plausible explanation for the missing history of the American Eskimo Dog. 

 At this time, as many canine historians confirm the Pomeranian was also known as the Spitz dog. J. H. Walsh ( Stonehenge) was most specific on this matter and used Mrs Prosser's large white dog 'Joe' as an example. In the British edition of his book, Joe, a winner at Islington in 1877, features as an example of a Pomeranian and in the American edition of his book he is called a Spitz Dog! 

Mr Walsh was highly thought of and the 2nd Annual Westminster Show in 1878 adopted Walsh's standard of points for the evaluation of exhibits at the show. However - they also banned the white Pomeranian or Spitz dog from being exhibited in the wake of the bad press the breed was encountering. The town of Long Branch also enacted breed specific legislation and ordered any Spitz dog in the City precincts was to be shot on sight. 

Despite the lack of any accurate statistics to verify the claim of being pre-disposed to rabies, bad publicity continued and with it a certain degree of public hysteria. Articles from the era tell a sad tale and speak of how Spitz dogs were clubbed to death, shot and drowned. The medical profession encountered a condition they called pseudo-hydrophobia brought about by people being scared to death from the fear of contracting the disease. 

The larger white Pomeranian or Spitz dog imported to adorn the carriages of the wealthy and rising middle class ( confirmed in NYT articles) fell from grace. 

In 1886, Charles Cruft organised a Toy Dog Show at the Royal Aquarium. He scheduled one class for Pomeranians, not to exceed 10lbs in weight and one black dog was entered. In the show catalogue there was an advert for the next edition of the magazine Pet- Dog journal which would feature pictures of German Toy Pomeranians. There had been a steady flow of smaller German Poms - usually black in colour since around 1874. 

These smaller Poms - thought of as Mannheimer Spitz in Germany - became all the rage! Most noticeable are comments that they had docile and sweet dispositions in contrast to their larger white counterparts who had received adverse reports concerning a 'snappish' dispostion and their unsuitability to be around young children since 1804.   

By 1894, Rawdon Lee wrote that in the 1892 Cruft's dog show all of the Poms who accounted for 94 entries were small. In an era when showing appealed to women the smaller size was deemed most suitable for ladies on both sides of the Atlantic.

 Careful research has demonstrated that the larger white Pomeranian was not successfully downsized by British breeders of this era. A few were incorporated in breeding programmes using the smaller German Spitz and Volpino (ranging from 4 to 12lbs).  

Due to the continuing trend for small, the larger size, usually white, became unfashionable and this was reflected by changes to challenge certificate awards by 1915 in Britain.

 In America - the larger white dogs had slowly regained respectability but most were unregistered. The breed registry for Pomeranians closing about 1901. Historical evidence suggests that the larger white Pomeranian or Spitz dog as it was most commonly called in America was re- packaged by the UKC circa 1913 and called the German or American Spitz. By 1917 following the Americans entering World War One the dog was re-branded again and this time reference to both German and Spitz (a name still associated with the mad dog scare) were removed and the new name given was American Eskimo Dog...sceptics, please take the time out to read the full article - link at bottom of page. 

It is no wonder this sad period of canine history which vilified the white pomeranian was hidden away - in fact it was so well concealed in archives that modern enthusiasts are unaware of this problem. 

The full article is lengthy and will take about 15 minutes to read which is why I thought it best to summarise this incredible era of history for those who may not have this amount of spare time. The full article can be read by going to the link below. 

Please compare left photo of Miss Chell's Poms to the dogs on this link: Deutsches Reich (1871-1918) Kaiserreich

When you click this link, translate website page to English, then on the left tool bar, click the Kingdom of 

Württemberg link - a page will appear on right, scroll down a photo of Koenig Wilhelm's Spitz dogs can be found about half way down.

The photo is titled 'Der Koenig mit seinen Enkeln'.

right - A famous German sculpture in Stuttgart of Koenig Wilhelm II with his beloved dogs.

The old white Pomeranian had a much longer muzzle - here is a selection from 1770s to 1890's ofhead shapes.

It is important to bear this in mind when comparing American Eskimo dogs with traditional Pomeranians. 

left - Miss Hamilton, who owned Koh I Noor - once advertised him for sale and the selling point was 'one of the best and longest heads on the bench'!

bottom of page