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Poodles: 'They're Dobermans with hair.'

 

 

 

While walking through the backstage area at Westminster, called the benching area, I came across a Poodle whose hair was tied in little bundles on his head. His name was Grand Champion Deseret Turquoise Elijah, or Elijah for short.

His handler, Julie Pantages from Gloucester, Mass., told me that it, keeps it out of his face and eyes, and it keeps it out of his feed bowl. I asked Pantages why poodles hair was groomed so differently than the other dogs in the dog show. 

 

 

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Handler and groomer Julie Pantages from Gloucester, Mass., holds Grand Champion Deseret Turquoise Elijah at The Westminster Dog Show on Monday, Feb. 14.

"Poodle actually comes from the German word, pudlen, which means puddle. They were originally used as water dogs," Pantages explained. "They were bred in Germany before the French ever bred them. They were used as a water retriever just as a Golden or a Labrador Retriever would be used; they retrieved ducks from the water for the hunters. But they would get bogged down with all their hair while trying to swim in the water. So their legs were shaved to free them up in the water so they could swim more freely. But they would leave hair on their joints to protect their joints from the icy water so they wouldnt get arthritic too young." 

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Pantages says the grooming of Poodles today goes back hundreds of years to when they retrieved birds for hunters in icy waters in Germany.

The hair left on the joints of the hind legs are called bracelets, and the hair on the fore legs are called puffs. The poodles also have balls of hair on their hip bones called pompoms or rosettes. The hair left on the poodles tail was essentially used as a flag so the hunter could see the dog as it swam through the water. The main body of the poodle is covered with a layer of hair called the jacket, and its purpose is to protect the dogs organs from the cold water. 

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

The hair on a poodle's front legs are called puffs, and it was originally used to keep the dog's joints warm while swimming in cold water even though much of the dog had been shaved to reduce drag in the water.

"The Germans actually bred them as party colors, which means they were multiple colors, they were black and white and browns," Pantages said. "It was the French who took them and made them solid colors, and thats how they got the reputation of being a French Poodle, when in actuality theyre a German Poodle.

"They fetch, they go swimming, and they're rough and tumble. They're not froofy at all. They're Dobermans with hair. They're real dogs."

Pantages told me this was Elijahs last show, that he's retiring at only two years old. I wondered if he's looking forward to the normal haircut hed be getting in only a few days.

Check back for our ongoing coverage of the furry underbelly of Westminster Dog Show.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Handler and groomer Julie Pantages from Gloucester, Mass., gets a kiss from Grand Champion Deseret Turquoise Elijah at The Westminster Dog Show on Monday, Feb. 14.