The Keeshond is believed to have been bred in the Arctic regions in the 1700s, being a cousin to the Chow, Samoyed, Finnish Spitz, Pomeranian, and Norwegian Elkhound breeds. It served as a companion and watchdog on small vessels on the Rhine River, quickly becoming popular in Europe especially in the Netherlands. The breed later on reached Holland, France, Italy and Germany and was crossed with German Spitz-type dogs.
The breed got its name from Cornelius de Gyselaar, who was fondly called Keesh, a Dutch party leader fighting for Dutch Patriots against William of Orange. This type of dog was used as the emblem and mascot of the party. Keeshonds almost succumb to extinction when the Patriots lost to the House of Orange. People didn’t want to be associated with the rebellion so the dogs were sadly abandoned or killed. Some dogs were able to survive in Dutch farms and vessels in Amsterdam. Miss Hamilton-Fletcher, (became Mrs. Wingfield-Digby) is credited for having the foundation stock of Keeshonds outside Holland when she took two puppies home in 1905. The breed arrived in England in 1926.
However, the breed’s numbers continued to decline but was saved thanks to Baroness von Hardenbroek when he began a breeding program in the 1920s. This utility dog was first registered with The Kennel Club as the Dutch Barge Dog. Its numbers gradually grew in Europe as a great family pet because of its loyal and affectionate characteristics. However, it is still considered rare in many parts of the world, including the UK.