HISTORY OF THE POMERANIAN DOG
Many authors have tried to link the Pomeranian dog with ancient dogs in Egypt, Greece and China and have used as evidence the many paintings these civilizations produced. But most dog historians are of the opinion that the Pomeranian dog was developed from a northern type of dog, such as can still be seen in Iceland and Lapland hauling sleds over the snowy wastelands. And the Pom, despite its diminutive size, still retains the hardy disposition and thick coat so typical of dogs in cold climates.
There are a number of dogs developed in Central Europe during the middle of the 19th century that are similar inmarkings and physical appearance to the Pom. The Pom, to many people, is a small Spitz. The Spitz, not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), has many relatives among the purebred dogs of today.
The Pomeranian's thick coat is a good indication that its origins are from a cold climate area such as Iceland or Lapland, although some believe it to have origins in Egypt, Greece and China.
The Toy Spitz is a Pomeranian dog of another name. In European countries, the Pomeranian is not recognized because of the presence of the German Spitz.
Perhaps the closest are the Samoyed and American Eskimo Dog. Also related are the Norwegian Elkhoud, the Schipperke, The Keeshond, Volpino Italiano and German Spitzen. In France, a similar dog is called the Loulou and in Russia, dogs of the Spitz group are called Laikas.
The whole Spitz group is traceable to the dogs of Iceland and Lapland. Whether or not these dogs all had a common ancestor is not known, but there is some speculation that these dogs migrated from northern European areas, such as Finland and Siberia, where they were extremely useful in the cold and desolate areas.
Wurttemberg, the heartland of German dog development, is considered by some as the place where the Spitz wastransformed into the Pom. Others believe that the Pomeranian was first developed in the district of Pomerania, where a group of Finns settled in Samogitia.
These first Poms weighed about 30pounds. They were not nearly as small as today's Pom, but they were definitely considered small dogs. The colors were mostly white, cream or black. It is thought that German breeders wished to obtain a smaller dog than the prevailing Spitz or Samoyed and bred the dog down in size.
Spitz dogs, like the ones seen here, are a cold weather breed. Because of their similarity to Pomeranians, experts have tied the Pom's origins to cold regions.
The Pomeranian In England
While we give the Germans credit for their role in producing these tiny dogs, the Pom really came into its own in England. Queen Victoria is known for many things, but in the dog world she is given special credit for bringing the popularity of the Pomeranian to a peak. While the Pom or a near ancestor is thought to have been in England since before 1800, the Queen was greatly pleased by a tinv Pom named Marco while she was vacationing in Florence,Italy; and she brought him home to the British Public. She exhibited many Poms and won with some of them, one of her most famous being Windsor's Marco. It is said that when the was dying, she asked that her favorite dogs be admitted to the sickroom so she might play with them.
Miss Hamilton's Poms. In nineteenth-century England, Miss Hamilton's famous kennel competed with Queen Victoria's and divided most of the honors with the royal kennels. It was Miss Hamilton who won the first championship for a Pom.
In 1870, the Pomeranian was recognized by the English Kennel Club and there were three entries in 1871 at one of the big dog shows. The Pom Club was founded in 1871, and one of the earliest enthusiasts was Miss Lilla Ives, who imported many Poms from Germany. It is interesting to note, in a book on Poms written early in this century, that the list of Pom breeders was made up almost entirely of women. It would appear taht this particular breed was very popular with the ladies and that most of the early kennels were founded by women.were founded by women. It is a credit to their efforts that we have the handsome Pom of today.
These early Pomeranians weighed 20 pounds or more and were mostly black or white in coat color. It was the English breeders who brought the dog down in size and developed the many different colors. They differentiated between very small Poms of less than seven pounds and larger ones over seven pounds.
Some of the famous early English champions were Ch. Sable Mite, Sable Atom and Tina. Another outstanding sire was Little Nipper. Different kennels became noted for different types of Poms. One, for example, was known for creams and whites.
Among the famous authors and painters who loved the Pom is Ouida, the English author who wrote of "Ruffino," a tiny Pomeranian dog. Gainesborough, a painter, also pictured a small toy much like our Pom, although he predates the official entry of the Pomeranian into England.
THE POMERANIAN IN AMERICA
Poms were brought to America from England, rather than from the Continent. The first Pom to be shown was Sheffield Lad, who was exhibited in 1892. You can imagine the excitement these tiny dogs caused with their beautiful coats and bouncy, playful manner. The breed was not recognized by the AKC., however until 1900, the same year the American Pomeranian Club was founded.
At first the Pom was exhibited in the Miscellaneous Class, but he was soon moved to the Toy Group. There, Nubian Rebel won Best of Breed in 1900. The breed rapidly grew in popularity as people discovered the ease of care and pleasure these little dogs afforded them, and by 1911 there were enough Pom breeders and owners to hold a specialty show. The winner was Ch. Banner Prince.
At this time the show classes included separate classes for weight: under seven and over seven pounds. In these earlydays, there were four popular colors of Poms: white, black, chocolate and blue (a difficult color to breed and maintain). Some of the outstanding champions were Dainty Mite, Princess Hula, who was famous as a brood bitch as well as a show champion, and Twilight, the sire of many champions.
Many breeds of dogs didn't just grow. Dog owners and breeders wanted certain types of dogs for special purposes and, because of this desire, encouraged purebreds. In the case of the Pomeranian, we know that its ancestors were the sled dogs of the North. These dogs migrated across Northern Europe into Central Europe, where the Germans bred them. The heavy double coat was retained when the dogs became household pets. Although they no longer were obliged to tow boats along the canals or pull sleds in cold climates, their coats were so attractive that breeders spent much effort to improve the quality and coloration. Because the Pom was essentially a pet, not a working breed, the niceties of appearance were (and are) important.
The Germans, perhaps wanting a smaller dog suitable for city living, bred the original Spitz down in size. These dogs were still 20 pounds and over when they reached England's shores. The English, enchanted by these small but bouncy dogs, bred them still smaller in size. This was probably done by mating the smallest dogs (which still maintained the best characteristics of the breed) they could find, so that the puppies of resulting litters were smaller than average.
Selective breeding achieved the tiny size of today’s Pom. Selective breeding is still being continued in the United States, and it was noted in the Pomeranian Review in September 1961 that judges seemed to want smaller dogs, with the trend toward shorter, blunter heads. There are disadvantages in smallness, as most veterinarians will tell you, so breeders must exercise care not to make such body changes that may encumber reproduction. Many breeders refer to breed their larger bitches for this reason.
Mrs. Robinson ("Perdita") with a Pomeranian. From the painting by
T. Gainesborough, R.A., in the Wallace Collection
Early breeders also noted other factors when breeding their Poms. They saw that certain colors, such as the blues, were hard to maintain. They found, by experiment, that whites did not breed as small as other colors, that certain coat colors meant better or poorer coats. Trial and error, plus knowledge of Mendelian genetic theories, aided the breeders in their work.
Toy dogs have always been household pets. While their yapping can frighten off unwelcome intruders, we doubt that they can do much physical damage. Although there are stories of Poms being successfully used as ratters, there seems to be little call for this skill these days. History has bred into these dogs a diminutive size, attractive coat and an intelligent disposition to make the Pom a true companion.
Volpinos and Pomeranians
When one breed evolves from another over time, it is difficult to draw the line between the two, with breed names used interchangeably. Breed standards can change over time as well, especially as breeders size down a breed toward the toy size. This is the case with the Volpino and the original Pomeranians.
The history of the Pomeranian begins with Queen Charlotte of England, wife of King George III. Charlotte, of German origin, imported German Spitzes in 1767 from a region of Germany and Poland called Pomerania (in English). Thus these dogs were called "Pomeranians," though it is unclear if Queen Charlotte invented the breed name herself. These "Pomeranians" were mostly white and weighed 20 to 30 pounds and would not be called a Pom by anyone today because of their size (the modern breed standard for Poms is 3 to 7 pounds). Charlotte's "Poms" experienced limited popularity in England.
In 1888 Queen Victoria of England discovered Volpinos in Florence, Italy while on vacation. She brought home some of these dogs and called them "Toy Pomeranians" since they so resembled the descendents of Queen Charlotte's (her grandmother's) "Poms", but were much smaller. Her first Italian "Pom", named Marco, weighed 12 pounds and had a solid red coat. The painting shown here is "Marco on the Queen's Breakfast Table", by Charles Burton Barber, 1893. It is said that Marco's small size (a 12 pound Pom is "small"??!!) gave Victoria the idea to breed even smaller "Poms." Another "Toy Pomeranian" (a white Volpino) from Florence, pictured below, was named Gina and was one of Victoria's champion show dogs.
Victoria cross-bred the Volpinos with imported small German Spitzes providing the founding stock for the breed now called the Pomeranian. Victoria made the Pomeranian popular with the British and encouraged breeders to breed them smaller and smaller. After a few decades, the small three pound Poms we know today were the result.
Many Pomeranian histories brag of famous people before and including Queen Victoria who where "Pom" owners. Odd that photos of these "Poms" are never shown, even though paintings of the dogs exist from the time they lived, up to 500 years ago. Of course one reason these "famously owned Poms" are not pictured is that anyone seeing such photos would realize that they are not Poms at all, by modern standards. Some websites even refer to a "tiny, cute Pom" owned by Michelangelo, Marin Luther, or others...when those dogs were actually Volpinos or German Spitzes of 10 to 20 pounds!
The TRUTH is out!! If you see a reference to a "Pom" that lived before 1900, know that this dog probably weighed 10 pounds or more and would have been called a German Spitz or Volpino by its original non-English breeders.