by Doris Donnerman
(last updated August 17, 2009)
Once the symbol of a political party in Holland, the Keeshond is an interesting little dog which, through sheer personality and beauty, has found a place in the hearts of American dog lovers. Subject of considerable controversy concerning color and type, the breed has now settled into a definite type, and while solid blacks and solid whites sometimes occur, the accepted color is silver grey with black tipped hair.
Known to be an old breed in its native Holland, the Keeshond was introduced into England in 1900 as a "Dutch Barge Dog" and registered as such by the Kennel Club. The name was officially changed to Keeshond in 1926.
The breed began to find favor among British fanciers. This revived interest in Holland, where the breed had, for some time, been neglected. Keeshond breeding activities on the native soil of the breed took on increased vigor.
Many years before, these little dogs were to be seen on the decks of practically every barge in the Dutch canals, and they were also quite prevalent on the farms of the country. There has been, through the intervening years, a considerable change in type, to such an extent that at one time two different standards were considered. Nevertheless, the Keeshond continues, in general, to reflect the fine characteristics of the old barge dogs.
The story of the origin of the Keeshond's name has a varied flavor. The name is said to be taken from that of Cornel is de Gyselaer, a leader of the political party called "The Patriots" during the time of Holland's internal strife in the middle of the eighteenth century. "Kees" is short for the Dutch Christian name "Cornelis." Another version has it that de Gyselaer was a dog lover and had a little dog named "Kees." This dog was his constant companion and struck the fancy of his followers, who adopted it as their symbol, in opposition to the Pug, which was the mascot of the opposing party led by the Prince of Orange. When the "Orangists" came into power, the breed had become so closely identified with "The Patriots" party that many members of that organization were somewhat fearful of owning them and disposed of their dogs. Only the steadfast maintained the breed. It has, also, been argued that the name had no connection whatever with de Gyselaer or his dog, "Kees," and the dogs were called Keeshonden long before the patriot leader came into the political limelight.
At one time the breed was known as "Fox dog" and, for a while, "Overweight Pomeranian." There is little doubt that the dog came from the same strains that produced the Samoyed, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Chow Chow, the Finnish Spitz, and the Pomeranian. Some authorities have held that the Keeshond is the direct ancestor of the Pomeranian.
While the dog has always been used mainly as a companion and guard, it is said to be a keen ratter and rabbiter if the owner chooses to point its energies in that direction. The Keeshond is noted for its adaptability and can be easily trained to many uses.
One of its main attractions is its magnificent coat, which is waterproof, does not mat, and requires little grooming. It was once the custom in Holland to shave a Keeshond in the fashion of a Poodle, but that practice has been discontinued.
It is a reliable dog with children, although extremely sensitive and, if not properly handled, is inclined to become somewhat timid. He is friendly and outgoing towards people and other dogs.
In general appearance the Keeshond has a short, compact body, has an alert carriage. The head is fox like, with small pointed ears. The tail is well-feathered, and curling. The ideal height for the male is eighteen inches and seventeen inches for the female.
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