Canis familiaris ovilis villosus terrarius Raitsitsi

February 17, 2016

There have been several discussions lately about the Pumi; about its origin, history, function – (original and contemporary), its standard, adaptive trait(s) and also how newer generation of breeders or planning to be breeders and owners are getting connected to the breed and what they really know about the Pumi.

This short article (using informal citation ) is a result of a recent email exchange and it might be a useful addition  for those who are participating in these ongoing conversations on various FaceBook Pumi groups and planning to explore the Pumi’s origin further.

There have been voices in the U.S. for years trying to discredit the idea that the Pumi’s development has been impacted by terrier type dogs. Recently, there was a short article, not more than a “soundbite,” posted on Facebook, “A Pumi Kutya Bemutatasa” (Introduction of The Pumi Breed) describing the Pumi as a terrier type herding dog. The article received some negative comments by some readers.

Familiar with the Pumi’s unique temperament for many decades from Hungary and now as a novice Pumi breeder and farmer who actually uses Pumis for daily farm tasks and who also puts significant amount of time into international travel, studying and researching the breed, I have decided to discuss one of the Pumi’s most important features that he is a “terrier type” herding dog.

The idea that  the Pumi has no terrier impact in him, is based on the false premise that terriers were a British invention and there have been no terriers  in Europe because terriers have not been imported from Britain until the advent of organized dog shows to the continent and consequently, they could have not contributed to the Pumi’s development. In this short article I attempt to make a convincing argument that there have been continental terriers and terrier type dogs, that could have contributed to the Pumi’s development. In addition, it is  important to emphasize that although no one points to any specific British terrier breeds as source of the Pumi’s DNA, it is also a mistake to categorically exclude informal import and export of dogs of many kinds, including terrier types, between continental Europe and the British Isles prior to 1873.

Tamara Langer from Hungary has described a composite  wire haired German/continental terrier type dog, similar in size to the Pumi, as “one of the significant contributors” to the Pumis’ “terrier blood line.”

In her recent email of an excerpt from Johan Gallant’s book, “The World of Schnauzers,” Chris Levy suggests that standard Schnauzers likely had a significant role for the Pumi’s hallmark conformation .

While the Schnauzer’s history written by Gallant is certainly important, I found it more intriguing that additional archeological findings, parallel with the proto Scnauzer’s discovery,  clearly contradicts the idea that terriers have originated from the British Isles. Gallant specifically states that the terrier actually originates from the continent since its archeological remains together with the ancestor of the Schnauzer (the latter was Gallant’s primarily focus) have been found in Lattringen, Switzerland. Gallant quotes from W. Tchudy’s book, “Geschichte des Hundes”, that “the skulls found in Lattringen are in structure the nearest to our schnauzers and terriers and have to be considered their link with prehistory.” By closely reading Gallant’s text, about the pinchers of Germany, the chapter clarifies the debate about the existence of continental terriers. For our purpose to trace the Pumi’s development, Gallant’s explanation can point to the missing link, to one of the Pumi’s ancestral breeds the mysterious terrier type dog(s) in question that have been present in Europe, however, gotten “lost in translation.”

wire hair pinschers illustration from...

wire hair pinschers illustration from 1834

To be fair, it is important to mention that similar developments happened also on the British isles during the same time. Looking into some other archeological readings about the time period, (Archeological Science/ English Heritage, Research Department Report Series no. 29-2011 ISSN 1749-8775 “Review of Animal Remains From the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Southern Britain (4000BC – 1500BC) Environmental Studies Report by Dale Serjeantson)one can learn, that the neolithic era introduced the increased use of dogs. It is suggested however, that the steadily increased migration from the continent also transported livestock and early dogs to the Isles after the ice age. The evolution of agriculture including animal husbandry at different geographical locations in the same time period, either independently or through the impact of migrations, fueled the need to develop specific types of dogs (herding, hunting farm dogs and pets) in various sizes (36cm-60cm) as shown by archeological findings of dog remains in southern England.

wirehaired Pinscher and smooth haired Pinscher

wirehaired Pinscher and smooth haired Pinscher


Pinscherhund from Theodor Gotz’s book

Obviously, the Pumi is a composite dog that primarily originates from the Puli, Mudi, and some other herding breeds and certain terrier type dogs. My suspicion is that where some Pumi aficionados gone wrong is that they have been looking for a few specific breeds that can be pictured…(!) basically dogs that resembles the Pumi…, as opposed to considering the idea that we should search in a “DNA mutt pool” based on available records, and read and interpret from historical, agricultural and even geopolitical context.

Painting including British terriers

Painting  of terriers by Arthur Wardle

illustration of British terriers by Sny

 terriers by Maude

terriers by Maud Alice Earl

When researching into Hungarian sheepdogs, one has to put the history of Hungarian dog breeding in context. Conditions…: Hungary was a backward country ravaged by wars, long term foreign occupations where serfdom practically was not dismantled until 1848. After the defeated revolution and subsequent freedom fight of 1848-49, the country, especially the common people, experienced severe oppression by Austria until 1867. Clearly, under such conditions, modern dog breeding, like in the west, could not take off. People of the countrysides faced poverty. Shepherds shared their food with their dogs. “Talented” herding dogs earned their position by demonstrating their abilities and were fed. Those who did not succeed were not fed but strayed away or got a lower position in the hierarchy of farm dogs. Dogs still had to augment their daily ration by themselves out on the pastures by hunting vermin, rabbits and other small animals to supplement their diets.   Another dog feeding alternative within agricultural communities, was to “feed” working dogs out on pasture lands with dead livestock. Shepherds often did not bury livestock carcasses. Instead they cordoned them off with wires so the sheepdogs could feed on the decaying bodies. These facts might suggest that environmental factors have also had serious impacts on the breed… (!)

While the Pumi’s conformation may resemble other continental herding breeds, to a certain extent, his temperament among them remains unique and when he is in action, he exhibits a clear terrier type behavior.  He is more agile, more lively, more restless and communicative than any other similar herding breeds.  As a herding dog, within 15”-18” size with the right disposition, his terrier type behavior is strongly asserted and cannot be ignored. To be clear, we are not trying to prove that there is a clearly identifiable specific terrier blood in the Pumi, either British or continental. What we are advocating is that the Pumi has clearly been impacted by terrier type dogs.

So called “dog breeds’” bloodlines have been in flux until modern dog breeding got started with the establishment of The Kennel Club of England (1873) even though, dog breeding among affluent Europeans was already fairly frequent by the mid 19th century.
Galant’s book also includes illustration of pinschers. However, British paintings –  e.g. Arthur Wardle, Maud Alice Earl –  from the 1800’s depicts strikingly similar dogs to those German illustrations in Gallant’s book. I especially enjoyed to see Durer’s name in the context of this discussion since Durer’s father migrated to Germany from the Baja region of Hungary. (According to research papers, Durer owned several dogs that resembled the modern day schnauzers and they are also depicted in some of his work.)

Is it a schnauzer as Gallant claims it? a Puli by a longing Durer for hisHungarian heritage? or a Portugese Water dog as Dr. Elizabeth Garnell believes it?

Is it a schnauzer as  some Durer researchers claim it? a Puli by a longing Durer for his Hungarian heritage? Or a Portugese Water dog as Dr. Elizabeth Garnell believes it?

The mystery dog in Durer's

The same mystery dog in Durer’s Apocalypse The Martyrdom of St John

The descriptions of the continental (German) dogs from the excerpt called “pinschers” and the “terriers” (British) are obviously quite similar. There are two instances where the author points out the back and forth use of the terms “terrier” and “pinscher” to describe similar types of dogs performing identical tasks at different geographical locations. Gallant cites Gotz’s book, “Monographie des Hundes” from 1834 and Weiss’ translation of a British book, by William Youatts, “The Dog,” published in 1852. He points out that this latter translation appears to be one of the causes of the popularization of the term pincher in the case of terriers as Weiss also uses the term “pinscher” in the case of British dogs. (It might be far fetched but it is wort mentioning the centuries old German complaint about their isolation in the middle of Europe and consequently the relative isolation of their language. (Pinscher vs. Terrier -…?)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German philosopher, in his “Unanticipated Thoughts” writes about the gaps of the German language mentioning the  advance of Latin based Roman languages and English.  Even though, English is a germanic language, Latin and Romance influence in English is 58% while these language groups have only 26% influence on German.

In Gallant’s book, there is also a specific sentence that mentions Weiss’ writing about the influx of terrier type dogs back to the continent, “over the southern German hinterland…” although it is described as “vaguely mentioned.”  Yes indeed, there have been numerous occasions for informal import of dogs to the continent such as military campaigns and trade. This influx of dogs have been possible via ships sailing back and forth between Germany, Poland and other Baltic states, the British Isles across the Nordic Sea (the Hanseatic Leagues). There have been records of cargo ships clearly mentioning ratters and other dogs as permanent fixtures on boats for centuries. One famous ratter is described in the article, “Meet Hatch the world’s oldest sea dog from the Mary Rose an article by beth Hale in the Daily Mail, (March 10, 2010). Another example is the sea journey of Polish Lowland Sheep dogs to Scotland via agricultural export from the Kingdom of Poland or the catholic Scottish migrant farmers and craftsmen moving to Poland with their belongings, including dogs.

The taxonomic name of the Pumi is “Canis familiaris ovilis villosus terrarius Raitsitsi.” This definition is clear, a “bushy haired terrier type herding dog” ( a dog with inclination to herd). The intention of Raisits and Anghy cannot be misinterpreted. (perhaps with taxonomy’s new developments and directions these all can be genetically tested some day). They wanted to develop a terrier type herding dog.  The fact that this did not become a conscious effort prior to their involvement until the late 1800’s or even later until the early part of the 1900’s, is well known from magazines, newspapers and other records of the period.   So I believe that the description,“terrier type” used by Hungarians is consistent, even if the mystery dog they refer to as ratters and other “continental terriers” are officially called Pinschers or were crosses of pinschers.

Gallant also includes an article, that published a letter by R von Schmiedenberg, in the magazine “Der Hund,” from 1879, “What is a Pincher?” where the author of the letter declares how much pinschers and terriers are analogous. In the context of developing and solidifying dog breeds in Hungary, we should not forget that Hungary has been a quite backward country. Agriculture including animal husbandry and for that matter working dog breeding were way behind western Europe. Based on records, the Pumi and the Puli have not been officially divided into two different breeds for breeding purposes until 1910’s!

A Puli with Pumi impact

A Puli showing Pumi impact- phenotypic plasticity?

Pumi or Puli?

So what do you have a PUMI… or PUMI…?

For our purpose to follow the Pumi’s evolution as a breed, Gallant’s text, supports the idea that continental terriers and terrier type dogs have existed in Europe and in Germany and that the likelihood of British terriers and terrier type dogs entering the continent before organized dog breeding and “modern” dog shows have been also high.

Writings, specifically focusing on the Pumi’s history from Hungarian archival materials collected by Tamara Langer in the Pumi archive, the “Pumitar” (Pumi Warehouse), provide the detailed chronicle of the Pumi’s development as a terrier type herding dog in a historical, social and economic context.

In the article, “Magyar Juhasz vagy Pasztorebek” “Hungarian Sheep Dogs” in one of  the issues of the “Ebtenyesztes”  or “Dog breeding” magazine from 1915, the author, Buzzi complains about the dismal state of dog breeding, especially of working farm dogs in Hungary. He retells stories heard from shepherds about  wolves breeding with Komondors and Kuvaszes, or about fancy purebred dogs, including terriers of aristocrats, spending time in the country breeding with Pumi/Puli dogs. He also warned about the potential negative effects of the war on preserving Hungarian breeds as the Great War was already raging on (the article was written in 1915).

We know from historical records that  introduction of new types of sheep in Hungary came in waves that also brought along various herding and other dogs from France, Germany and from England.  The imported sheep from the British were also mentioned In 1907 by Geza Felix Buzzi in the article “The “Regeneration of Domestic Sheepdogs,” where among many stories, he also mentioned the possible impact of English sheep dogs from England that escorted the livestock to Hungary. The Old English Sheepdog was most prominently mentioned in the article.

Not long ago, in response to one of my comments on the topic of terrier type and Pumi, one tried to vaguely recall an old Hungarian article in which the author used the term “terrier,” in his writing in relation to the Pumi allegedly with false intentions and without merit proposing the idea to advertise and promote the Pumi as a terrier. I found the article in question is from 1984, “Mi Lesz Veled Pumi?” that loosely translates as ”What is Your Future Pumi?” The article calls the reader’s attention to the endangered position of the breed during the 1980’s and in this context quotes Csaba Anghy, from 1935,  “Every one should take advantage of the fact and spread the word abroad  that finally we also have a terrier, that is a terrier for its own merit, based on its temperament, conformation, and its utilization. Emphasizing the Pumi’s terrier type would help marketing the breed abroad. Unfortunately, no one has thought the obvious yet.” The correct reading of the quote clarifies that in fact, Anghy considered the Pumi as a terrier for its on merit (terrier type dog) and did not want to promote or advertise the Pumi under false premises…!

In his article, “Pumitenyesztesunk” or “Pumi Breeding” in the magazine, ”What is New in the Zoo?” XV. February 1-15. 1928, Raisits writes, “The real Pumi with his lively and restless temperament very similar to the Fox Terrier…” In the same article he describes the visit of Dr. Ludwig Heck who after his participation at the International Zoological Congress, in Budapest, picked up “Gezenguz Allatkert,” a Pumi puppy  and took him along to Germany (for its outstanding terrier type attributes). The author also chronicles a dog show of the Hungarian Fox Terrier Breeders’ Club  that was judged by Dr. Otto Wiesbaden, a highly regarded Fox Terrier judge from Germany of the period who also visited the Budapest Zoo and checked out an important Pumi of the time,  “Icig Ficko.” According to Raisits, Dr. Weisbaden noted that “…he wished that many Fox Terriers had such a great terrier type conformation.”

So until we have a better proof, I say, that if it looks like a terrier, acts like a terrier then the Pumi is a terrier type herding breed…