heroic dog stories

Keeshond: The Forgotten History of the Hero Breed

In the late 18th, century, Holland was on the eve of a rebellion, and their symbol of hope revolved around one unlikely dog breed: The Keeshond.

The Keeshond breed is known for its incredible fur coat, beauty, and lovable attitude. In the Dutch-ruled Holland of the 1700s, the Keeshond was a favorite dog breed among commoners and aristocrats.

The breed was talented and used as a jack-of-all trades dog, being trained for riverboats and barges, guards against houses, and watchful protectors over small children. They could herd livestock, kill vermin, and do many other things on the farm.

Thus, the Dutch people of the 1700s loved the Keeshond and kept them in high demand.

The Patriots

However, feelings changed when a Dutch politician and patriot named Cornelis “Kees” de Gijselaar stirred up a rebellion against the House of Orange, rulers of the Dutch Republic.

During the time of “Kees” de Gijselaar’s rebellion, the Dutch Republic was deeply divided, and political instability reigned. On one end of the spectrum was the House of Orange, the overarching power, and on the other end were smaller rebellions like “Kees” de Gijselaar’s group.

Starting at the first of 1780, “Kees” de Gijselaar’s fraction began to threaten the House of Orange, and a political uprising began.

Both the House of Orange supporters and the supporters of Cornelis “Kees” de Gijselaar, who were known simply as the Patriots, chose dog breeds as their symbol. The House of Orange used the Pug as their symbol. The Patriots chose a dog breed that would be named after Cornelis “Kees” de Gijeslaar himself: The ‘Kees’hond, or Keeshond.

For seven years, “Kees” de Gijeslaar and his followers attempted overthrow the House of Orange. They wore Keeshond pins on their clothes to depict their allegiance, while the House of Orange wore Pug pins. The Keeshond was seen in so many political caricatures, photographs, and memos that the breed eventually became a symbol of hope for the Patriots.

Killing the Keeshond

In 1787, the House of Orange defeated the Patriots, and Cornelis “Kees” de Gijaslaar was forced to Brussels. The Keeshond, meanwhile, fell out of favor with commoners and aristocrats, and the breed rapidly depleted.

The following years, Keeshond owners continued to discard their dogs in fear of being associated with the failed Patriots, and Hollanders stopped using Keeshonds on river barges. It seemed like a sure thing that the Keeshond breed would go extinct.

But this hero breed prevailed.

In the mid-1800s, a small sect of British dog-lovers found an interest in the Keeshond. This sect was able to keep the Keeshond breed alive and maintain its original character until an interest in the Keeshond breed resurged in the early 1900s.

In 1910, the Keeshonds were imported from Holland to England, and Englanders took a fascinating in this dog, founding clubs for it and presenting it in dog shows. In 1930, the breed was registered with the American Kennel Club. Following World War II, Keeshond enthusiasts started growing in leaps and bounds.

Although the Keeshond is still rare in the west, people have worked hard to preserve the history and character of this hero breed!

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