And the answer: poodles.
Associated with French aristocracy in the popular imagination, poodles were bred as water retrievers in Germany. They have a dense, water-resistant layer of curly hair that keeps them warm while swimming without weighing them down. This versatile and intelligent breed has been instrumental in hunting for waterfowl, edible truffles, and performing circus acts.
The name “poodle” actually comes from the German word “pudel,” or “pudelin”—quite literally translating to “splash in the water.” Originally, poodles were bred as waterfowl hunting dogs trained to seek and retrieve ducks for their masters. The dense, water resistant hair of the dogs served as an efficient barrier against cold temperatures, while the poodle’s active temperament made the breed a top choice for German hunters. Interestingly, the stylish poufs of hair now standard to the breed today can be traced back to their origins as water retrievers—poodle hair is so dense that too much would slow it down, yet too little could leave it vulnerable. To solve this problem, poodle owners began leaving large poufs of hair around their joints and torsos.
Poodles are among some of the smartest dog breeds. Historically, poodles have worked as guide dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, sled dogs, and some have even served in the military! Despite that, though, poodles are classified as “non-sporting” dogs according to the American Kennel Club. This is due to the fact that most poodles are kept as pets and show dogs nowadays, although all breeders continue to heed an active lifestyle for these intelligent pets.
Poodle hair never stops growing! Unlike fur, which grows only up to a certain length before shedding, poodles have hair that will continue to grow and become matted if it’s left alone for too long. Talk about a mane of hair!
Learn more about poodles here.