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History of the Keeshond

The Keeshond was previously known as the Dutch Barge Dog, as it was frequently seen on barges traveling the canals and rivers of the Netherlands. The Keeshond was the symbol of the Patriot faction in the Netherlands during political unrest in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution.

In the late 19th century, the breed was developed in England from imports obtained in both the Netherlands and Germany. In 1930, the Keeshond was first registered with the American Kennel Club.


About the Keeshond

The Keeshond is a very old breed, and one of the very few which throughout history have always been raised for family companions and watchdogs. The fact that they have not been bred to hunt, kill animals, attack or chase criminals undoubtedly accounts for their gentle, intelligent devotion to their owners as home-loving dogs with a special fondness for children, for which they are renowned.

The are descendants of the same prehistoric ancestry from which evolved among others, the much larger Samoyeds, Huskies, Norwegian Elkhounds and tiny Pomeranians, and apparently came into Europe with ancient voyagers from the North, a great many centuries ago.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were extensively used as watchdogs on river boats, farms, and barges and were known in Germany as "Wolfspitzen"; in France as "Chiens Loup"; in Italy as "Lupini"; and in Holland as "Keeshonden" - pronounced "kayz-hawnd-en," being the Dutch plural. Because of their great popularity and historically political prominence in Holland in the 18th Century, the breed has become known as the "Dutch" Keeshond.

Origin of the Word "Keeshond"

Keeshonden had appeared in England in the late 1800s under such names as "Fox-dogs," "overweight Pomeranians" and "Dutch Barge Dogs." After the turn of the 20th century, Mrs. Wingfield Digby of Sherborne Castle, Dorset, and Mrs. Alice Gatacre, a Dutch breed authority residing in Devon, aroused great and continuing interest in the breed through their European imports and their "Van Zaandam" and "Guelder" kennels in England. An English breed Club was formed in 1926 with "Keeshonds" becoming the official breed name, and with few exceptions the Keeshonden in the U.S. stem from British breeding.

The first Keeshond was registered with The American Kennel Club in 1930 under "Keeshonden," in the Non-Sporting Group and The Keeshond Club of America, as it was later named, was organized in 1935.

The breed progressed slowly but steadily in the U.S. until after the end of World War II. Since then, it was gone ahead by leaps and bounds as the exceptional qualities of these sensible, all-around family dogs have become more generally known and acclaimed by pet owners, breeders, bench show exhibitors and obedience enthusiasts.


Through The Ages

Keeshonden Through the Ages
Admitted to AKC Registration in 1930
Deborah A. Lynch

1400 – 1500 AD

Farmers keep dogs, but one type barks to warn off strangers and will also play with children. They have off standing coats, and upright ears and are called by various names including Wolfspitz.

1600 – 1800 AD

The reputation of silver and black spitz dogs spreads throughout Europe. Families on farms and river boats treasure the dogs that leap from ship to shore, bark at strangers and watch over children. On farms the dogs also herd sheep and chase vermin. In Germany, they are called “Wolfspitzen”, France “Chien Loup”, Italy “Lupini” and in Holland Keeshonden.

1900 – 2012

Two women and one man play significant roles bringing the Keeshond to the attention of Europe, Great Britain and the United States. Baroness Van Hardenbroeck forms the Nederlandse Keeshond Club in 1924. In 1910 Lady Gwendolyn Wingfield Digby, discovers Keeshonden yachting in Holland. She advocates with the Kennel Club and Keeshond are recognized in 1926.

In 1923 Carl Hinderer brings his Schloss Adelburg Kennel from Germany to America. Carl is persistent in gaining AKC recognition. In 1930, on his way to Germany he persuades AKC President, Dr. DeMond to meet with him. He presents German Champion Wachter to Dr. DeMond who is so impressed Keeshonden are admitted to AKC Registration that year.

Today the Keeshond still shines as the ideal family dog, ever versatile Kees are recognized as outstanding obedience, agility and rally dogs and have been named as a premier therapy dog for autistic children. But then they have been practicing that role for centuries.

You can view many historic keeshond magazines, clippings and images here:

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