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The breed served for countless years on small vessels called rijnaken, that were found in great numbers on the Rhine River. The origin is Arctic, or possibly Sub-Arctic, and it is of the same strains that produced the Samoyed, the Chow Chow, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Finnish Spitz, and the Pomeranian. The Keeshond has changed little in the past two centuries.

In the latter part of the 18th century, he was in the public eye as the symbol of the Patriots, and when the Prince of Orange established his party as the dominant one, few people wanted the dog that stood for the opposition. Many who owned Keeshonden disposed of them quietly, and only the most loyal maintained the breed. The breed was at very low ebb until 1920, at which time the Baroness van Hardenbroek became so interested in the old breed that she undertook an investigation to see how much of the old stock survived. The breed had passed from public attention, but it was still kept in its original form by certain captains of riverboats, by farmers and by truckmen. The Baroness began breeding Keeshonden and spread their story throughout Europe. Within ten years she brought the breed to such a solid position that the Dutch Keeshond Club was established.

As early as 1925, Keeshonden were in England and making a very good impression. The breed was accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club in 1930, and early development in this country, with few exceptions, was based on imports from England, which were in turn the product of British importations from Holland and Germany

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