Although the poodle is most often identified with France, her earliest ancestors were probably curly-coated dogs from central Asia that assisted with herding and followed many routes into various parts of Europe. Interwoven in their ancestry are also several rough-coated water dogs. Perhaps the earliest incarnation of the poodle was the barbet, a curly-coated dog distributed in France, Russia, Hungary and elsewhere. It is the German version, however, that exerted most influence on the modern poodle. In fact, the word poodle comes from the German word pfudel, meaning "puddle" or "to splash," probably reflecting the dog's water abilities. In France, she was known as caniche or chien canard, both referring to her duck-hunting abilities. Thus, from herding and water roots the poodle became a talented water-hunting companion. The poodle was also drawn into service as a military dog, guide dog, guard dog, wagon puller for performers and, eventually, as a circus performer. Her coat was shorn close to facilitate swimming, but left slightly longer on the chest for warmth in cold water. Although some believe the puffs of hair around the leg joints and tail tip were for protection when hunting, compelling evidence suggests that they arose as decoration during the poodle's performing days. The poodle found favor as an elegant companion for fashionable ladies. She became favored by French aristocracy and eventually became the national dog of France. Her characteristic clip was accentuated, and a successful effort was made to perfect the smaller specimens. Poodles entered the show ring in the late 1800s. Some of the early show poodles were shown in corded coats, in which the hair is allowed to mat in long thin tresses rather than be brushed out. While eye-catching, the upkeep was difficult and the trend died out by the early 1900s, being replaced by the bouffant styles still in vogue. At the same time poodle popularity in America waned, so that by the late 1920s, poodles had almost died out in North America. In the 1930s, the breed staged a comeback that eventually placed her as the all-time most popular dog in America.