Bolos in History




Some researchers trace the ancestry of ‘a little white dog’ back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome. Perhaps the Empress Cleopatra had the good fortune to make friends with one or two of these splendid little canines. These cherished and pampered pooches were said to have enjoyed their daily meals in porringers and tumblers made of burnished gold. The darling of seafarers, these tiny white dogs kept ships free of vermin and could be traded to the wealthy upper classes for their weight in gold.

This Bichon family of dogs eventually made port in various parts of the Mediterranean and over the centuries evolved into the breeds that are recognized today. Not surprisingly, the name Bichon is derived from the French word, Bichonner, which means ‘to pamper.’ It is virtually impossible to not coddle, spoil and indulge these tiny bundles of curly white fluff. The Bichon Bolognese takes its name from the Italian city of Bologna where they were favored by royal families and nobles throughout the golden era of the Renaissance. Offered as priceless gifts, these precious pets often appeared in the personal portraits of the rich and royal who requisitioned their paintings from the brushes of famous artists. These portraits showed the individual accompanied by their most treasured possessions.  A sword, a shield, a Bible, or prayer beads often accompanied the noted personality. Children and pets were also popular additions to a family paintings. The tiny white body of a Bolognese was portrayed as the favored companion of such notables as Catherine the Great of Russia, Maria Sophia of Austria, and King Phillip II of Spain, to mention just a few of these lucky aristocrats. As a budding genealogist, I was astounded to find a picture of my eleventh great-grandmother, Anne Russell Bedford, with a Bolognese tucked under her arm. The young English matron would have been tickled to discover that one of her descendants was continuing the family tradition.

As the centuries progressed, aristocracies throughout Europe tumbled from their golden days of grandeur. Wars and revolutions took a disastrous toll on those of noble birth. The fate of the Bolognese plummeted along with their human families. Without caretakers and providers the Bolos were tossed into the streets of calamity and chaos. It has been noted that by the end of World War II the numbers of this special breed may have crashed toward the 500 mark.

Thankfully, Providence intervened. Modern fanciers of the breed took these abandoned urchins under their wing and nurtured them with care. Love and perseverance fired a movement among European rescuers to restore the Bolognese to its former reign of splendor. However, it was not until the latter quarter of the 20th century when the patience and persistence of a pair of American breeders brought the Bolo across the Pond to America. Imagine the months and years of frustration, the tapping of toes and the cajoling of personalities, while Dorothy Goodale and her husband, Bert, pleaded for European breeders to part with a pair of breeding Bolos. It finally happened. In 1986, they made history by importing the first of the breed into the United States. As Dorothy noted, “This is the smartest breed I have ever worked with. They do great in obedience, but tend to become bored with repetitive exercises. They absolutely love agility. . . People who claim that dogs cannot reason have never lived with a Bolognese. I suspect that they are telepathic. They are great problem solvers.” This is a quote from Wolfgang Knorr’s indispensable book on the Bolognese.

Many breeders in the United States have worked to emulate the standards and ethics of the original Bolognese rescuers. As one might imagine, the Bolo survivors, as in any species, carry genes that could cause problems with improper breeding. Whenever a rare breed of any type is available, there are those who will try to make a profit -- without any consideration for the health of ensuing offspring. Because of the reduced gene pool, it is vital to purchase a puppy from a kennel that is dedicated to the health and restoration of the breed.


    This hand cast 1768 copper coin was issued in Russia in honor of Ekaterina, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. It is said that Catherine would ride in her carriage and throw these exquisite coins to the 'peasants' that followed her as she traveled throughout the countryside. It is also said that the Empress was accompanied by her precious Bolognese who sat on her lap or in her arms
as she rode in her carriage. This particular coin was a gift to Cherry Carter from her brother, Garth Hamman, the jeweler who fashioned the gold wrap for this coin. Please note the story on the home page . . . where Paisley traveled with the Carter's to the Naples Art Show. This coin was issued for a very limited number of years.


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