The world of dog breeds and kennel clubs can be confusing and contradictory. This is even more true when you dip your toes into international waters. Take a look at the Akita. One breed in the United States and Canada whereas the rest of the world has the larger American Akita and traditional Akita Inu. Breeds like the Brittany have never split, but there is a distinction between the North American Brittany (no longer called a spaniel) and France’s Epagneul Briton.
Names alone can cause confusion, even without a language barrier. English Toy Spaniels are King Charles Spaniels in England where the smaller variety of the Manchester Terrier is known as the English Toy Terrier. And don't get me started on Russell terriers - Jack, Parson, or neither!
Perhaps one of the most confusing breed (or breeds) is the German Spitz. One dog with five sizes under the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and several breeds everywhere else.
To attempt simplicity, let's examine the FCI standard first, before trying to explain where everyone else fits in. The German Spitz is a classic northern breed, spitzen, or arctic, if you prefer. Reminiscent of dogs like the Lapphunds and Samoyed, they are believed to be amongst the oldest European breeds. Just how old the German Spitz is remains unknown, but it has been present in the region since at least the 1400s and may have arrived via the Vikings.
The German Spitz has five size varieties in its homeland, the Wolfspitz (Wolf), Großspitz (Giant), Mittel (Medium/Standard), Klein (Miniature), and Zwergspitz (Dwarf/Toy). While the three smaller sizes can be any color, the Wolfspitz is limited to shaded grey and the Giant solid black, brown, or white. Depending on the country and registry all these sizes may or may not be interbred.
This is where things get muddled. The Wolfspitz is what all other major kennel clubs recognize as the Keeshond and the Zwergspitz the Pomeranian. However, since each country and club has its own standard, a German Zwergspitz and Pomeranian are distinctly different. Both dogs have their own unique history although it is generally accepted that they descended from the German Spitz. The Keeshond in particular developed in Holland, so it is a mystery as to why the FCI has never split the breed.
Now to add another layer let's examine the white spitzen, the American Eskimo Dog and Japanese Spitz. Again, both descend from the German Spitz. They are near identical, so close that the American Kennel Club (AKC) refuses to allow the Japanese Spitz into their Foundation Stock Service (FSS). In all countries except for the United States and Canada, the American Eskimo Dog is also seen as a variety of the Mittel Spitz. However, halfway around the world the Japanese Spitz is granted its own breed status by the FCI.
Lastly, the Volpino Italiano, or Italian “Little Fox” is often added to this grouping, although some authors omit it. Similar to the Pomeranian, this breed is solid red or white. Like the American Eskimo and Japanese Spitz it almost certainly is related to the German Spitz. However, fanciers disagree over which came first. Due to its size and Italy’s location it is likely the German dogs are older, but the two would have diverged centuries ago. The Volpino Italiano is another breed the AKC has chosen not to include into its FSS because of similarities with existing breeds in their registry.
See something you don’t agree with? Or have additional information? I would love to hear from someone with these breeds governed by the FCI. Please leave me a comment below.