10 Fancy Facts About Poodles


There’s a lot you might not know about France’s national dog. 

1. They’re actually from Germany.

Despite their French reputation, poodles hail from Germany, where they were called pudel, which is German for “puddle.” 

2. They were historically great at their jobs. 

What do poodles have to do with puddles? While poodles today have connotations of wealth and luxury, they were bred to work. The athletic dogs are excellent swimmers and were used by hunters to retrieve ducks and other birds from the water. They even have a “soft mouth,” so they can gently pick up wounded or dead game. In France, the dogs were called caniche, or “duck dog.” 

3. The fancy ‘do has a purpose. 

Since these dogs were jumping into freezing cold water, they needed protection. Too much wet fur would weigh them down, so hunters would strategically shear their hair. The pattern was meant to protect vital areas from cold waters.

4. Poodles come in three varieties.

The poodle is the only dog that comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. These terms only describe the dogs’ size, and the American Kennel Club considers them all the same breed. 

5. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race once had a standard poodle team. 

In 1988, a musher named John Suter entered the race with an all-poodle sled team. They didn't do so well: Thanks to matted fur and cold paws, many of the dogs had to be dropped off at checkpoints. This struggle led to a new rule that dictated only northern breeds like Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes are allowed to race. This measure ensures the safety of breeds that aren’t cut out for the extreme cold.

6. Poodle fur never stops growing.

Unlike dogs that shed, the poodle will grow fur continuously. As a result, they need regular grooming. If left ungroomed, their fur will become matted and dreadlock-like. On the upside, they’re hypoallergenic and generally odorless.

7. This special fur has led to some crossbreeds. 

The poodle has been bred with other popular dogs like Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, and wheaten terriers to make more hypoallergenic breeds. 

8. Elvis loved them. 

The King loved dogs and had quite a collection at Graceland. When he was stationed in Germany, he had a poodle named Champagne. He also gave away many poodles to the women he loved: A toy poodle named "Little Bit" went to a girlfriend, and he gave a poodle named "Honey" to his wife Priscilla. 

9. They’re super smart. 

Poodles are one of the smartest breeds, second only to the border collie in rankings of canine intelligence. Their smarts make them extremely easy to train and a favorite of circuses. In the 1800s, they were often dressed in miniature human clothing and trained to act out elaborate scenes. 

10. One toy poodle knows how to work an elevator. 

Nala the teacup poodle was never trained to operate an elevator, but she somehow figured it out and uses it to visit the residents at a local nursing home where her owner works. The small dog can navigate the hallways all by herself and bring comfort to those around her. "She'd rather ride it alone than with people, because she knows where she's going," her owner said. "If she could, she would push the button herself."

Watch How a Bioluminescence Expert Catches a Giant Squid

Giant squid have been the object of fascination for millennia; they may have even provided the origin for the legendary Nordic sea monsters known as the Kraken. But no one had captured them in their natural environment on video until 2012, when marine biologist and bioluminescence expert Edith Widder snagged the first-ever images off Japan's Ogasawara Islands [PDF]. Widder figured out that previous dives—which tended to bring down a ton of gear and bright lights—were scaring all the creatures away. (Slate compares it to "the equivalent of coming into a darkened theater and shining a spotlight at the audience.")

In this clip from BBC Earth Unplugged, Widder explains how the innovative camera-and-lure combo she devised, known as the Eye-in-the-Sea, finally accomplished the job by using red lights (which most deep-sea creatures can't see) and an electronic jellyfish (called the e-jelly) with a flashy light show just right to lure in predators like Architeuthis dux. "I've tried a bunch of different things over the years to try to be able to talk to the animals," Widder says in the video, "and with the e-jelly, I feel like I'm finally making some progress."

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Big Questions
Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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