The Keeshond: A Historical Look into the Dutch National Treasure

The Keeshond, or the Wolfspitz, is a Spitz-type dog breed originating in the Netherlands. The breed is named after Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, a Dutch Patriot who owned a dog that resembled the Keeshond. During the Dutch Revolt, the Keeshond became a national symbol of the Netherlands, representing loyalty and patriotism. In this article, we will explore the historical context of the Keeshond breed, including its genetic makeup, migration patterns, and interactions with human populations. We will also discuss the breed’s development, highlighting important figures and events that influenced its evolution.

Keeshond in the Netherlands

Keeshond’s origins can be traced back to the 18th century in the Netherlands. At that time, the breed was known as the Dutch Barge Dog, as it was commonly used on Dutch canals to guard boats and cargo. These dogs were also popular as companion animals, and they soon became the symbol of the Dutch Patriots, a political group that opposed the House of Orange. During the Dutch Revolt, the Keeshond symbolised resistance against the House of Orange. The breed was often depicted in political cartoons as a symbol of the Dutch people’s struggle for freedom.

Keeshond’s Spitz-type Origins

The Keeshond is classified as a Spitz-type dog, which means it belongs to a group of dog breeds that share common characteristics, including thick fur, pointed ears, and a curled tail. Spitz-type dogs are believed to have originated in Asia, and they were brought to Europe by traders and travellers. The Keeshond’s Spitz-type features are believed to have originated from the Samoyed, Chow Chow, and Pomeranian breeds. The Keeshond’s thick fur and curled tail helped protect it from the cold weather, while its pointed ears helped it hear better.

Dutch Patriot and Barge Dogs

During the 18th century, the Keeshond was often called the Dutch Patriot Dog, as it was associated with the political group that opposed the House of Orange. These dogs were often seen on Dutch barges, where they guarded the cargo and the boats against intruders. The Keeshond was also used as a watchdog, as it had a keen sense of hearing and would bark to alert its owners of any danger. The breed’s popularity grew, and it soon became a common companion animal in Dutch households.

Keeshond’s Role on Dutch Canals

The Keeshond’s role on Dutch canals was critical to the breed’s survival. These dogs were often used to guard the boats and the cargo and catch rats and other pests that could damage the cargo. The breed’s thick fur and curled tail helped protect it from the cold weather, while its pointed ears helped it hear better. The Keeshond’s loyalty and obedience also made it an ideal companion for canal boat owners.

Royal Dutch Family and the Keeshond

The Keeshond’s popularity grew to such an extent that it caught the attention of the Royal Dutch family. Prince William of Orange was particularly fond of the breed and owned several Keeshonds during his reign. The breed’s association with the Dutch Patriots did not deter the Royal family from embracing the breed, and they soon became a fixture in the Royal household. The Keeshond’s popularity continued to soar, and the breed soon became a favourite of the Dutch people.

Keeshond’s Decline and Revival

The Keeshond’s popularity declined in the early 20th century as motor vehicles replaced canal boats, and the breed’s usefulness as a watchdog diminished. The breed also suffered during World War II, as food shortages and bombings took a toll on the breed’s population. By the war’s end, the breed was on the verge of extinction.

Fortunately, a group of breed enthusiasts led by Mrs H.M. Barkman decided to revive the breed. They began breeding Keeshonds in the post-war years, and the breed soon regained its popularity. Today, the Keeshond is recognized as a national treasure in the Netherlands and is admired for its loyalty, intelligence, and beauty.


The Keeshond is a unique and fascinating breed with a rich history. From its origins as a Dutch barge dog to its role as a national symbol, the breed has played an important role in Dutch culture and history. Despite its decline in popularity, the breed has managed to survive and thrive, thanks to the efforts of dedicated breed enthusiasts. Today, the Keeshond is a beloved companion animal, admired for its loyalty, intelligence, and affectionate nature. It’s Spitz-type features and historical significance make it a true Dutch national treasure.

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Author: Jane