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A German Spitz

A spitz (the name derives from the German word spitz, (German: [ʃpɪt͡s] ) meaning "pointed", in reference to the pointed muzzle)[1] is a type of domestic dog consisting of between 50 and 70 breeds depending on classification. There is no precise definition of 'spitz' but typically most spitz breeds have pricked ears, almond shaped eyes, a pointed muzzle, a double coat, and a tail that curves over the back.[2]

The exact origins of spitz dogs remain unknown, though most of the spitzes seen today originate from the Arctic region or from Siberia.[citation needed] Johann Friedrich Gmelin described the type as Canis pomeranus in his 1788 revision of Systema Naturae.[3]



Dogs of spitz type have been depicted on the tombs of the IVth dynasty of Egypt.[4] Toy dogs of spitz type have been depicted since 500 B.C. in Ancient Greek pottery.[5]



Spitzes are well suited to living in harsh northern climates. They often have an insulating, waterproof undercoat that is denser than the topcoat to trap warmth. Small, upright ears help to reduce the risk of frostbite, square proportions and thick fur that grows on the paws protects the dogs from sharp ice. Many spitz breeds, like the Japanese Akita and Chow Chow, retain wolf-like characteristics such as independence, suspiciousness, and aggression towards unfamiliar humans and other dogs, and they require much training and socialization when they are puppies before they become manageable in an urban environment. Some, such as the Karelian Bear Dog, are more difficult to train as companion dogs. Some breeds, such as the Pomeranian, have manes. Several spitz breeds (such as huskies) are bred for one purpose only. However it is common for many spitz breeds (such as the Russian laikas) to be general purpose dogs in their native lands, used for hunting, hauling, herding, and guarding.[citation needed] Smaller breeds have faces that resemble fox faces, while larger breeds have faces that resemble wolf faces.

Companions and toys


Spitzes, with their thick fur, fluffy ruffs, curled tails and small muzzles and ears, have been bred into non-working dogs designed to be companions or lap dogs. This trend is most evident in the tiny Pomeranian, which was originally a much larger dog closer to the size of a Keeshond before being bred down to make an acceptable court animal.[citation needed]

The Keeshond, the Wolfspitz variety of the German Spitz, is an affectionate, loyal, and very energetic pet that was bred as a watchdog for barges (hence the name Dutch Barge Dog). Often, these breeds are recognized for their "smiling" mouths. Other spitzes that have been bred away from working uses are the American Eskimo Dog, Alaskan Klee Kai, German Spitz, Volpino Italiano and Japanese Spitz.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Spitz etymology". Oxford English Dictoinary. Oxford University. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  2. ^ Johnstone, Gemma. "Spitz Breeds". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 16 March 2024.
  3. ^ Linnaeus, C. (translated and revised by R. Kerr). 1792. The Animal Kingdom; or, zoological system of the celebrated Sir Charles Linnaeus. Class I. Mammalia and Class II. Birds. Being a translation of that part of the Systema Naturae, as lately published with great improvements by Professor Gmelin, together with numerous additions from more recent zoological writers and illustrated with copperplates. J. Murray, London, 644 pp.
  4. ^ Vesey-Fitzgerald, p. 54.
  5. ^ Vesey-Fitzgerald, p. 56.
  • Media related to Spitz at Wikimedia Commons