A Little History...little "b", big "B"

After 1880, the Barbet, a French breed of the water dog type aptly named “Barbet” from the French word barbe, which means beard, became an official breed. It has been said that the French have been working and hunting with barbet for all time.

Chiens D'Arret Barbet

However, the story of the "barbet" is long and impressive. References to the breed can be found throughout history, doing a variety of jobs, with various historical lineage, always referenced with respect and admiration. After so many centuries of serving man in numerous capacities, the water dog type is a common and well known dog. Although a victim of the changes of the history he helped shape, the barbet was nearly extinct after both the Great War (WWI) and WWII.

The first certain reference to the barbet or water dog type canine occurs in the fourteenth century when a Gascon count speaks of them in a book written in 1387. The earliest attempt at categorizing the barbet/water dog was in 1570 with De Canibus Britannicus. Originally written in Latin by Dr Johannes Caius who was Queen Elizabeth’s doctor. Translated to English in 1576, a group of dogs for hunting and fowling called Aucupatorii were: setter, waterdog and water spaniel.

Sixteenth-century cynologist Fouilloux dubbed him the barbet, frombarbe,a French designation for beard; his pseudonym,laineux.,translates into woolly.

The barbet/water dog has contributed to the French language “être crotté comme un Barbet”—to be very, very muddy. Perhaps it is their impishness that entices them to muddy, swampy places, giving them the nickname of "Mud Dog."

In 1587, King Henry IV's mistress, Corisande, was reproached by Monsieur de Bellieure Chancellor to Marie de Medici, for attending church in the company of "a fool, a monkey and a barbet". Though his comments had political overtones the mention of the dog has its own significance.

In the early 1700's, François-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as Voltaire, the French philosopher was quoted as saying "The barbet is man's best friend...."

Charles Diguet's La Chasse au Marais (Paris: E.Dentu, 1889), p. 230. shows the water spaniel in full form. He observes that water spaniels are courageous, fast, indifferent to icy water where they're happy to stay for hours, possess a keen natural retrieve; their sole fault is they're a bit hard-mouthed.

Barbet Sirocco and Myrrha

Dogs have been around as long as humans have to help them. They also protected livestock, their homes and their master. The oldest dog breeds are the Dogue, the Spaniel, or Basset type dogs.
Most countries, other than France, have understood the concept that a barbet was a French word for a poodle. Large or small, barbichon regardless of size and type, any dog with a beard and a long coat was a barbet. These dog types were eventually put into groups and given breednames. One of the barbet types became a poodle (caniche), a bichon and so on. The barbet, generic type of dog with a long wooly coat, mixed with gundogs such as the Griffon Korthals, the Griffon Boulet and several others who used Barbet blood, and eventually categorized a Barbet.

It should be stressed especially since French National Library has begun to publish old books and magazines, the knowledge of the breed’s origins is rapidly growing. One cannot exclude that one day many more important sources predating what we already know and have, will be uncovered. So far over 300 sources have been collected and confirmed (including two photos from 19th century) aboutthe breed appearing in books, magazines, newspapers from 1886 until the beginning of WWII. Some of them are shown and kept in their original state, without any translation, as even single word may completely change the idea of article. As time moves on and more are found, we must all work together to revise the history as we know it.


It was in the 1880's that the Barbet was applied to a particular phenotype of dog and a standard was written for it. Up to the mid 19th century the barbet and poodle were synonymous for the same type of dog. By the middle of the century, poodles were categorized, then Korthals Griffon and Griffon Boulet, finally nearing the last of the breeds to be categorized, the "Barbet" emerged as a selected and morphological breed. In 1884 in the French magazine "Le Chenil" published a "chienne griffon barbet francais - Perette II" as entered to "Stud Book Continental". This is the time when the Barbet breed got it's official start.


Depends on the time of day the different stories about which of two breeds (Poodle and Barbets) given birth to the other are spreading around. Some of today’s Barbets indeed look almost like poodles (resulting from an influx of Poodle in 80’s) and the proponents of these individual dogs find it very useful to call those two breeds brothers, or the ancestor of one another.

Both breeds in the first days of their “lives” were completely different breeds in all terms. Griffon Barbet was… a Griffon, hunting dog, rustic with hair growing down, which excelled in working in heavy terrain, while the Poodle was a refined and elegant dog. Both breeds differed very much not only in terms of their morphology, with Poodle having different ancestry (pan-European) and older origin, calling the Barbet an ancestor of Poodle is a quite misconception The Barbet looked much more like other Griffons (and was shown as one of them) or Shepherds of that era, than the Poodle with which the connection expect being a dog, was the confusing name. Neither Barbet was an ancestor of Poodle, nor Poodle was ancestor of Barbet. More precisely we would say that they have a common ancestor. Both breeds Poodle and Barbet descend from the general group of waterdogs (barbets in France), both breeds started in almost same point in history and parted their ways from the very beginning. During those years Barbet was recognized as a versatile hunting dog, especially useful in heavy terrain, when its coat and strength was giving him a big advantage over other breeds.

Another name for the Barbet was: Griffon d’arrêt à Poil Laineux (wooly- haired pointer) as mentioned in the Larousse Universel (1922); Littré’s dictionary (1878 edition) which still exists and still mentions the Barbet, and La Sauvagine, Feb. 1995. References speak to the Barbet's intelligence, and fearlessness of very cold water. The only member in the water dog family to point, the Barbet was used mainly for waterfowl hunting. However, from the beginning this specially bred dog exhibited a loyalty and friendliness that made him a companion dog of choice.


The Barbet has been used in developing several breeds, for example the Briard, the Bichon Frise, and theNewfoundland. But although the Barbet has been used in breeding other breeds, the Barbet itself almost died out. Before World War II there were only two Barbet breeders left in the world, both inFrance, one being Dr. Charles Vincenti to his knowledge there were not any other breeders.. After World War II there were only a few Barbets remaining and more than 20 years later breeding of the Barbet was started again. It was the daughter of Dr. Vincenti, Madame Petre, who started breeding Barbet on the basis of the Barbet that she could find and which were descendants of Barbet bred by her father.
Today, the Barbet, although rare and in still endangered, continues to delight and amaze people around with world with its agility, fierce loyalty and its versatile field and water abilities. The versatile nature of the Barbet has meant its survival, and today's Barbet still has the assets attributed to it from the past

If you are interested in a full and extensive history of the Barbet, please have a look at the following website:  www.frenchwaterdog.org         

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