This dog breed has at some time or other also gone by any of the following names:
- Dutch Barge Dog
- Smiling Dutchman
- Dutch Keeshond
Sometimes the Keeshond is referred to as the Wolfspitz or the Chien Loup by a growing school of thinkers who feel that it should be grouped together with the closely related and similar looking German Wolfspitz!
The Keeshond is your typical spitz dog, endowed with the characteristic pricked-ears, pointed muzzle, up-curled tail and thick coat of wolf-like coloring. The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog which is very similar in appearance to its northerly cousin the German Wolfspitz, save for a reduction in size.
Of the Keeshond dog breeds origin one thing is undisputed and that is that this dog breed is Dutch through and through (never mind the haters who claim that the Keeshond is merely a smaller version of the German Wolfspitz from which it is apparently descended).
The Keeshond has been in existence (at least in Holland) since the seventeenth century. As far as the history of the Keeshond dog breed goes, it started its canine career off as general jack-of-all-trades barge dog that utilized as a watchdog, vermin exterminator, guard dog and an aid to enable the barges navigate safe passage in foggy conditions and bad weather.
Two theories abound concerning the origins of the Keeshond’s name (incidentally Keeshond is pronounced “Kays-hawnd” and the plural is “Keeshonden.”).
The first theory has it that the Keeshond dog breed owes its name to one Cornelis de Witt whose nickname happened to be Kees. Kees happened to be the proud owner of a Keeshond but I’m fairly sure was not too proud to die violently at the hands of a mob of Orangemen in 1672.
Since the Keeshond was popular among the peasantry as if it was their way of sticking it to the pug that happened to be the favored dog breed of the Dutch nobility. Anyway speculation has it that the death of Cornelis “Kees” de Witt by a mob of Orangemen not only made him into a cult figure it also iconized the dog breed that he had been associated with.
The second theory about how the Keeshond came to acquire its name seems to have more meat and bones to it than the first. Anyway this particular theory propounds that the names Keeshond is derived from an eighteenth century Dutch revolutionary named Cornelis (huh…what again?) “Kees” de Gyselaer, who hailed from Dordrecht.
The seventeenth century was a politically unstable period for Holland, with country divided between supporters of the Prince of Orange against the Patriotten (members and supporters of the middle class). Kees de Gyselaer was one of the leaders of the Patriots and his pet dog (which surprise, surprise was a Keeshond) soon became the group’s mascot and official symbol.
Unfortunately for the Keeshond dog breed the Patriots were defeated in 1787 which meant that nobody wanted to be associated with the Keeshond breed lest they be accused of having been part of the rebellion. Thus unsurprisingly the breed’s numbers dwindled drastically.
This dog breed was soon to be dealt another blow. The advent of the 19th century brought with it bigger and more powerful barges; sizeable monsters that needed bigger dog breeds to oversee them. And thus, by the mid nineteenth century, the numbers of the Keeshond dog breed were precariously low!
Fortunately this lovely dog breed survived what seemed like certain extinction through restoration of its numbers by foreign fanciers and breeders!
Article on keeshond by Kayye Nynne