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The peoples of this Scandinavian region cultivated a working relationship with these hardy, energetic, and intelligent dogs, and soon canine helped human to more efficiently hunt his meals, herd his flocks, and drag his belongings over harsh, frozen terrain. Additionally, they kept each other warm during cold nights and alerted their humans the presence of possibly dangerous intruders. Eventually, as people of today can attest, companionship developed out of this working bond, and so began the path toward today’s Pomeranian.
The specifics of how the Toy Pomeranian was actually developed is one of history’s mysteries. Although true breed types as we recognise today them today were not defined as such until the Victorian era, companion and working dogs who were the ancestors of the Pom have been present for several centuries.
Out of Lapland, Finland, Iceland, and Siberia, people followed the trade routes around the Baltic Sea to an area of Prussia, bringing with them their Nordic dogs. They settled into Pommern, or the future Pomerania, a land between what is now Germany and Poland. It is likely, that during the Middle Ages, these hardy, useful dogs were introduced into Germany and Holland through the marauding escapades of Viking warriors into these areas. From here, the perky-eared, bushy-coated dogs spread throughout central Europe and Italy.
In general, these early Pomeranian dogs were white or whitish-biscuit coloured. Farther south, they tended to be darker in colour, mostly brown, black, or a mix. They weighed about 13.5kg (30 lbs), possibly ranging up to 15.75kg (35lbs) or even 18kg (40lbs). These dogs had larger ears and longer muzzles, and were longer in body type than what is typically seen in Nordic breeds of the present.
A Spitz By Any Other Name
In 1540, Count Eberhand zu Sayne is recorded as the first to denote the term “Spitz” for this ever-expanding group of Nordic dogs utilised in Germany as drafters, herders and companions. The word spitz in Germany roughly translates to “sharp point”, an apt description for the appearance of this group’s head, ears, and face. He also described them as not good for hunting, but devoted to the protection of their owners and homes.
During this time there were many different colours and size of dogs, with names related to the region from which they came. They were also divided into types by size and still recognised as such today: Wolfspitz, the gian spitz; Gross Spitz, the large spitz; mittelspitz, the standard or middle size; Kleinspitz, small; and, Zwergspitz, the dward, or toy, size.
The Wolfspitz is sometimes recognised as the Keeshond, called the “overweight Pom” in Holland. The Pomeranian has been known by various names, including the Victorian Pom, the Mini German Spitz, and in France, the Loulou Pomeranie, after a Baltic region where it is believed that some Pom types developed.
Other theories purport that the Pomeranian actually was developed still farther south, in Wurttemberg, Germany, where, like their northern cousins, they were sill used to herd and pull carts. Colour differences began to emerge in different regions, with records indicating that by the end of the 17th century, black and brown spitz could be found in Wurttemberg while large, white Spitz dogs were being cultivated in Pomerania.
No matter where Poms got their start, Great Britain can mostly be credited with the development of the toy dog breed of today. After seeing the dogs in Italy, Queen Charlotte was the first to import white Spitz in 1760 from Pomerania, choosing the region’s dogs because of their reputation for quality. The Queen referred to her dogs, Phoebe and Mercury, as Pomeranians, but only because she obtained them there.
During the 1800s, Spitz dogs became quite popular in Britain. These forerunners of today’s Pom weighed between 9 and 13.5kg (20 and 30lbs), and stood about 45.7cm (18 inch) high at the shoulder. These dogs were the first Poms recognised by the Kennel Club in 1870, and allowed to compete in the breed ring.
In 1888, Queen Victoria, probably influenced by her grandmother, Queen Charlotte, brought in some smaller “Pomeranians” from Italy: Windsor’s Marco, who was reported to be a 5.4kg (12lb) red sable; and Gina. Both of these dogs won top honours at dog shows, generating great interest in this tiny version of the Pomeranian.
Victoria also had considerable influence on the development of the breed, both in name and size. Artwork from the period illustrates a preference for the smaller breed, with the Pom depicted as small enough to stand on a book, or being the same height as a garden step.
In their early show days, and for about the next two decades, all sizes of Spitzes were shown together in the same class. The smaller (about 4.5kg or 10lbs) and more refined looking dogs were referred to as “sports”. In 1891, the English Pomeranian Club was founded, and by 1896 was conducting shows for two classes of Pom size: over 8lbs (3.6kg); and under 8lbs, with this distinction eventually being reclassified to 7lbs (3.15kg). It was during this time that the smaller dogs came to be known officially as Pomeranians.
As the popularity of the smaller dogs grew, that of the larger ones declined. The problem was that dogs of both sizes came from the same litters. Breed fanciers of the era tried to establish the tinier Pom by breeding similarly-sized dogs to each other. Despite these initial efforts, the small dogs still produced larger-sized pups, with a variety of sizes showing up in most litters.
Additionally, dogs weighing as little as 3lbs (1.35kg) were also being born. These “flyweights” were shown along with the larger size Spitzes/Poms, which resulted in a demand for the miniature dogs. Such tiny pups were the exception, as most Poms were born weighing in the typically larger size ranges.
Litters of varying size pups continued to plague breeders during the late Victorian era, but the popularity of the small Poms encouraged their efforts to consistently produce dogs whose adult weight would be less than 10lbs (4.5kg). By the 1930s, about the time the dog was gaining in popularity in America, repeatable results in setting consistent type finally began to emerge.
History Of The Pomeranian In The US
Pomeranians found their way across the ocean to the US during the Victorian era, with the first dog listed with the American Kennel Club (AKC) sometime in the 1880s. The first Pomeranian show in the States took place about 1892. The first Pom registered with the AKC was Dick in 1898, with the breed receiving full recognition in 1900. The first American Pomeranian Club (APC) was founded by Mrs Frank Smyth and Mrs Hartley Williamson, and was recognised by the AKC as the breed’s parent club in 1909. The Club held its first breed speciality show in 1911.
At that time, AKC show classes were also divided by size: over and under 8lbs (3.6 kg). Breeders in the States, like their British counterparts, had problems maintaining a consistently smaller-sized dog. Just as in the United Kingdom, the smaller version Pom was the most popular size in the US.
In their efforts to set the standard type of a smaller dog, breeders noticed that white Poms tended to produce larger offspring. Breeding a white Pom to another white Pom not only resulted in larger pups, but the pups also had larger ears and longer muzzles. Consequently, breeders steered away from using white Poms in their programs and mostly used red dogs. Following the fashion of the earlier Victorian fanciers, these reddish dogs increased in favor with lovers of the breed.
Eventually, the breeders’ hard work paid off and type became established. The APC’s breed standard for 1916 does not describe an ideal size (weight) for the Pom, but a 1935 revision stated that Poms either over or under 7lbs (3.15 kg) were eligible for judging. Regardless of this suggested classification, by the end of the decade, Poms were shown in a single size class. By 1960, the accepted standard defined the correct size as being between 3 to 7lbs (1.35 to 3.15kg), with the weight range for a show dog set between 4 to 5lbs (1.8 to 2.25kg).
Although the red dog was seen most frequently at conformation shows, the standard still described Poms of many colours. Permissibility of shading and the acceptance of bridling changed throughout the years to what it is today, but colours of the Pom rainbow have always been varied, and spectators now can see these colours displayed in the show ring.
Whatever shade owners preferred, the Pomeranian has always been one of America’s favourite dogs. In the 1930s, registrations for the popular little dog placed him in the top ten most registered breeds. Even throughout both World Wars, fanciers did an admirable job of maintaining the breed, but after WWII, Poms slipped to a lower place in popularity. By 1994 and every year since then, Poms have enjoyed a top-ten spot again, with the AKC registering nearly 40,000 of these cuddly companions each year.
A Positive Influence
Any breed that has flourished like the Pom has had great breeders working hard to produce beautiful, “typey” (i.e, dogs that follow the standard) healthy dogs for generations to come. For Pomeranians, this includes Viola Proctor, Isadore Schoenberg of Artistic Kennels, and Ruth Beam of Great Elm. Outstanding dogs of the past include Mars, Gold, CH Little Emir, CH Artistic Wee Pepper Pod, and CH Great Elms Little Timstopper.
More recently, such individuals as Dorothy Bonner, Edna Girardot of Scotia Poms, Eleanor Miller of Millamor Kennels, Dolly Trauner, Beverly Norris with Bev-Nor, and Olga and Daryl Baker of Jeribeth Kennels have had a guiding or influential hand developing the breed. Additionally, such breeders as Tim and Sue Goddard of Tim Sue Poms, and Tony Cabrera and Fabian Ariente with Starfire Poms continue to influence the breed with their winning dogs.