Corded Poodle coats. It’s always a popular subject here, but there’s a lot to see and know, so forgive us as we venture into the “tall grass” because science is a good place to start. This is Part I of a post on corded coats in the Poodle.
Some years back, Texas A & M’s veterinary school conducted a hair coat study which looked at breeds that included Komondorok and Poodles ranging in age from 11 weeks to 11 years. They took electron microscope studies of the hair follicles, punch biopsies so they could get thin sections of follicles, and hair samples which were evaluated for diameter and crimp. The results, shared with us by a Komondor-owning participant (now a show judge) of the study, were fascinating. Bear with us.
It was discovered that Komondor puppy coat hairs are thicker in diameter and somewhat straight. Generally speaking, when the adult coat comes in, the hairs are much finer and curlier; puppy coat forms the core of the “cord” so that the adult coat can clump and cluster around the core eventually creating a felted mat. The separation of those mats create cords.
To repeat, the Poodle coat was part of the study, and the histogram of the Poodle hair diameters looked exactly the same as that of the Komondor. The diameter range was in the fine end of the spectrum, but of course every follicle makes at least one hair that is a bit thicker. However, the difference isn’t much and the numbers of fine hairs are somewhat constant.
The follicle itself (in both Koms and Poodles) has a life span which is different than most other breeds. In shedding breeds, the hair grows for around 30-50% of the life of the follicle, lies dormant for 50-70% of the time, and then dies which causes the hair to shed and fall out. At that time, another follicle takes over and grows some hair. In Koms and Poodles, the follicle grows hair for 90% of the life of the follicle, is dormant for 10%, then dies and sheds the hair; While no breed is ever truly non-shedding, Poodles, Koms, and probably Pulik and other cording breeds shed on a different schedule. If the coats are allowed to cord, the hairs will already be incorporated into the cord by the time the follicle dies and sheds, and this is why it appears that the coat never sheds.
Image: The July 2000 issue of AKC Gazette cover was the first time many people had ever seen a corded Poodle. This exquisite dog is “Carley,” also known as Ch. Somerset Sweet Success who was owned by Charla Gordon and shown by Dennis McCoy.