Article written/researched by Vivienne Peterson BA - First published March 2008 - Copyright Protected
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"...the Spitz will be exterminated'
The old type white Pomeranian or Spitz dog fell from grace on May 24th 1876. An article appeared in the New York Times ominously titled ‘ A Whited Canine Sepulchre’. Having dealt an artful character assassination of the breed, the journalist concluded that as soon as the public are convinced ‘he is internally full of rabies and all varieties of distemper’ at that moment ‘the Spitz will be exterminated’.
The purpose of ‘exposing’ this flawed impostor was ostensibly to alert the public to the Spitz dog’s pre-disposition to rabies. However, the writer’s impassioned case against the breed was at times excessive. He was keen to clarify that this was an unwelcome task, he was no fanatic, nor did he write this from revenge or malice. He apologised for inflicting pain on the breed’s friends while comparing the unpleasant duty of revealing the dog’s character to exposing a criminal. The white and spotless Spitz a ‘hitherto respected beast’ mingling with ‘the best circles of society’ was in the opinion of the journalist a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The journalist anthropomorphises the dog’s character - on morality ‘the Spitz is thoroughly and irredeemably corrupt’ and ‘he is a tireless and shameless thief’. He was credited with having perverted skills enabling him to steal the bones of ‘ honest and frugal dogs’. He was vulpine, with a cunning and treacherous face, and vain ‘ he ostentatiously wears throughout our hottest months the heavy fur of an Arctic animal’ adding, no cat ‘ever manifests so absurd a degree of vanity in regard to her tail as the Spitz habitually displays in regard to his own’. Cowardice – he ambushed, bit when his victims least expected (a back-biter) and took flight when challenged.
First of all it should be clarified that the Spitz and the Pomeranian were one and the same!
The breed classification system, of both the American and British Kennel Club, has made it difficult for the modern enthusiast to understand the early history of the Pomeranian or Spitz dog. In Germany they have always been known as Spitz, with a descriptive name to indicate the region of origin and eventually to reflect size. Thus the Pommer or Pommern Spitz became the Pomeranian Spitz in England. In Holland they are called Keeshond (regardless of colour) with a further description to indicate size. In France they were called the Loup Loup. The English and the Americans used the names Pomeranian and Spitz, the English also called them Fox Dogs, but more typically in 19th century America, they were called a Spitz dog. The size ranged from little and ‘frisky’ to large ‘brutes’ as evidenced in various articles in the New York Times. Not all were white of course, there are reports of black Spitz, but it was the white coloured Spitz that was singled out by the newspaper.
In 1878 the 2nd annual show of the Westminster Kennel Club used the standard of points for assessing exhibits as set out in The Dogs of the British Isles by J.H. Walsh (Stonehenge). In this book is a chapter titled The Pomeranian or Spitz Dog. In the American edition of this book titled ‘The dogs of Great Britain, America and other countries’ the same chapter appears. Walsh uses the same illustration in both books and that is Mrs Prosser’s white dog Joe, who was a 1st prize winner at Islington in 1877. In the British edition he is called ‘a Pomeranian’ (left image) and in the American edition ‘a Spitz’ (below right image).
Vero Shaw (The Illustrated Book of the Dog 1881) in the Chapter on Pomeranians – ‘This breed is fairly popular in America under the title of Spitz dog, and we have seen a very good specimen imported into this country by a lady who had visited the United States’.
The Pomeranian, although known to be in England by 1760, was popularised following the marriage of King George III to Queen Charlotte - a Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The Queen had imported two fine specimens as a gift for Lord Harcourt. Artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Wheatley featured the breed in artworks. A painting of William Young and his family, circa 1770, includes a fine example. This dog is considered to be both a cream Keeshond and a Pomeranian.
The Spitz was often cited as having a snappish disposition, however, temperament issues raised were only part of an overall picture; in general, canine historians balanced their reviews of the breed with positive comments and noted their popularity. Here are some of the adverse comments.
In ‘Cynographia Britannica’ published in 1800 by Sydenham Edwards is this description: ‘He is of little value as a house-dog, being noisy, artful, and quarrelsome, cowardly, petulant, and deceitful, snappish, and dangerous to children, and in other respects without useful properties’
In the ‘Sportsman’s Cabinet’ published in 1804:
‘He bites most severely, and always with greater vehemence in proportion as he is less resisted; for he most sagaciously uses precautions with such animals as attempt to stand upon the defence, and is admitted to be instinctively a coward, as he never fights but when under necessity of satisfying his hunger or making good his retreat’.
Some earlier writer’s thought the breed was a cross between a wolf-dog and an Arctic Fox. The journalist in 1876 used the Arctic Fox theory to great affect ‘his origin is by no means honorable’ and his face ‘bears an unmistakable resemblance to the cunning and treacherous face of the fox’. In the 18th century this theory had been promoted but even then experiments demonstrated that foxes would not and could not breed with dogs. A common secondary name for the breed in Georgian England was the Fox Dog.
The Pomeranian remained fashionable through Georgian Times and Shaw and Walsh mention that in the mid 18th century imports arrived from Germany, France, Belgium and other parts of the Continent.
How did the Spitz reach American Shores?
Dog dealers imported the breed to America. It is often thought immigrants may have brought Spitz with them but this is unlikely as most immigrants of this era were extremely poor, with few resources.
The May 1876 article noted the Spitz was rarely seen twenty years before but ‘has become so common as to be nearly valueless in the dog market’. On November 17th 1876 another report condemning the breed confirms they were once fashionable and imported ‘he did not voluntarily immigrate’. That article went as far as to suggest punishment for any who continued to import the breed plus the slaughter of all those already in the country. In January 1877 a duty imposed on Skye Terriers was scoffed at in the press as ridiculous in a country ‘in which the loathsome Spitz is permitted to reside’.
At the height of his popularity the fashionable Spitz was a status dog ‘no carriage was held to be complete which was not furnished with a Spitz Dog, snarling on the front seat’. The embellishment of ‘snarling’ is of course another poke at his character but also illustrates his actual true role as a dog!
Spitz were utilised as Watch Dogs...
Contrary to most modern viewpoints, that they were sledge dogs or shepherd dogs, they were typically utilised as watch-dogs in Europe and were delegated watching tasks according to size. In Europe they were popular and numerous looking after farmyards, vineyards, barges, the cart’s full of wares of merchants and in their smaller sizes the domestic property of people. Known for devoted and unswerving loyalty to their master they were quick to bark while sensibly staying out of reach of strangers – hence the back-biting claims made by the journalist. As Herr Albert Kull, a breed expert, later wrote ‘ he is no vagabond, no lickspittle; he knows what his place is, and what his duties are … he has to watch house and homestead, and to follow only his master’.
Most canine historians noted their ability to ‘watch’ and Shaw wrote ‘as a guard to a house, however, if kept indoors, the Pomeranian is of some service, for his ears are keen, and an inclination to bark seems deeply rooted in the variety’.
As the breed became less fashionable, perhaps owing to the latest craze for Fox Terriers and Collies (noted by Walsh) they became more affordable. It is unlikely the poorest and working class of New York kept a dog as life in the overcrowded tenements was hard enough without the expense of a dog. The rising middle and merchant class were probably the new market for dog ownership. It undoubtedly appealed to those with German ancestry.
By 1876 the Spitz was fairly common – one year later, following the introduction of a Dog License they were second only to the Black and Tan Terrier with 1603 being accounted for. Interestingly 7 were recorded as Pomeranians!
'A Whited Canine Sepulchre'
The crux of ‘A Whited Canine Sepulchre’ was the breed had caused 75% of the deaths in the City from Hydrophobia. This was the name of the disease used to describe a human exhibiting the disease of rabies. Among other symptoms, the victims typically had a dread of water and were unable to swallow – hence the phobia of water. There is no particular evidence in the press that the Spitz was guilty of this charge but the breed had been named as the cause of the recent death of a young girl. A couple of years before a popular doggy person called Francis Butler had allegedly died of the disease. This gentleman had written books both fictional and factual about dogs and was caring for a sick Spitz when he was bitten. He died six weeks later.
Rabies was not a common disease at the time. However, the probability of death if bitten by a rabid dog was apparently 1 in 15 (NYT July 7th 1874). Annual deaths in New York from hydrophobia were estimated to be 3 2/3 per annum. The population, although increasing with almost every arriving steamer, was roughly 1.5 million. In France the instance was 2 ½ cases per annum. In the UK between 1869 & 1888 the mortality rate was 1.59 cases per million.
This was an era when almost 6,000 people died of diarrhoeal complaints annually. In the damp and mouldy tenements of New York an average of 9,000 children a year died. It therefore seems remarkable that an increase of hydrophobia victims from 3 2/3 cases to 5 or 6 deaths per annum would have such a dramatic impact!
Additionally the medical profession had begun to doubt whether all the victims were in fact genuine cases. This was still a time when the disease was not fully understood and it would not be until 1885 a breakthrough came due to the efforts of Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux.
New York became "wild with fright"
In 1874 Doctors wondered why so few cases – 5 at the most - were sufficient for Brooklyn and New York to go ‘wild with fright’. The medical profession were already talking of a condition known as pseudo-hydrophobia or hysterical derangement where the victim lived in such terror of getting the disease they died of convulsions from fright. Francis Butler was apparently suspected of this condition along with one other doubtful case.
Apparently dogs had only to wink an eye or to be chased by street boys to be declared mad, leading to policemen clubbing dogs to death. Increasingly people died of pseudo-hydrophobia and deaths attributed to the disease were often found to actually be the result of intemperance, convulsions tetanic (a result of tetanus), meningitis, and so forth. Bizarre remedies were sought one man claimed to have cured his son of rabies with a ‘mad-stone’ now valued at $50. A doctor at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York cured a teenager, who erroneously believed he had hydrophobia, by tying him to the bed and spanking him with a wooden splint normally used for broken limbs. An elderly doctor declared ‘it is a wonder we live at all, we are so afraid of everything’.
In November 1876, following the deaths of two German men living in a shanty on 68th St from hydrophobia, blamed on their Spitz dogs, an article titled ‘A venomous beast’ appeared in the New York Times. The charge this time was almost laughable naming the four most venomous beasts in the United States as‘ the rattlesnake, the copperhead, the moccasin and the Spitz dog’. It stated the Spitz was devoted to ‘thinning out the human race by inoculating with hydrophobia’.
There is evidence that for a number of years following all this bad press the Spitz was persecuted and often clubbed to death, poisoned or shot by a panicky public.
Meanwhile the City authorities took note and although stopping short of banning the breed an ordinance was passed to deal with the overall problem of stray dogs. Previously in 1874 they adopted a license and muzzling law that proved to be unpopular, as a bounty of 50 cents for every offending dog turned in at the pound, resulted in an epidemic of dog theft. Half a dollar could buy a man several whiskies at that time! A short article about the law did include the information that several ‘pretty little Spitz dogs’ impounded were now claimed.
The License Law Ordinance of 1877 basically required all dogs on public streets to be accompanied by a human and conducted by means of a dog collar attached to stout string. License details were to be attached to the collar on a nickel- plated card. Any dogs not on the end of a leash or unlicensed were ‘to be arrested by official dog catchers and punished by death’.
In June an article renewed the attack on the Spitz dog. He was described as loathsome and continuing to insult licensed dogs whenever he could. His attitude was compared to a notorious murderer who laughed at the prospect of the gallows, as he bites without ‘the slightest fear of punishment’. The article closes by asserting ‘the ordinance must be enforced, if only to show the Spitz that he is not more powerful than the City Government’. Again, one might wonder if this is a dog or a person being discussed!
A man called Mr Bergh was entrusted with the job of ‘punishing by death’ but had yet to decide on the most humane method – he was considering suffocation with carbonic acid, drowning and blowing the dogs up with dynamite!
From the July 6th edition – Destroying of the dogs. This article is graphic and hard for the modern reader to work through without shedding a tear. Essentially an iron cage had been made seven feet long, four feet high and five feet wide and 759 adult dogs and 23 puppies were installed inside in batches of 48, taken to the river and drowned. A large crowd had gathered to witness the execution. Twenty dogs considered to be of some value by the pound keeper were spared. The carcasses were taken to a nearby rendering plant and the pelts were valued at $1 each.
The article ends with yet another rant about the Spitz dogs – although only about 47 in number they allegedly accounted for most of the severe bites to employees. Of 48 men bitten 39 were bitten by Spitz.
There are no reports that any of these mauled men contracted hydrophobia! A theory promoted later was that dog -catchers were bitten so often they were immune to rabies. It does, however, demonstrate the rarity of genuine rabies as it’s unlikely they had immunity.
Dog-catchers worked on a productivity scheme where income was proportionate to dogs turned in at the pound. These people were apparently from ‘the roughest class’ and were also armed with guns. Through the years there were countless incidents where they actually grabbed dogs out of people’s arms, went into gardens and homes and seized animals. If challenged by the dog owners, often, for a $2 fee the dog was returned with the advice to adorn it with a red ribbon to avoid further encounters.
Neighbourhood riots sometimes occurred such as the fiasco in 1886 when Mr Weissbaum, a fish merchant went to the defence of his Spitz dog. The dog catchers tried to seize the dog, peacefully eating a fish head in the gutter outside his owner’s shop, and members of the Polish and Jewish community set to on them, the catcher’s cart was over-turned and caught dogs were liberated, a shot was fired and the whole lot ended up in the court-room later that day.
By April 28th 1878 the town of Long Branch forbid Spitz dogs within corporate limits and urged citizens or Marshals to kill any Spitz found within city limits. This may have been the first breed specific civic ordinance.
How the world of dog showing became involved...
At this stage the world of dog showing became involved.Also on April 28th 1878 a very interesting article gave details of the forthcoming 2nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Show. Ominously it also stated 'several persons have tried to enter Spitz dogs, but have been refused’. This did not escape the attentions of the dog showing world and others! Vale Nicholas wrote this in his contribution to the Kennel Encyclopaedia in 1907:
' In America the opinion was so deeply rooted that they were prone to develop rabies, that no entries of Pomeranians were accepted at the New York Show for a year or two after 1880.' In fact the refusal of entries was prior to 1880.
Rawdon Lee’s book (1894) writes of the Pomeranian or Spitz dog:
A few years ago there was a mad dog scare in New York, and in some quarters the origin was said to be traced to the Spitz dogs, a great many of which were destroyed without any proof being forthcoming either one way or another’.
Harrison Weir wrote an article in the London Standard in 1889, which was picked up by the New York Times in October, dealing with canine madness in which he writes
‘I am told the Pomeranian is an uncertain dog and in some countries is not allowed’.
The Westminster Kennel club held their inaugural show the previous year. It was limited to a few select Sporting breeds and spurred on by this success the club decided to open the show up to other breeds. The Field magazine in England (edited by Stonehenge - J Walsh) had publicised the show and wealthy fanciers sent entries over by steamer. Two collies, valued at $20,000, had been directly imported for the show from the kennels of the Queen of England! This was to be a grand society event. The crème de la crème of American dog fanciers were to exhibit or attend. The last thing the club needed was mass hysteria brought about by the mere presence of a Spitz dog. Understandably they were banned. It is doubtful a judge would even want to go over a Spitz after all the scare- mongering of the press.
This decision met with approval, and by 1884 an article in the New York Times appeared about the ‘moral mission’ of dog shows, noting that by ‘catering to popular prejudice’ the founders of shows ‘might have encouraged the breeding of Spitzes’ but having declined to do so (by refusing them entry at shows) the Spitz is now generally thought of as ‘ no better than a cur’.
A Spitz, called Chubb, had won a prize in 1876 at a show in Springfield. However, it was not until probably 1894 that, under the alternative name – Pomeranian – that a Spitz dog would be exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
German Toy Pomeranians
Meanwhile, a trend was developing in England to import small Pomeranians from Germany (mostly from the Mannheim area) and Italy. The German dogs were often marketed in mail order catalogues. A show organised by Charles Cruft at St Stephen’s Hall in 1886 for Toy Dogs tantalised the public by advertising in the show catalogue, that next month’s Pet Dog Journal, would feature portraits of ‘German Toy Pomeranians’. The term Toy was used at this time and they are described as Toy Pomeranians in the Kennel Club Stud Book of 1897. Zwergspitz, the name used by the Germans for this size, translated as dwarf spitz.
In 1888 no less a personage than the Queen of England became interested in the smaller size, having had no previous interest in the larger specimens.
Queen Victoria probably did more to speed up the rehabilitation of the Spitz in America than any other person. In November 1894 there was an article in the New York Times about her dogs in which Gina was referred to as a 7½ lb Toy Pomeranian from Italy and Marco (12lb size) was deemed to be the finest Spitz dog in England’. Some believe Marco originated in Germany and not Florence, so this may be why he was called a Spitz. Toy Poms had become increasingly popular throughout the 1880s and writers extolled their sweet dispositions and good temperament – so it is no wonder they were liked!
There was not a word of criticism about the Queen’s Spitz in the press!
Also in 1888 the American Kennel Club permitted the registration of the breed under the designation of Pomeranian. Perhaps they noted the Queen’s interest. Now the Pomeranian or Spitz dog would be shown as a Pomeranian, as they were in Britain.
The society ladies of New York took a passion for the diminutive Toy Pomeranians and they became ‘the’ dog to own. From the late 1890’s English breeders, joined the ranks of those who exported Poms and enormous sums of money changed hands. The traditional size Pomeranian had never been fully embraced by American Show exhibitors even after they were admitted back in to the show ring. The smaller size also appealed to women who increasingly swelled the ranks of the show world.
The problem caused by the Toy size was a swing by breeders and enthusiasts away from the over 8lb size. Changes in the allocation of top awards by the British KC in 1904 and 1915 did little to help the larger size. In America, from about 1900, small Poms were frequently exhibited at dog shows, winning and dominating the American Pomeranian Club Shows held after 1911. Some over 8lb dogs were exhibited but fewer classes were scheduled for them. Before long the division was reduced to 7lb.
In both America and Britain fanciers of the larger size Pom or Spitz Dog found themselves with dogs that no longer appealed to judges even though they were entitled to compete and were popular with the public – a sort of canine limbo.
As dog showing became increasingly popular pedigree dogs rose in value. The various Kennel Clubs became increasingly fussy about registrations, breed designations and breed standards. In America the breed registry for Poms apparently closed with the formation of the American Pomeranian Club in 1901. This meant that any Pomeranians not registered by that date would not be admitted into the breed. Some oversize Poms were registered but most would have been unregistered dogs.
What happened to the larger Pomeranians?
Breed authority, Herr Albert Kull, mentioned three sizes existed in Germany in 1898 ‘the great or carter’s Pomeranian, the medium sized and the dwarf Pomeranian’. Eventually the dwarf size (Zwergspitz) applied to the modern Pomeranian, the old dwarf size became the small Pomeranian (Kleinspitz), the typical 18th and 19th century Pomeranian became the medium or great size (Mittelspitz or Gross Spitz) and the larger Keeshond type is known as the Wolfspitz.
It would have been much easier for enthusiasts in both America and England if the Pomeranian or Spitz dog had been re-designated in a similar way – or like Schnauzers or Poodles divided into 3 sizes. Far less confusing!
In Britain they continued to be called the Pomeranian and for a while the under 7lb size was called the Toy Pomeranian. This eventually stopped. In 1985 the British KC, as a result of a lengthy lobbying campaign to re-establish the over 7lb size, responded by recognising the German Spitz Klein or Mittel, this being in keeping with European convention (provided existing Pom stock had a prescribed infusion of certain recently imported European Spitz stock). They are not subject to weight guidelines but must conform to a regulation height at the shoulder. Prior to this date incoming small or medium size German Spitz or Keeshonden were registered as Pomeranians.
Evidence suggests the solution in America was to re-brand the larger white size, commencing in 1913 with the UKC recognising them as the German or American Spitz dog. The white coloured dogs appear to have enjoyed the greatest popularity from the 1850’s onwards and despite the bad press continued to have a large fan base. The traditional type was a more sensible size for most families, and undoubtedly there were lingering associations of this dog as a high status canine.
Perhaps the last character attack in the press was dealt by the reviewer of a new book called ‘House and Pet Dogs’ published in 1890. The book had a short anecdote about the loyalty of Pomeranian or Spitz dogs and also dared to raise the issue of the mad dog scare ‘ ‘then came the hue and cry (principally raised by certain New York papers) ‘down with the Spitz’, ‘rabies’, ‘another victim’, and all that sort of talk. We never believed so much bad of him. If he had been shorn of his long hair in the summer and kept cool, he would have remained as sane as any other dog’.
The book reviewer retaliated with a vigorous attempt at justifying previous events. ‘Give a dog a bad name, and his fate is doomed’ he stated, and then mentioned Spitzes/Pomeranians are black listed by many. He confessed to a ‘positive dread of the Pomeranian’ and continued, that although noble looking, he had cruel propensities, and was best fit for a ‘brewery yard’, or led about muzzled and leashed by a heavy chain. American breweries were typically established by Germans, who no doubt, also favoured dogs of German ancestry.
They had been enjoying good publicity in recent times - the children of the future King George V were photographed with an old type white Pom or Spitz. Actresses such as Ellen Terry featured on postcards embracing their white Spitz. Postcards often featured them doing tricks and some performed in circuses. There were even Actress Classes scheduled at some shows where Poms were exhibited. The public loved them – there are hundreds of postcards featuring a variety of size and type generated from this era.
Further evidence the breed was virtually rehabilitated came with the publication, in 1905, in the newspaper of a light-hearted poem sent to the editor. It was about a German called Fritz with a German dog – a Spitz. Fritz said he was a good dog who never bit and it was just canine temper that affected him not hydrophobic fits. This time there was no editorial comment!
Unfortunately in 1908 there was another hydrophobia scare! The New York Times very sensibly urged the public to be sensible and fair to the dogs. They pointed out there were no facts to substantiate the latest worry, and, the recent death of a man was from hysterical derangement caused by fear of hydrophobia. This was indeed a change of heart by the newspaper, having once noted, they were the first to alert the public to the connection of Spitz dogs and rabies.
Spitz dogs were not singled out this time. In fact one article criticised another paper for stirring up the public, referring to their story as ‘a case of newspaper hydrophobia’. Some parties at this time blamed mad dog scares on vivisectionists and believed dogs not destroyed were handed over for experimentation.
By 1913 the motivations to re-brand the traditional white Pom may have included any of these factors. They were popular but mostly unregistered. There was little point in trying to lobby for the re-opening of the breed registry to include unregistered larger specimens due to the spectacular popularity of the small Poms and the trend for small dogs. Furthermore, no breeder had been able to successfully downsize pure white Poms – in Miss Ives book (4th edition 1929) is a clear statement about this fact. Attempts had been on-going for years, Miss Hamilton was said to have devoted herself to this task for years. Her smaller specimens were disappointing, deficient in coat, lacking ‘real type and the buoyant disposition of the breed’ and were ‘sad, little pathetic creatures’. Many years later, Miss Barrow tried to reduce pure white strains and was also disappointed. It would serve no purpose by adding more large whites to the existing registered white gene pool.
...a rose by any other name
The obvious solution was to categorise traditional whites by another name … a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.
In America the larger white Pomeranian or Spitz eventually became the American Eskimo Dog but first it was classified as an American or German Spitz. (There are references to German Spitz in the New York Times archives as late as the 1930’s).
According to the UKC website they recognised the American Eskimo dog in 1913 but not by that name – they mention they were originally called the German Spitz, but do not clarify if this is what the UKC called them, however, many breeders feel the original 1913 name was the American Spitz and not the German Spitz. The name American Eskimo Dog was first used in 1917 (by which time Mr and Mrs Hall of Pittsburgh had a 3 generation pedigree dating back to 1910), and of course in that year America joined in World War One – which raged since 1914. According to German Spitz expert Britta Schweikl the name American Eskimo dog was the official name as of 1923. Please note, this breed is not to be confused with the Eskimo Dog, originally called the Esquimax, and by this name was often exhibited at 19th century dog shows alongside Pomeranians or Spitz dogs.
There is a general feeling the final name change to American Eskimo dog was because of anti-German sentiment and this may true. Allegations of this sort were bandied back forward at this time. Kaiser Wilhelm II was famously anti- English and blamed their doctors for killing his father and crippling his own arm. Although the grandson of Queen Victoria, he declared (circa 1879) after a nose bleed that it was ‘good to be rid of this damned English blood’. (Queen Victoria -C. Hibbert, 2000)
However, the visit on June 28th 1913 of Baroness Ursula von Kalinowski of Wiesbaden to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, accompanied by two dogs one of them being a Spitz given to her as a gift by the German Emperor, did not result in any adverse criticism by the press of either the dog or its previous owner.
The Kaiser's relative Koenig Wilhelm II of Wuerttemberg, was photographed around 1910, with his two white Spitz dogs, Ali and Rubi. He obtained them from the Wuerttemberg region, an area long famed for its beautiful Spitz of various sizes and colours. In 2006 there was a German tribute to the history of Wuerttemberg. Koenig Wilhelm was portrayed with his famous dogs - two Mittel Spitz were recruited to play the part of the King’s dogs).
The King’s dogs resemble the beautiful white Pomeranians exhibited at the turn of the century by Miss Chell of Belper kennel fame (left photo). Miss Chell’s dogs are very similar to many American Eskimo Dogs that can be seen today on websites and in books. In 1878, Walsh made note of the eye colour of the Pomeranian, dark or hazel. Eskies even today can be seen with lighter eye colour. Other slight changes are more to do with breed standards as each country has their own preference. A modern American Pom is noticeably different from its British counterpart – there are differences in type, and styles within the concept of type. The modern Eskie is slightly different in type to a Mittel Spitz or Gross Spitz for the same reason.
...the hidden past of the American Eskimo Dog
Hopefully, this rather lengthy article has finally accounted for the ‘hidden’ past of the American Eskimo Dog. It seems re-branding, and efforts to distance the breed from the adverse press of the late 1870’s, has been so successful that today the only reason submitted for the name change is ‘anti-German sentiment’. Any residual stigma from the mad dog scare would be for the Spitz dog, not the American Eskimo Dog. It was therefore a clever move to drop the 1913 name that still involved the Spitz word. No book gives a satisfactory explanation of how the imported German Spitz of the 1800’s became the American Eskimo Dog and these findings may fill in the gaps.
Another important aspect to be considered is the affect of breed specific targeting by authorities as well as the public. In this case historical references to a tendency to snappishness were maximised to great advantage. Natural traits of the breed (for instance a love of working off energy by dashing around madly for a few minutes – called appropriately ‘a bezerker’ by author H. Jones) were clearly viewed as signs of madness. Canine diseases such as epilepsy, hysteria (proven in the 1940’s to have been caused by chemical agents formerly used in flour making – biscuits and kibble) and personality disorders, may have accounted for odd behaviour. There was no hard evidence at all that the white Spitz dogs were pre-disposed to rabies!
Please visit the incredible and fascinating archives of The New York Times – become a member and read the original reports. Once on the archive page put ‘Hydrophobia’ -- ‘Spitz Dog’ or ‘ Spitz Dogs’ in their site search to learn more about these subjects.
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