About the Barbet
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.
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 in desperately low numbers 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, from barbe,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.
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.
FCI-Standard N° 105 officially recognized in 1954.
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 completely incorrect!! 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 the Newfoundland. 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 in France, one being Dr. Charles Vincenti, and 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
The Barbet is an old French breed threatened with extinction.
The Authentic Barbet
“The Barbet is not a spaniel, but a Griffon whose origins have been very much a topic of discussion"...written in 1933, by M Dhers for the Chasseur Français.
Stonehenge considered it was:
1. a variety of poodle,
2. the result of a crossing of a spaniel and of the water spaniel,
3. a breed of its own.
One could answer...
1. the poodle came after the Barbet
2. the water spaniel is a perfected Barbet
3. that the 3rd option is most likely the most correct.”
The Barbet having been the subject, historically, in our little canine world, of a major debate and continues to be, one needs to take a stand and decide as a breeder, aficionado or simple owner, what to believe and what not to.
There are those of us who believe in the 1894 standard written for a Griffon Barbet.
We believe that a Griffon is not a Poodle. The poodle is a sophisticated, elegant dog with its own standard.
We don’t support any radical standard changes as there have been, in such an old French breed.
The Barbet is a Griffon that was transferred into the SCC group 8 because of its remarkable ability to swim. It is and must remain a rustic, all around dog, that can retrieve from water and hunt on land, when trained. The Barbet also excels in agility and is a very intelligent dog who learns very quickly.
The Barbet is also a lovely, affectionate companion who does need space and activity. He is a member of the family!
Why “Authentic” Barbet?
We would like to stress our will to continue the phenotype/appearance of the Barbet from the 30’s, as documented in many books and photographs.
If some still have Barbet blood in them, we wish to promote it and continue to strive towards the morphology, natural (retrieving and hunting) ability, character, health, the multitude of colors that make the Barbet special, and a rustic, sound animal as there were documented to be at the turn of the 20th century and throughout most of the 20th century before some radical changes were made to the breed and its appearance and to the standard.
As a reminder, back in “those days” there was no DNA (a medical test to confirm parentage by using saliva or blood), but when you looked at the dogs, you knew where they were bred and what breed they were. The Barbet not SCC registered, had the appearance of a purebred dog and were admitted to the Titre Initial registry after having been seen by a judge of the SCC. Their origins can be traced through ownership.
How to achieve our objective? By selecting as much of what little Barbet blood still flows through the veins of some of the descendants of Mrs Pêtre’s dogs, and her father’s. The Barbets that have been selected so far, for reproduction, have been very similar to the old (blood)lines and very promising for the future of the Authentic Barbet.
We also believe in communicating openly about the true pedigrees of our dogs and why we do what we feel needs to be done for the future.
Below is a brief history of the Barbet from 1891 to 1970, when Mrs Pêtre, Dr Vincenti’s daughter, was offered a Barbet and decided to start breeding again.
The standard was written in 1891 by J de Coninck, president of the Société Havraise pour l’Amélioration des Races de Chiens. He thought the Barbet was more of a water dog than a gundog. The Barbet was in the FCI/SCC 7th group until 1986 along with the Griffon Korthals of which he was one of the founding fathers along with the Griffon Boulet. He also participated in the making of the Berger de Beauce along with the Briard and the Poodle.
1920-1930: Le Houelleur
M Le Houelleur, an SCC judge and hunter decided to acquire a Barbet and used him to hunt in the many areas of France he lived in and travelled through. He had already seen Barbets working in the Somme, the North of France, the Loiret, the Causses area and saw how quickly they adapted to the terrain.
He became a breeder. His kennel name was Floirac, town where their family home was and still is, in Dordogne where the family spends holidays and summers together to this day.
1930-1940: Le Houelleur/ Dr Vincenti
The kennel name” Mas de la Chapelle”, was registered at the SCC in 1933 by Dr Vincenti.
The 2 dogs he used as foundation stock were Hourie de Floirac and Iff de Floirac from M Le Houelleur.
Hourie de Floirac: b. 15/8/33 out of Beseff de Floirac and Piram ( Barbet that came from a kennel in the Somme area of France)
Dr Vincenti kept very strict records on each dog he produced in his kennel book that is available to us for perusal.
Example of overall remarks about the dogs: The dogs were white with black (as opposed to several of M Le Houlleur’s who were black with white). Good hunters/Very intelligent/flexible/ affectionate. Head length 20 cms/ woolly coats.
Records were kept on all the dogs as far as morphology (positive and negative points), colors, measurements, ability to hunt and character.
Unfortunately, as in other breeds, WWII did a lot of damage (and to dogs, too!) and it was difficult to find good quality dogs to keep the line going.
M Le Houelleur had sold his last Barbet and stopped breeding in 1941 and Dr Vincenti had died. In the North of France, the numerous Barbets were just about exterminated after the war. Just about doesn’t mean completely as it was known that there were still a few Barbets, mainly in the south of France.
No one, unfortunately has ever looked into what stock could be left in the north of France, Belgium or the Netherlands as it is a tedious and time-consuming task.
No one can say either or prove that the breed was extinct unless one has turned over every stone in the countries where there were Barbets starting at the beginning of the 20th century who most likely reproduced at some point.
1940-1960’s: The Ayme brothers
Very few births registered at the SCC, but a few doing their best so as not render the breed extinct.
Barbet were used for hunting and not for attending dog shows. The document below was taken from M Hermans’ Club du Barbet review no.2
As far as the Barbet was concerned, breeding went forward for a few years with the Ayme brothers, who lived in the mas (Mas de la Musique), next to the Vincenti family’s Mas de la Chapelle. They were far away from Paris and the SCC, and didn’t feel concerned with dog shows or beauty, the Barbet was a working hunter and that was their reason for being. Eventually, new blood had to be found as they were confronted to the inbreeding problem one has with not enough different blood. Thanks to Quesop (Portuguese water dog) brought back from Portugal, in a truck full of bulls! and mated to Bella, breeding was continued.
There are numerous family photos where the resemblance with Dr Vincenti’s Barbets is striking. Resemblance/phenotype that was continued, for lack of genetic proof so necessary to some ...
In the late 1960’s M Le Houelleur who had been corresponding with Miss Postigo wrote an article about the Barbet, published in the SCC official review.
In 1970, Miss Postigo who lived in Marseille and worked closely with the Ayme brothers offered Mrs Pêtre one of her father’s Barbets’ descendants named Thais. Mrs Pêtre decided to start breeding again.
S’Gandar was the son of Quesop and Bella from the Ayme brothers. They were mated.
Bella was the daughter of Thian and Tahio who in turn were son and daughter of Kino du Mas de la Chapelle and Lita.
And a long line of descendants was started. Some successful, some less as is the case with most breeders. Mrs Pêtre was helped in her endeavour by several willing people until the early 80’s, when M Hermans had decided to re-incarnate the Buffon Barbet from 1776, by crossing T.I. dogs found in shelters with poodles and more poodles and discarding all of the Griffon Barbets in the south of France along with their breeders, descendants of Dr Vincenti and M Le Houelleur’s Barbets from the 30’s
With facts, true history, original documents, photographs of lines and true pedigrees being made available to all of us, perhaps there will be a solution found at some point in the future. In the meantime, you as a reader, can make your own opinion and not rely on someone else’s.
Thank you to Elaine Fichter for sharing the vast amount of knowledge and information with many of the Preservation breeders around the world, to help save the breed we love so much.
Also, thank you to Leedart Bosman and Tomasz Targowski for their time, research and writings of the breed, and for sharing with us and many others around the world.