Different Colours and Sizes of PoodlesDifferent Colours and Sizes of Poodles

Poodles, with their different sizes and colours are among our most distinctive and popular breeds. They are typified by their clip which dates back centuries to when they were used as Water Spaniels. Simultaneously, a smaller companion dog with a similar clip was depicted in European paintings and caricatures. Today the coat is the breeds' hallmark with fashionable or tidy clips being adapted to suit the individual dog's function whether it be a show dog or a pet.

History of the Water Dog

Untrimmed and trimmed German Poodles c 1879Untrimmed and trimmed German Poodles c 1879

In 1570 AD Caius described both Water Spaniels and Fisher Dogs which had superfluous hair shaven from the shoulders to the hind legs so they would be less hindered when swimming. Water dogs or 'Canis Aquaticus' were also known along the European coast of France, Portugal and Spain.

This wonderful woodcut on the right below is by Gervase Markham from his book 'The Art of Fowling' (1655 AD), where he describes the trimming of these Water Dogs as follows:

Water Dog c 1665Water Dog c 1665

"... for the cutting and shaving him from the navel downward or backward is.. because these water dogs naturally are ever most laden with hair on the hinder parts.. which are even deeper in the water than the fore parts, therefore Nature hath given them the greatest armour of hair to defend the wet and coldness; yet this defence in the summer time by violence of the heat of the sun.. is very troublesome.

.. so likewise, in the matter of water, it is a very heavy burden to the dog and makes him to swim less nimbly and slower.... But for the cutting or shaving of a dog all over, even from foot to nostril, that I utterly dislike, for it not only takes from the general benefits which nature hath lent him, but also brings such a tenderness and chillness over all his body, that the water in the end will grow irksome unto him."[1] 

The Barbet

Early Poodle or Barbet c 1846Early Poodle or Barbet c 1846

The Poodles' ancestry dates back to one of the ancient French Water Dogs, the Barbet which used to have his hindquarters shaved when working as described above. The name Barbet came from the name from the French word "barbe" meaning beard, which was the name of the large duck with a beard-like growth of bristles on his bill that the Barbet used to hunt. Because this duck nestled among the reeds, hunters used to tie bright coloured ribbons on the dog's head so it could be seen when working. Perhaps this was the origin of the Poodles' topknot!

Barbet (French Water Dog)Barbet (French Water Dog)

The Barbet has been preserved as a pure breed in France to this day and was finally recognised by the FCI in 2006 (FCI Breed Standard no 105). The Barbet has a shaggy curled coat which was originally shaved over the hindquarters like the dog depicted in the etching. The Barbet has a coat which is long, woolly and curly and today comes in solid black, grey, brown, fawn, pale fawn, white or more or less pied. All shades of red-fawn and pale fawn are also permitted. He stands between 53 and 65 cm high. Historically there was also a smaller Barbet called a 'Caniche' a name derived from the French word "cane" meaning duck which is the French name for the Poodle to this day.

History of Poodles

Trimming Poodles France 1820Trimming Poodles France 1820

Poodle type dogs of all sizes whose hindquarters were often sheared as described above, have been illustrated in European art since the 1600's. The smaller dogs were generally depicted as pets for the nobility. By 1700's the French began to trim Poodles in more outlandish styles which became fashionable with the aristocracy. This really came to the fore during the reign of Louis XVI (1774 - 92) when the art of Poodle trimming emerged, together with the flair of the French and the birth of professional canine stylists[10].

Caricature of Miniature Poodle 1821Caricature of Miniature Poodle 1821

By the early 1800's as the breeds were becoming differentiated, both Water Dogs and these smaller clipped pet dogs took on the traditional trim which appealed to both cartoonists and artists. They created Poodles in humorous poses like the caricature 'Monstrosities of 1821' featuring a Miniature Poodle and famous Landseer satirical painting 'Laying Down the Law'(below) of 1840 featuring a large Poodle. These artists made the Poodle's traditional clip famous. By 1896, London had a 'Dogs' Toilet Club' where Poodles could be professionally clipped, brushed, combed, shampooed with the yolks of eggs and be attended to by a professional chiropodist[10].

Poodles in Europe

Painting of Standard Poodle 1840Painting of Standard Poodle 1840

Both the large and the small Poodles that we know today had become known by various names in different parts of Europe. They are still called 'caniche' in France to this day. But in the early 1800's, the Napoleonic Wars were happening between Britain and France. So because the Germans were allies, it was more politically correct to adopt the name of these dogs from the German word 'Pudeln' meaning to splash or puddle in water. Later, the English acknowledged the Water dog's country of origin by calling it the 'French Poodle'[1].

Poodles and Whippet 1876Poodles and Whippet 1876

The Poodle then became legendary because of his intelligence, and ability to be trained. This made him popular, especially in England as a circus dog as depicted in 1876.

The Poodle becomes a Pure Breed

By 1861, Poodles ceased to be used as Sporting Dogs. But Shows began to be held in England for all breeds. By 1873 when the Kennel Club(UK) first came into existence, Poodles were well established in breed type.

When the English Poodle Club was formed in 1886, it only mentioned black Poodles, despite white Poodles being recorded in the Kennel Club Stud Books[3]. When perusing these early Stud Books, the following points are interesting:

Poodle - curly c 1876Poodle - curly c 1876

  • The 4th 1878 Stud Book records that two dogs were imported from USA.
  • The 5th 1879 Stud Book records a first-prize winner that was disqualified for being dyed.
  • The 6th 1880 Stud Book records two dogs - one black and one white, being placed equal first.
  • The 6th 1880 Stud Book also records a dog that was imported from Egypt, had an unknown pedigree!
  • There were several dogs entered with no colour stated.
  • At Shows where there were no classes for Poodles, they were entered in the 'any other variety' or 'foreign dog' classes[2].
  • In these early classifications, the coat came in two separate types, corded and curly.

Poodle - corded c 1907Poodle - corded c 1907

Back to 1886, when the Poodle Club of England was formed, it coincided with the Poodle Club of America in that same year. Then the modern Poodle went ahead by leaps and bounds. At that time England only recognised black Poodles while the Poodle Club of America recognised both black and white Poodles.

In 1907 the colours and varieties were born when 'the Points of the Perfect Poodle was published'[4]. Here it was written that the Toy (Miniature) variety should 'not exceed 15 inches in height at the shoulder and in all respects should be a miniature of the full-sized dog, with the same points' and the colours 'all black, all white, all red and all blue' were listed.

By 1935, Poodles were put on the world stage when the Swiss bred Standard Ch Nunsoe Due de la Terrace of Blakeen, handled and owner prepared by a woman, won Best in Show at Westminster, USA[1a]. Today we recognize the sizes in the chart below as well as all solid colours as well as variations or dilutions of the four original colours.

Evolution of Poodle Trimming

Dutch Clip Created by Monsieur Marcel 1932Dutch Clip Created by Monsieur Marcel 1932

By the 1930's, Poodle trimming other shaving the hindquarters were a reality. In particular in 1932 the 'Dutch' clip was created by Monsieur Marcel in Paris for Princess Juliana of the Netherlands when her beloved Poodle had skin problems on his mid-riff. In Paris, whilst doing a course in Canine Aesthetics and learning to groom, I had the privilege of working for the Monsieur who is acknowledged as the creator of this 'Dutch Clip' for Poodles (now called the 'Lamb Clip'). The notes he wrote for me on the 1932 diagram is a trim based on a Poodle being shaped to a terrier outline. So he originally called it 'Caniche en Terrier'. Note in particular the creation of the head shape and moustache.

Lion Clip Paris, 1960Lion Clip Paris, 1960

Although Poodle trimming has changed dramatically since then, Monsieur Marcel's previously unpublished hand drawn diagrams, explained in French are reproduced here. Today the historical  idea of the 'Lion Clip' described in the 1655 AD quote above, to keep the dog warm when working in the water, still embraces the basics of that classic modern Poodle trim. Even the bracelets around the legs are a modern extension of the idea of protecting Poodles' joints from the cold.

Today, the art of Poodle trimming is a sophisticated profession with a huge variations in styles. There are show clips, trendy fashion clips as well as simple clips designed just keeping Poodles' coats short so pet owners can manage them. To this end, there is lots information available on the subject of clipping Poodles including the excellent reference below[10].

History of Poodles in Australia

Miniature Poodle 1910Miniature Poodle 1910

At the first dog show held in Melbourne in 1864, 25 Poodles are listed as being exhibited[5]. Meanwhile in the Sydney Royal Easter Show catalogue of 1873, there were classes for Poodles with their weights and heights recorded as eight inches weighing 5 and 7 pounds respectively. Two entries for 'French Poodles' were also listed in 1881, 1885, and 1889, all around eight inches[8].

Poodle (Toy) WhitePoodle (Toy) White

Between 1893 and 1910 another ten presumably Standards are listed in Tyzack's Annual, one of which was 'Orchard Blacksmith' from Mrs Crouch's well-known English kennel[4] that went to a Mrs Rudduck[6]. Pictured is one of 20 Miniatures listed and, as there were none shown as being imported and these weighed less than ten pounds, perhaps Beilby[7] is correct when he states 'for the most part they were a cross between a Maltese and a Poodle'. But between 1900 and 1950 there were continuous classes for Poodles at the Sydney Royal.

Despite Australia enjoying a consisted flow of imports, by 1957 only the Standard and Miniatures were recognised when Poodles went into the new Group 6 created when Group 5 was split off to contain only Sheep and Cattle Dogs[13].

Toy Poodles are Recognised

In 1956 when the third variety of Poodle was recognised by The Kennel Club (UK),  Sister Garrard(Omuka) imported the nine and a half inch Fircot Little White Rajah. He was the first of the POODLE toy Variety to arrive in Australia. He became very popular with the general public due to his appearance in an advertisement resting his head on a milk bottle with the caption "Mama says to Drinka Pinta Milka a Day." So popular that at the Royal Easter Show in 1960 he drew a record crowd of people to see him.Rajah retired in 1962 and died in 1971.[14] 

Then in 1963 Mrs Mollie Burton's 'Summercourt' Toy Poodles when she immigrated from in Surrey, England to Sydney. One of the Toy Poodles she brought with her was Summercourt Papenan Romeo, who was awarded the first Challenge Certificate for Toy Poodles in UK[12]. Poodles are now extremely popular here both for showing and as pets.

The Standard, Miniature and Toy Poodle Today

Poodle (Mini) BlackPoodle (Mini) Black

The following description applies to all sizes. The Poodle is an elegant proud dog which comes in three sizes (four in countries judged under FCI Rules - see chart below).

Poodle (Standard) BlackPoodle (Standard) Black

His head should be long, fine and elegant in balance with the rest of the dog. There is a slight occiput and a moderate stop. The foreface should be strong with a well defined chin housing a normal scissors bite, preferably with all 42 teeth present. The dark eyes should be almond shaped and not set too close together. The long, wide ears should set on low, so hanging close to the face.

The clean neck should be sufficiently long to not only balance the dog but also to carry the head proudly. The shoulders should be strong and muscular, and well laid. The chest should be deep and moderately wide, with well sprung and well rounded ribs and some forechest. The forelegs should be straight with strong pasterns. The tight feet should be proportionately small, oval in shape, with thick, well cushioned pads.

Poodle (Standard) BlackPoodle (Standard) Black

The back should be short, strong and level despite the musculature over the withers creating a slight hollow. To complete the otherwise level topline, the tail which is thick at the root, is set on rather high. The thick tail indicating the strength of the bone throughout the dog.

Poodle pup (Toy) BlackPoodle pup (Toy) Black

Because the loins are broad and muscular but there should be no falling away over the croup, when moving the tail is carried away from the body, slightly backwards from vertical or at one o'clock. The thighs are well developed and muscular with well bent stifles and short hocks.

This enables the sound, free and light movement so essential to the Poodle. It has been described as "the four legs should move at the correct tempo carrying the dog with grace and elegance, the front legs extending freely without labouring while the rear legs take a good forward stride".[11] 

Poodle Coat and Colour

The art of trimming of Poodles evolved in the late 1700's with fashion and art still playing their part in today's show rings. In Australia and UK, it is recommended that the traditional lion clip be adhered to for showing. So the English Saddle, Continental  and Puppy clip for Poodles under 12 months are generally used. However, in the last decade or so the Scandinavian clip (also called the 'Scandi Clip') has also become popular in Europe. Whichever clip is used, the coat should be very profuse and dense of good harsh texture without knots or tangles. Also all the short, close hair should be thick and curly.

Poodle (Dwarf) Brown, Scandi ClipPoodle (Dwarf) Brown, Scandi ClipPoodle (Toy) Silver, English Saddle ClipPoodle (Toy) Silver, English Saddle ClipPoodle (Mini) White, Continental ClipPoodle (Mini) White, Continental ClipPoodle (Mini) Deep Apricot, Scandi ClipPoodle (Mini) Deep Apricot, Scandi Clip

The Poodle comes in all solid colours. These are

  • White and cream poodles which should have a black nose, lips and eye  rims and black toenails are desirable.
  • Brown poodles which should have dark amber eyes, dark liver nose, lips, eye rims and toenails.
  • Apricot poodles which can vary from pale through to dark, should have dark eyes with black points or deep amber eyes with liver points.
  • Black, silver and blue poodles which should have black noses, lips, eye rims and toenails.

Although cream, apricot, brown, silver and blue poodles may show varying shades of the same colour up to 18 months, clear colours are preferred.

The Poodle Size Separation Saga

Poodle (Standard) WhitePoodle (Standard) White

In the USA, Prior to 1940 Toy Poodles were mostly white and exhibited as a separate breed with the same Breed Standard as other Poodles. In 1944 they were given the height of 10 ins and exhibited in the Toy Group. In Britain and Australia there was Miniature and Standard Poodles until 1957 when Toys under 11 inches were named as a third variety, again with all three given the same Breed Standard.

Under the basically European system the FCI, the Toy was also the third variety to create a separate size. But in 1989, a fourth size in Poodles, the Dwarf was introduced because it was common to have rather large Toy Poodles more resembling Miniatures. The fourth size was basically added to help stabilise the height variations so often seen throughout FCI countries. This change was introduced first by the French Poodle Club, then the French Kennel Club very quickly followed by all other FCI countries. So that gave the four sizes which were called Toy, Dwarf, Miniature and Standard which existed until the mid-1990's. Then the French Poodle Club again changed the size names to Toy, Miniature, Medium and Standard to allow even greater height restrictions in FCI countries[9].

The Various Sizes of Poodles Today

Please note that in all respects (except size) the various Poodles defined under each system should be exact replicas of the Standard (or FCI the Medium) Poodle. The 4 sizes recognised by the FCI and the 3 sizes recognised by countries other than the FCI are as follows:

ANKC, NZKC and Kennel Club (UK) American and Canadian KC Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
Standard Over 38 cms (15 ins) Over 15 inches (38 cms) Over 45 cm (17.7 ins) up to 60 cm (23.6 ins) with a tolerance of +2 cm (0.79 ins)
Medium - over 35 cm (13.78 ins) up to 45 cm (17.7 ins)
Miniature Under 38 cm (15 ins) but not under 28 cm (11 ins) Under 15 inches (38 cms) with a minimum height in excess of 10 inches (25.4 cms) Over 28 cm (11 ins) up to 35 cm (13.78 ins)
Toy Under 28 cm (11 ins) 10 inches (25.4 cms) or under Over 24 cm (9.45 ins) (with a tolerance of -1 cm or 0.4 ins) up to 28 cm (11 ins) [sought after ideal: 25 cm (9.8 ins)]

References and Further Reading

Also published as

2106 - Jane Harvey, "Poodles Large and Small" Published in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 3, 2016 Page 10

[1] Hayes Blake Hoyt - 'Your Poodle' Published by Popular Dogs Publishing Co Ltd, Great Britain 1952. Chapter 1 'Outline of History' Pages 16 - 18

[1a] Ibid.,Page 27

[2] Author Unknown - 'Our Friend the Poodle' Edited by Rowland Johns Published by Methuen & Co London W.C.2 1948 Catalogue No 4214/U Chapter 1V Page 31

[3] The Kennel Club UK Stud Books 1878 Page 207, 1879 Page 192 and 1880 Page 193, Published by the Kennel Club Picadilly, (UK).

[4] Leonard W Crouch, 'Cassell's New Book of the Dog' by Robert Leighton assisted by eminent authorities on the various breeds. Published 1907 by The Waverley Book Co Ltd Vol 1, Chapter X11 Page 134

[5] Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs, Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West Pages 13-14

[6] "Tyzack's Annual" Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner  Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club Printed in 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Stud Book Page 32 and importations Pages 88 - 89

[7] W. Beilby 'The Dog in Australasia' published George Robertson & Company in 1897 Chapter on The Poodle Page 400

[8] Primrose Potter, "The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia" The Poodle published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 Page 248

[9] Information supplied by Stephen Wheeler, Editor Scandanavian Poodle Magazine

[10] Shirlee Kalstone, "Poodle Clipping and Grooming" - published by Howell Book House, Foster City CA ISBN 0-87605-265-0 Chapter 1 'The Development of Poodle Trimming' Pages 7 - 11.

[11] Ann Rogers Clark, 'Dogs in Review'.

[12] Australian Dog World Annual 1970 'A Tribute to Molly Burton's famous Summercourt Toy Poodles' Published by Seadog Productions, Woollahra NSW Page 21

[13] KCC Gazette 1956

[14] Information by Nola WESTREN (Alamoana) and supplied by Roslyn Thomas