Like most breeds, the history of the Poodle is open for speculation. A number of historians believe that the Poodle is the result of crosses between several European water dogs, while others believe that one of the Poodle’s ancestors is the North African Barbet, that ended up in Europe through the Iberian Peninsula. There are even others who stand by their theory that the Poodle descended from Asian herding dogs and then traveled with nomadic tribes to Germany to become a German dog.
Regardless of its origins, one can definitely be sure that the Poodle is a very old breed. In fact, there have been plenty of Egyptian and Roman artifacts dating from the first centuries B.C. that showcase illustrations of Poodle-like dogs.
Many believe that the smaller versions of Poodles first emerged in the early 1400s. Smaller-sized Poodles were bred with one another to create Miniature and the Toy Poodles, in order to delight the Parisian bourgeois.
The Miniature Poodles were tasked to sniff out truffles in the woods, while the tiny Toy Poodles served as trusty companions to the nobility and the wealthy merchant class. Some well-to-do individuals even carried their Toy Poodles in their shirtsleeves, leading to them being called “sleeve dogs” back in the day.
On top of being a favorite among the nobles, Poodles also became very popular among gypsies. The breed excelled as circus dogs. Not only were they trained to perform circus tricks, they were also dressed in costumes to add to their stage appeal.
In 1874, the Kennel Club in England registered the first Poodle. About twelve years later, the American Kennel Club registered their first Poodle.
While Poodles were registered officially in the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the mid-1950s when the breed gained popularity in the United States. Poodles held the position as the world’s most popular dog breed for more than 20 years, and today remains one of the most popular breeds in America.