The First PON Specialty Show in Bydgoszcz was a great opportunity to introduce breeders and fans to a few theories on the subject of the origin of the breed, as well as to present fragments of written sources relating to breeding of these dogs.
Since ancient times, tribes of shepherds and breeders kept dogs to guard and herd flocks of cattle and sheep. Larger and stronger dogs protected animals from predators and robbers. Middle sized dogs were used to keep herds within the borders of the pasture, finding lost heads and herding them back to the flock. The group of middle sized European sheepdogs consisted of: Russian, Polish lowland, Hungarian puli, old German (called herding puddle), small Pyrenees, and Picardy. These dogs exhibited long shaggy coats covering the body, head and muzzle, and were bred on mountainous and lowland territories from Caucasus to Pirineos Mts. Their prototype was likely a shaggy, medium-sized, Tibet terrier-type dog, the ancestor of a contemporary Tibet terrier. This dog could possibly have come to Europe with nomadic Asian shepherds migrating west during the Neolithic (V-II BC) era. They migrated from the Middle East to the Balkans and from Central Asia along the Caspian and the Black Sea. The above hypothesis is supported by registration notes collected by a tribe originating in Mezopotamia (Sumers tribe) in the second half of the IV century B.C. Names of herding dogs listed in the Sumers notes still exist in Hungarian dog breeds nomenclature. One excerpt states that in one of the breeding farms of 167 cattle heads were kept (6 kumunder) and in the other farm of 620 heads there were 3 puffs, (Mohr E.: Ungarishe Hirtnhunde Luthrstadt 1969). In the IX century, the puli type dog came to the Hungarian plains and the Carpathian Valley from Eastern Europe with the Magyars tribes.
Herding tribes from Dunar and Dnepr territories, originating from the Middle East culture, migrated to Polish territory during Neolithic time. Dog bone fragments found in different archeological sites in varius regions of Poland suggest that the newcomers kept medium sized dogs. Later there are only a few foreign sources mentioning this type of dog. First notes in the native literature relating to breeding animals in Poland were found in XIII century. They originate from farms keeping a flock of sheep (200-300). Supervision of those valuable, frequently imported flocks was provided by shepherds and dogs. Based on those sources it can be assumed that a native herding dog could have been developed already from the nest of dogs kept for generations with the herds.
The existence of an established and valuable working shaggy polish sheepdog in the middle ages is confirmed in a written note from the XVI century found in a P.O. Wilson book entitled "The Bearded Collie" ( London 1971). According to a document from a trade transaction dated in 1514, there were 6 polish sheepdogs on board of a ship that sailed from Gdansk to Scotland. The merchant Kazimierz Grabski intended to exchange grain for Scottish sheep. The dogs role was to separate the 20 chosen sheep (from a flock of 60) and herd them to the cages. The Scottish shepherd impressed by their working skills offered to exchange more sheep for the dogs. Finally two bitches and one stud dog were traded for a ram and ewe. P.O. Wilson states that shaggy dogs were brought to the British Islands from Western Europe around 2000 BC. The Polish Sheepdogs imported to Scotland in the 16th century contributed to the shaping of the contemporary Bearded Collie (similar to our PONs).
The first mention in ancient polish literature about shaggy herding dogs comes from the works of a self-taught, XVIII century biologist priest Jan, Krzysztof Kluk. In his 4 volume work "Zwierzat domowych i dzikich osobliwie krajowych historii naturalnej poczatki i gospodarstwo"(t. I W-wa 1779)
** he stressed the importance of sheepdogs in a shepherd's work. He noted a need for two types of dogs; larger to protect the flock from predators and "poodles" which were almost able to read a shepherd's mind to assemble the sheep. The author calls the native shaggy sheepdog a
"poodle" most likely as an analogy to old German herding dogs Priest Kluk recounting known to him breeds states that ** "Poodles", medium size shaggy dogs are exceptionally intelligent and trainable. The same author, in the book "Zoology - animal book for National Schools"- (Warszawa 1789) observes also that people tried to breed dogs according to similar characteristics i.e. short tail, quality of coat and shape of the muzzle.
Medium size sheepdogs worked on Polesie (region in Poland) pastures own by magnate Anna Jablonowska. In her rules and regulations called "Ustawy powszechne dla dobr moich
rzadcow" (1783-85) she orders 3 shepherds, 2 medium and 2 large dogs for 1000 sheep.
It is known that priest J. K. Kluk from Ciechanowiec writing his books used as a sorce of his information large collection of biological books in Siemiatycze owned by Princess Jablonowska.
His practical knowledge of domestic animal breeding is also greatly attributed to observation of agricultural practices used in the farms of Princess of Siemiatycze. It is very likely that clever "poodles" that priest Kluk recommended to keep in sheep-folds were known to him from farms of Princes Jablonowska.
Oscar Kolberg (1814-1890) polish folklorist and ethnographist in the volume devoted to Podlasie and Lublin regions underlines significance of sheep farms in those areas. He describes farm dogs as a medium size, shaggy, wicked and barking a lot ***. Farmers use them to keep animals and geese off the fields. Sometimes those dogs are trained by peasants to chase a small game.***
In the IV-decade of XIX century, two authors of guide-books for breeders of farm animals also describe herding dogs. J. G. Wyzycki (Science of domestic animals breeding - Warszawa 1838)
writes ** that there is a some variety in the herding dogs. They are usually a medium size, their head is narrow and their ears are pricked. They have a long, soft coat of different colors, most commonly black, black and speckled and less likely white or brown. Pure-bred sheepdogs usually do not need much training..**
S. J. T. Lyszkowski ( Breeding and Veterynary Guide for Farmers - Warszawa 1839) adds that
*** it is important to keep the breed pure to preserve herding instincts and abilities.***
Stanislaw Rewienski in the canine manual (Pies, jego gatunki, rasy,
wychow, utrzymanie, uzytki,ukladanie, choroby i ich leczenie, W-wa 1893) describes the sheepdog as **a medium sized dog with a pointy muzzle, small pricky ears and a shaggy or smooth coat. In the case of a long coat, tufts of hair grow at the tips of ears. The tails are either curled up or bob-tailed.
Color of the coat is usually black or dark chestnut, sometimes dapple**.
To complete the picture of an early sheepdog one should view a wood carving by Stanislaw Maslowski (1882). There is a small , bobtailed dog standing by a shepherd boy. The short tail undoubtably is a natural phenomenon because it is very unlikely that in the past farmers would dock tails of their dogs.
In XIX century, dog shows were organized as a part of farming animal fairs to popularize the
valuable herding sheepdogs. These shows took place on the three annexed territories of former Poland. The first Warszawa show of livestock in 1881, featured only one sheepdog (tarantowaty).The catalog from 1882 lists four Hungarian sheepdogs. In the following years reporters underlined the lack of sheepdogs in exhibitions, although the highest prizes were reserved for their owners. In the early 20th century the downfall of gentry and peasant managed sheep farms began in Polesie. With the decline of farms, the shaggy type of sheepdog disappeared as well. Only a few old shepherds kept shaggy sheepdogs in the twenties.
P.M.J. Czetwertynska-Grocholska from Plata (Radzyn-district) turned her attention to shaggy sheepdogs and bought a few specimens from farmers to start her own kennel. She showed her dogs under the title of polish sheepdogs for the first time in the Warsaw Exhibition in 1924. Her Kennel lasted until 1941. At this time, breeders Wanda and Roza Zoltowska from Milanow started another kennel using dogs bred by Ms.Grocholska. They managed their kennel until 1944.
Ms.Roza Zoltowska, in the magazine "Moj Pies" (1939), wrote: "This breed proved to be very strong because in spite of longstanding neglect at the hands of peasants the breed type remained uniform. The puppies in our kennel's 12 year history were always consistent in type and color. The coat is usually white with biscuit markings on the back and ears. In our kennel sheepdogs display various abilities. They are used for herding sheep and cattle as well as guarding. They are also very pleasant house pets. One of our dogs turned out to be an excellent wild boar hunter." Although dogs from Milanow were not registered in the Pure Breed Kennel Club (Zwiazek Hodowcow Psow Rasowych), they were shown in exhibitions in Warsaw. A dog named Fajkus represented the breed at the National Dog Show in Poznan in 1929.
Ms.Zoltowska received a diploma in recognition of her breeding achievements. She moved to Warsaw in 1944 taking with her a dog and a bitch. One of her dogs, Eros lived to be 16 years old. Several dogs left behind in Milanow did not survive WW II. Readers interested in the Milanow kennel will be able to read Ms. Zoltowska's dairy in the magazine "Pies".
Dr. S.Kozmian and Mr.Maurycy Trybulski, canine activists from the between wars period propagated the breeding of polish sheepdogs, especially mountain and lowland varieties, in dog magazines in 1920's. An anonymous author of the article "Polish Lowland Sheepdogs and their breeding" published in "Pies" in 1935
wrote: "Polish Lowland Sheepdog matters do not progress satisfactorily. Beautiful examples of this breed were shown in dog shows in Warsaw by princess M.Czetwertynska. These fine dogs could be used for herding as well as pets."
In the same magazine (1936-2.1) S.Stachowicz wrote "I have found only two essential mentions of
polisher Hirten" or "schaf-Pudel in German literature.". The first part of this name (Hirten, Schaft) confirms the utility value of this dog. The second part (Pudel) defines it's appearance . According to Germans any shaggy dog with a curly coat is called "Pudel". There are 2 types of Polish Sheepdogs. One type is the Tatra sheepdog (mountain dog) and the other one is the medium sized lowland sheepdog commonly found in all parts of the country.
The lowland sheepdog is usually small (sometimes medium sized) and of a lighter structure. The head, body and legs are covered by a more or less curly coat, often white. The head is cone shaped, the body muscular, and the back straight. The tail is docked or bob-tailed. The two Polish types of sheepdogs are known in the native country from ancient times as herding dogs..."
In following years, multiple articles in dog magazines estimating and propagating Tatra
dogs, were also attracting attention toward lowland sheepdogs. The initiative to register Polish Lowland Sheepdogs came from the Polish Utility Dog Society (Towarzystwo Milosnikow Psa Sluzbowego w Polsce) and was announced in 1938. This memorandum was also included in the book "Dog
Breeds" by Ignacy Mahn (Warszawa 1939) who encouraged an interest in a country dog not taller than 45 cm, resembling Russian or ancient German Sheepdog of the type between Spitz and Maltese. The memorandum consisted of 6 points. Activists of the Bygdoszcz Kennel Club commenced realization of the plan to register PONs nationwide. PONs participating in the First Polish Lowland Sheepdog Specialty Show in Bydgoszcz are the best proof of the success of Polish
mgr Danuta Forelle
translation by Halina
and Kris Bienkowski
**-The quotations written in the ancient Polish language are omitted from the original text and replaced with approximate translations.