What Were Pomeranians Bred For? Pomeranian History Explained
By Luxifa Le
Pomeranians have a striking, cute appearance with fuzzy hair that makes them look like little pompoms. While they may have a similar appearance to pompons (a French word describing decorative balls of fabric or feathers), they actually get their name from the Pomerania region of West Poland and North-East Germany. It can be hard to imagine that toy dogs like Pomeranians and Yorkies can have jobs, but most dog breeds we have today at least started out as working dogs before they became popular companions.
So, what is the history of the Pomeranian breed? What job were they bred for? Let’s take a look!
The Short Answer
The most straightforward answer is that Pomeranians were bred for companionship. Today’s Pomeranians are most similar to the companion Pomeranians born after Queen Victoria’s relatively small Pomeranian—whose name is unknown but is thought to be “Windsor’s Marco”—rose to fame as a royal dog.
However, Pomeranians have a long history in Europe that extends far beyond today’s toy dogs. The original Pomeranians were much larger. These Pomeranians were bred for pulling sleds, guarding homes, and herding livestock. While Pomeranians now weigh about 4–7 pounds in adulthood, the Pomeranians that lived in Pomerania were stocky, large, and muscular.
Why Did We Start Breeding Toy Pomeranians?
The now-standard toy-sized Pomeranian is the result of selective breeding of smaller Pomeranian dogs to produce progressively smaller dogs. Queen Victoria first exhibited Windsor’s Marco in 1891, and small Pomeranians were an instant hit amongst dog fanciers. However, the royal ownership of Pomeranians goes back to her grandmother, Queen Charlotte.
Queen Charlotte was Queen-consort to King George III of Great Britain. When she first came to Great Britain, she brought with her two Pomeranians named Phoebe and Mercury. The dogs were depicted in paintings by Sir Thomas Gainsborough, and these paintings depict dogs much larger than the modern breed; they reportedly weighed 30–50 pounds, a much greater weight than the standard 4–7 pounds we see today. However, these dogs had the same heavy, puffy coat, pointed ears, and tail curled over the back that we now see in the modern breed standard.
Queen Charlotte’s granddaughter, Queen Victoria, was no stranger to the Pomeranian breed changing in size. It’s reported that the standard size of Pomeranians had decreased by 50% during her lifetime alone. When her small-Pomeranian achieved hit success amongst dog breeders, she began importing smaller Pomeranian specimens to start selectively breeding Pomeranians of small stature.
She also imported dogs of many color variations from other European countries to increase diversity in her breeding program. Royal owners of Queen Victoria’s Pomeranians included Joséphine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon I of France, and King George IV of the United Kingdom.
Toy Pomeranians in the 1900s
The first breed club for Pomeranians was set up in England in 1891, and the breed standard for them was written up shortly thereafter. The first member of the breed to be registered in America was registered to the American Kennel Club in 1898. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club starting in 1900.
By 1912, the dogs were popular amongst the rich folks, and at least two were present on the RMS Titanic when it sank. Two Pomeranians were among the only three dogs to survive the ship’s sinking; a Pomeranian named “Lady” was taken on lifeboat number seven by Miss Margaret Hays, and Elizabeth Barret Rothschild took her Pomeranian to safety aboard lifeboat number six.
Moving forward into 1926, the first Pomeranian to win the Toy Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, marking the first time a Pomeranian won a group at Westminster. It wouldn’t be for another 60 years for a Pomeranian named “Great Elms Prince Charming II” to win the Best in Show prize from the Westminster Kennel Club.
In the 1998 Standard, the Pomeranian was included in the German Spitz Standard and the Keeshond according to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale. These standard states that the “Spitz breeds are captivating” and have a “unique characteristic, cheeky appearance.”
While the breed maintains separation from the German Spitz and the Keeshond in the American Standard, the three dogs are similar in structure and appearance, and all share the same lineage. Indeed, German Spitz and Keeshonds often look like bigger Pomeranians (or do Pomeranians look like tiny German Spitzes?) to the point where the Pomeranian is called the “Zwergspitz” or “Dwarf Spitz” in many countries, including Germany where their ancestors were bred and raised.
A History of Luxury
The Pomeranians we know today have been leading a life of luxury since their breeding first began. Beginning with the dogs of Queen Charlotte and Queen Victoria, these dogs have been popular companions and show dogs. Since then, they’ve been loved by many famous people worldwide. Here’s a quick list of famous people who have owned Pomeranians.
- Marie Antoinette
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (who composed an aria for his Pom, Pimperl)
- Charles Friedrich Abel (another Pom owner whose Poms were painted by Thomas Gainsborough)
- Martin Luther
- Charles Darwin
- Michaelangelo (His Pomeranian was said to have sat on a silk pillow and watched him paint the Sistine Chapel.)
- Sir Isaac Newton
- Frédéric Chopin (Another composer who penned a composition for a Pomeranian.)
- Emile Zola
- Harry Houdini
- Jean Harlow
- Kimora le Simmons
- Sasha Cohen
- Elvis Presley
- Fran Drescher
- Kate Hudson
- Paris Hilton
- Nicole Richie
- Tammy Wynette
- Britney Spears
- Sharon Osbourne
- David Hasselhoff
- Jeff Hanneman
- Humberto Gonzalez
- Pauline Rubio
- Maria Sharapova
- Brittany Taylor
- Holly Madison
- Hilary Duff
- Haylie Duff
- Chanelle Hayes
- Geri Halliwell
- Dee Winfield
- LeeAnn Rimes
- Cindy Williams
- Daishi Kainaga
- Irene Handle
- Jessica Alba
- Liza Minnelli
- Samantha Mumba
- Goldie Hawn
- Courtney Love
- Bill Cosby
- Keanu Reeves
- Cynthia Bailey
- Gavin Rossdale
So, as you can see, Pomeranians have remained a popular dog amongst the upper class even today.
Pomeranians can win any heart with their adorable faces, and they deliver on the “captivating” portion of their breed standard with their spectacular appearance and huge personalities. So, it’s no wonder they have such a decorated history as royal dogs. If you love these adorable teddy bear dogs, you’re in good company, as they seem to be beloved by those who become rich and famous!
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Featured Image Credit: John-Michael, Pixabay