As owners of the breed, we were always puzzled by references to the Puli as having once been called the Hungarian Water Dog. This “factoid” still shows up on the Internet:
- From Dogtime: The Puli, also known as the Hungarian Puli and the Hungarian Water Dog, is still used for herding sheep in his homeland;
- From Baxterboo: The Puli (Pulik is plural) is sometimes called the Hungarian water dog;
- From Omlet.us: Also sometimes called the Hungarian Water Dog, this dreadlock cladded breed has its origins in Hungary where it was used by farmers to herd sheep;
- From Dogbreedinfo: Another name for the Puli is the Hungarian Water Dog
There are more (many more!) references citing the same information, but only one source in our cursory investigation came close to getting it right: Barking Royalty wrote, “In a case of a wolf attack, [a] Puli would react and [a] Komondor would face the wild animal. Puli[k] might have a weather resistance coat, but that doesn’t mean that this dog had any water-related duties.
Any Puli owner will tell you that a fully corded dog will sink like a rock once its cords are saturated with water, and while a working Puli in Hungary is unlikely to carry a coat like a show Puli, water work has never factored into the breed’s job description.
It was in the course of researching the Portuguese Water Dog very recently that we stumbled upon the likely answer to a question that puzzled Puli people for at least as long as we’ve been in the breed, over forty years. We got our answer out of an old dusty dog book in which it was stated that very early on, all rough coated breeds in Europe were called water dogs. In the same vein, actual water dogs were originally termed as “water spaniels” which later changed to “retrievers” as more kennel clubs began to come into being, and wire coated breeds were also called broken coated dogs.
In an article entitled, “The History of Lost Dog Breeds,” one of our favorite dog writers, Craig Koshyk, points out that any rough-coated pointing dog in Britain at that time was called a “Russian Setter” or “Russian Pointer,” or a Polish or Hungarian Water Dog in Germany, a rough coat a distinctive but common feature in these breeds.
Perhaps this is a mystery solved!
Photo of Puli Wading In Stream by miça quartey/EyeEm/Adobe Stock phot