A Brief History of the Poodle
The exact origins of the poodle are not clear. What we do know is that poodles are a very old breed — illustrations of poodles were carved on Roman tombs in 30 A.D., and clipped poodles appeared in French, Dutch, and Italian paintings as early as 1454.
While the name poodle was derived from the German word pudel, meaning to splash in the water, the breed has its origins in three countries: Germany, France, and Russia. An early English “Water Dog” similar to the poodle also existed. The Russian poodle was more like a greyhound in appearance, while the German poodle was sturdier and woollier.
In France, larger poodles became known as the Caniche, a variation on “chien canard,” or “duck dog.” The smaller toy-like poodle in France was known as the petit Barbet.
Early poodles were large dogs used as water retrievers, and it is because of this serious occupation that the fanciful-looking Continental trim evolved.
Poodles' coats were debilitatingly heavy when wet, so the dogs were shaved in the areas that didn't need protection from the cold water (like the hind end and the legs), with the ankles, chest, and head kept covered with hair. The Continental clip may appear silly to some (and has definitely given poodles an undeserved reputation as sissy dogs), but it has its origins in athleticism and hard work.
Although the poodle's origins can be traced back in part to Germany and Russia, these dogs are most often associated with France due to the breed's massive popularity there. The poodle is the national dog of France and indeed is erroneously called the French poodle by many.
Small poodles were also trained to be truffle dogs, used to sniff out and dig up truffles, the edible mushrooms that are considered a delicacy. These dogs, which became known as truffle poodles, were especially in demand in England in the late nineteenth century through the time of World War I. Truffle poodles were particolored, either black and white, brown and white, or lemon and white.