The Keeshond is quite distinctive with his grey coat tipped with black and the 'spectacles' around his eyes. Originally called the 'Wolfsspitz, when he arrived in England around 1900, he was called the 'Dutch Barge Dog'. This was because he guarded the gangway of the numerous barges of Holland while his master went ashore. Re-named the Keeshond, today his medium size and his excellence as a watch dog, makes him a suitable adjunct to the modern household.

History of the Keeshond

Keeshond pupKeeshond pup

The name 'Keeshond' dates back to 1781 with the uprising of a group which divided Holland into two political factions.The 'orangists' had always supported the Prince of Orange as the governor of the Netherlands, while in opposition the rebellious group, the 'Dutch Patriot Party' had followers called 'Keezen'.

German Wolfsspitz 1879German Wolfsspitz 1879

The name 'Keezen' arose for two reasons. Firstly the Dutch Patriot Party's leader's name was Cornelius, a name which had the nickname 'Kees'. Secondly, 'Hond' meaning dog in Dutch. As the leader always had his dog by his side, this dog became became known 'Keeshond'. Interestingly, their opposition 'The House of Orange' was also characterized by a different type of dog altogether, the Pug.

German Wolfsspitz c 1920German Wolfsspitz c 1920

German in origin, the Keeshond was first known as the 'German Wolfsspitz'. It came in a variety of the German Spitz breed colours which were black, wolf-grey, white, orange, red and parti-colours. But the British concentrated on the smaller wolf-grey variety from the southern provinces of Holland where they were commonly seen guarding the gangway of barges while their master went ashore. So the British called them 'Dutch Barge Dogs'.

German Wolfsspitz c 1900German Wolfsspitz c 1900

Meanwhile in Germany in 1899, breeders formed the German Spitz Club. They published their first Stud Book in 1913. Over 1,000 large and small German Spitz were listed as being whelped between 1891 and 1898. Of the 699 large Spitz variety 247 were white, 222 were black, 221 wolf-grey, 8 orange or red and just 1 was parti-coloured[1a]. The size of the Wolfsspitz was 45 cm or more, and the wolf-grey colour was described as '...  silver grey with blackish shadings on the individual tips of the hair; the colour lighter on the muzzle, around the eyes, on the legs, the belly and on the tail' [2].

The Keeshond becomes a Pure Breed

Mrs Wingfield Digby c 1935Mrs Wingfield Digby c 1935

The Keeshond was first brought into England around 1900 by Mrs Wingfield Digby. Known as 'Dutch Barge Dogs', they were registered as such by the Kennel Club (UK). They had been brought back from a yachting trip on the Dutch canals where they had been known for centuries in Holland. These first Dutch importations were followed by the Wolfsspitz from Germany. By 1923, they were exhibited at the National Dog Show in Birmingham, with a Specialist Club being formed two years later, founded on both German Wolfsspitz and Dutch Barge Dog importations. Despite the purported British public prejudice against foreign dogs, which remained in place until well after World War Two,[3] the Kennel Club requested its name be changed to 'Keeshond'. The British then cemented the change to Keeshond from the German Wolfspitz by eliminating all black, white and parti-coloured dogs. By the 1930's, the grey variety had become the only colour recognised by the English Specialist (Keeshond) Club[2a].

History of the Keeshond in Australia

A 'Kendari' Keeshond 1970A 'Kendari' Keeshond 1970

Keeshonds had their beginnings in when in 1949 when Mrs Bourne migrated to NSW from UK bringing 4 Keehonds with her. These were Ch Airking of Arnheim, Ch Valies of Vorden, Airamber of Amhein and Babettte of Willowen which, when bred under the 'Arnhem' prefix, formed the basis of Keeshonds in Australia. One of the early enthusiasts in Victoria was Mr Ken Pierce and his wife Betty. Ken became one of our post-war 'trained' all-breeds judges.

But it was Mrs Ruth Taylor who really brought Australia's Keeshonds to the fore. She imported Ch Ensign of Duyora from UK, an exquisite example of the breed who, bred with several of her imported, carefully selected bitches, marked the 'Kendari' prefix indelibly on the breed here.

The Keeshond Today


The Keeshond is a typical Spitz breed with a fox-like head, an alert expression and a short, compact body. His harsh, stand-off top coat is a mixture of grey and black with a pale grey undercoat. The male stands 46 cms (18 ins) with the bitches height at shoulder is slightly less at 43 cms (17 ins)

This section is still in the process of construction. Please visit us again soon...

References and Further Reading

[1] Clementine Peterson, 'The Complete Keeshond' Published by Howell Book House Inc New York 10022, 1971 ISBN 0-87605-174-3 Chapter 3, 'Early History of the Keeshond Pages 13 and 37 - 38.

[1a] ibid., Page 35

[2] Mrs Gatacre, 'Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia' Edited by Walter Hutchinson, published by Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) LTD., London Part 28, German Spitz Page 747

[2a] ibid., Pages 1044 - 1046

[3] Clifford Hubbard 'Dogs in Britain' Published by MacMillan & Co London 1948. Chapter 17 'The Spitz Group' 'The Pomeranian' Page 183,