Barbet – History
The history of the “barbet-type dog” stretches back into antiquity. Although it’s exact origins, is subject to debate. One theory is that the barbet descended from corded herding dogs, originating in North Africa which were brought to Europe with the Moors as they occupied the Iberian Peninsula during the 7th and 8th centuries. Then furthering a field by returning armies from the Reconquista crossing the Pyrenees to France and central Europe. In 1570, Dr. Johannes Caius, who was personal physician to Queen Elizabeth’s first attempted to classify the barbet in his “De Canibus Britannicus”. Dog was described as “extremely useful and willing to play” and given him the nickname “Mud Dog” explained that the dog loves being in a muddy and waterlogged areas. The French king Henry IV, was a passionate of the hunting with dogs. In the year 1587 mrs, Corisande a certain lady picked on in the church by Mr. de Bellieure – Chancellor of Marie de ‘Medici heard that she came to the temple, accompanied by “a fool, monkey, and barbet. ” Without the political subtext (I do not know whether Henry was a fool or a monkey in the opinion of the chancellor), the whole incident proves that even then the breed was known and distinguished from other hunting dogs. In 1621 Markham in his “Art of stalking, “mentions of a waterdog so popular that it is unnecessary to describe it”. Breed also gave the source of the French saying “Crotta être comme un Barbet, meaning just “being very, very dirty”. In the eighteenth century Linnaeus called them Cams aquaticus major or the Greater Water Dog. As written in 1750, “Natural History” by Count Buffon George Louis appears the oldest known graphic representation of so called grand barbet. What was distinctive from the other spaniels, was a thick woolly coat and a great willingness to work in the water.
During the Napoleonic Wars, barbets accompanied French soldiers on all fronts of the war from Spain to Russia, guarding the camps and acting as couriers. Many of them have been decorated and most famous Moustache was a hero of La Grande Arme.
Barbet (Griffon) or barbet?
Most countries other than France have understood the concept that a barbet was the French word for poodle. Grand, petit, 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 breed names. One of the barbet types became a Caniche/Poodle, 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 Grifon Boulet and several others who used Barbet blood. It was finally at some point in the 1880’s, given its breed name Barbet and a standard was written for it. Up to middle of 19th century barbet and poodle was the name for same kind/type of dogs. More about history of the breed, and differences between barbet/poodle and Barbet –Barbet History Project
The end of 19th century was crucial for development of French breeds. In that time from the general group of dogs called barbets or poodles, first real breeds appeared. First in the middle of century Poodle emerged (therefore Barbet cannot be an ancestor of Poodle), later Khortals Griffon and Griffon Boulet appeared in card of history. Finally as almost the last one – Barbet emerged as selected and morphologically unified breed. First know source and proof of its presence is from 1884, form French magazine called “Le Chenil”, in that particular year a “chienne griffon barbet francais – Perette II” was entered to “Stud Book Continental”. This it the time when breed – Barbet as we know it – started.
In next year two Barbets – Thug and Plock received prizes at Paris dog show. In 1886 first pre-standard of the race is published. It is worth to mention, judging by the descriptions, photos or articles (including categorizing breed at the dog show) Barbet was much closer to other Griffons like Khortals or Boulet than to Poodles. The history of the breed during that time is fascinating, however it is almost unknown. Breeders of poodley typed dogs, refuse to acknowledge that between one old drawing from 1750 and todays Barbet (which to them is nothing more than “bigger brother of Poodle) there is a chapter in breeds hisotry called Griffon Barbet.
One of 19th century sources:
Le barbet est une sorte de griffon,à poils laineux et frisés ; il est à peu près bâti comme lui mais est beaucoup plus commun comme forme. Sa tête est ronde, les sourcils couvrent les yeux, le museau est plus court, les pattes sont grosses et lourdes, ses pieds ronds et larges. On en trouve un peu de toutes les couleurs.
On donnait autrefois le nom de barbet à tous les griffons, et c’est plutôt pour établir la différence entre lui et les griffons poils longs, que j’en donne la description, car le barbet ne peut pas être absolument considéré comme chien d’arrêt.
Il y en a certainement qui chassent en plaine et qui arrêtent, mais c’est l’exception et on trouve de ces cas dans bien d’autres races. J’ai vu des bassets et des beagles qui arrêtaient et on ne les a jamais considérés comme chien d’arrêts.
La vraie chasse du barbet est le marais, il résiste admi- rablement aux froids les plus durs; il chasse très bien les râles et excelle à rapporter les canards dans l’eau glacée. Sa conformation et l’épaisseur de sa toison l’empêchent de chasser en plaine et au bois, où ses poils se prennent dans les ronces. Il faut donc plutôt considérer le barbet comme un retriever pour les chasses au marais.
Cette race, si tant est qu’elle existe encore à l’état de race, est assez rare et ce n’est guère qu’en Belgique ou en Hollande qu’on pourrait en trouver. M. Mégnin, dans son nouveau livre sur les races de chiens, nous parle de Pilote, barbet appartenant à M. Coste, et voici ce que lui en a dit son propriétaire :
« Comme pour ses ancêtres, l’élément de Pilote c’est l’eau, rien que l’eau, et qu’elle soit tiède comme en août ou glaciale comme en décembre, le bain est toujours un plaisir pour lui. Il ferait, je crois, triste figure dans une plaine, je ne l’y ai du reste jamais conduit. Au marais seul. il est sur son terrain et chez lui. Je l’ai souvent ramené de la chasse le poil hérissé de glaçons, jamais il n’en a paru
incommodé une seconde. Souvent par les plus grands froids de l’hiver, à 18 ou 19 degrés au-dessous du zéro, alors que tous ses compagnons de chenil se pelotonnaient frileusement dans la paille, je l’ai trouvé couché dans la cour, le museau allongé sur ses pattes, couvert de neige et littéralement poudré à frimas, le lendemain sa place était marquée dans la neige fondue sous lui jusqu’au sol. je me demande si beaucoup d’autres races offrent de pareilles ressources de tempérament et surtout un tel dédain des basses températures. Quel précieux auxiliaire pour le chasseur de sauvagine dans le service exception- nellement dur de cette chasse? car il rapporte par plaisir et il aime à patauger plus encore que son maître, si jeune et si enragé qu’il soit. »
Description du Barbet d’arrêt.
TÊTE Ronde, front développé, museau un peu court, garni de longues moustaches pendantes.
OREILLES. Longues, plates, garnies de longs poils, frisés ou par mèches.
OEIL Rond, vif,’ intelligent, complètement recouvert par d’épais et longs sourcils retombant jus-qu’au chanfrein.
NEZ Brun ou noir. Cou Gros et court.
POITRINE. Large, sans beaucoup de profondeur.
REIN. Court, fort et vigoureux.
PATTES Fortes et grosses, garnies de longs poils de haut en bas.
PIED. Rond, large, recouvert de poil.
FOUET Relevé et formant le crochet vers l’extrémité.
COULEUR. Gris, noir, café au lait. blanc sale, blanc et marron, etc.
POIL. Long, laineux et frisé, se massant souvent par larges plaques.
TAILLE.. 45 à 55 centimètres.
APPARENCE GÉNÉRALE :
Ramassé et vigoureux.
Griffon is a type of hunting dog whose physical conditions make it able to work in difficult conditions. At the turn of the century this group of dogs included, among others, Khortals Griffon , Griffon Boulet , Griffon Bresse or Griffon a poil Laineux (with woolly hair) . Also Barbet wasquite often counted among the Griffons or was exhibited with them in one group of dogs. All these races were more or less similar (by crosses or similar origin ) . Unfortunately the begining of 20th century brought huge interest in outstanding English breeds, even in the French press canine of this period such as ” Le Chenil “, you could see (by a notice of litters , or exhibitions, or, finally, the entries in the pedigree books) that the influx of dogs from Great Britain was gigantic. Relatively freshly emerged breeds of Griffons were not able to withstand. Only Barbet and Khortals Griffon survived. Until about the mid-twenties the nineteenth century , there are no organized sources about breeding . There are mention of litters , and the success of the exhibition (eg in ” Le Figaro ” of Nov. 17, 1936 ), but because the dogs at the time often did not have kennel names , an analysis of these sources is very difficult.
There were a few breeders before WWI, one of which was a M. Coste who produced a Barbet by the name of Pilote who portrays the Griffon-Barbet d’Arrêt standard. He is a typical representation of the Authentic Barbet or “Vieux Barbet Français” to this day for morphology. There were Barbets who hunted in the south of France, near the Camargue region. Two breeders were working together. They were the Floirac (Hourie de Floirac was the 1st Barbet to be SCC/ LOF registered) and Mas de la Chapelle kennels ( Joyeuse du Mas de la Chapelle). This is in the 30’s and early 40’s. WWII came along and put an end to a lot of breeding again, not only Barbets, but other breeds in many countries hit by war. Many breeds and not just the Barbet suffered from lack of precise ancestry. Many recovered due to close cooperation of a few people who worked for the survival of the breed. There was not money around for futile expenditures. Not many were interested in “wasting” money registering dogs (there was no logical reason to, at the time). Dogs which corresponded to the specifications they had ( standard!) worked, hunted, reproduced and everyone was happy. The Barbet was not an exception. The same thing happened to Polish Lowland Sheepdog and all Polish hunting breeds exterminated during IIWW, those breeds were rebuild based on dogs “in type” often living in same villages where they were used for hunting before war (there were cases where dogs were hidden and their papers burned to protect them). Still no one says today about them that they were/are extinct as some “barbets experts” states. The pedigree is not what makes a breed, morphology is.
In the same village, called Graveson, as the village where Doctor Vincenti, of the Mas de la Chapelle kennel, lived 2 brothers who saved the Barbet from extinction. The Ayme brothers, neighbours to the Mas de la Chapelle, and who lived in the Mas de la Musique a few hundred meters away, were able to keep the breed alive. In the 50’s, during a trip to Portugal, they saw a dog that looked like a barbet-type dog, a Portuguese Water Dog and brought him back with some cattle in a truck, to bring some new blood to the Barbets they had to avoid inbreeding. The original strain was therefore kept alive up to the 60’s, none having been registered at the SCC for many years. A Miss Postigo, from Marseille, registered some Barbets at the SCC in the late 60’s. These were ATI because the SCC had no records of the ancestry which had been kept alive in Graveson, by the Ayme brothers. In the early 70’s, Miss Postigo offered Mrs Pêtre (Doctor Vincenti’s daughter) a Barbet and breeding started again. This is the same process that was used by many breeds around the world and not just in France!
Mrs Pêtre registered a kennel name in the early 80’s. It was Barbochos Reiau de Prouvenco. The dogs were SCC registered as Barbet d’Arrêt (pointing dogs).
In 1977, Jean Claude Hermans, who had been a groomer and was very interested in the canine world, wrote an article about the corded Poodle in a canine review. The corded poodle was in the past also called the Royal Poodle. He then took an interest in a rare breed called the Barbet. He had seen an ad in a canine revue, about Barbet puppies available in the south of France. He thought the breed extinct for over a hundred years( that is how the rumour started about the breed being extinct which it never has been) and was intrigued. He contacted the breeder, Mrs Pêtre but never went to see her. After having seen one dog that had been placed in the Paris area where he lived, he had as a plan to start from scratch, ignore any of the SCC/LOF (Liste des Origines Françaises) registered Barbets and decided to “re-incarnate” the breed. He went around local rescue centers around Paris and selected some ATI (A Titre Initial = no known ancestry) Barbet-type dogs ( Lynx and Sérienoire), registered them and called them Barbets. Then, he began mating them without any known breeding plan. At some point, he was given the right by the SCC to do a cross-breeding (of a Barbet with a Poodle) to add some diversity. Since he had decided to re-incarnate the breed and claimed the Barbet was extinct at the turn of a century, he began using poodles and crossing them (brothers and sisters/ daughter and father). There was never any concern with any health issues at the time. The first true crossbreeding of an ”Authentic Barbet/Vieux Barbet Français” with a Barbet Moderne only took place in 2000, and never before regardless of the claims of several who speak about a crossbreeding.. The breeder who braved the ban of mixing the 2 sides (Authentic and Moderne) was publicly ridiculed. He had a difficult time finding poodle breeders who would accept to work with him because at the time the Poodle club of France was against his “plan”. In 1980, he decided to start a club, proclaimed himself president and also became an SCC judge to help his cause. He needed to have at least 50 births per year to be able to stand on his own. He climbed up the canine ladder and has become involved in several breeds over the years. He did his best to get as many people as possible to have litters, only ever having one litter of Barbets himself! His only objective was to have the tightest curliest coats. This particular legacy lives on to this date and very often, morphology is put aside when a tight curled poodle-type can be selected into the Barbet Moderne. There were LOF Barbets around with Barbet blood in them, others were ATI, but his strategy was to reincarnate the Barbet de Buffon from 1760, by using Poodles, so he methodically began to refuse confirmation of many Barbets especially those from Mrs Pêtre and her collaborators, and modified the standard so taller Poodle type dogs would correspond “better” to his vision of the breed. The Poodle coat being dominant, it is very difficult nowadays to get away from the Poodle “type” and therefore be able to show dogs in a long coat as stated in the standard ( FCI 105).
In the early 1990’s, a German man by the name of Rainier T. Georgii and his companion Inge Fischer moved to France. They were well known in the working dog world for her successful Irish Water Spaniel breeding. They fell in love with the Barbet, decided to work for its survival and used as foundation stock a Barbet by the name of Hercule di Barbochos Reiau de Prouvenco. A long collaboration started between Mrs Pêtre and the Georgii/Fischer team. M Hermans decided to fight tooth and nail any of the dogs produced by M Georgii, who was forced to register his Barbets in Germany.
All-out war raging between the two men, resulted in falsifying pedigrees. Over 30 years, the breed club has never been able to resolve any issues for lack of competences and willingness to do so. Nor has it helped any breeders working for the survival of this rare French breed. M. Georgii is honorary member of the French Barbet and other waterbreeds’ club and so is Mrs Pêtre. Over the years, many people who loved the breed and wanted to help with its survival were discouraged and finally gave up. That is the reason why many kennel names never registered more than one perhaps two litters before giving up. This information is available on pedigree databases. The data about other blood added into the Barbet is available today thanks to many other breeds’ pedigree databases, the archives available and the research which has been done. This has revealed a lot of valuable information needed by the breeders of Barbets. These dogs do all have common ancestors. These additions of blood, however, were necessary for the breed’s genetic diversity and survival, but known by only a few long term breeders and hidden for many years from the others until recently. Litters were never evaluated by the breed club and progeny registered according to breed type. All progeny was given a first class registration. A tremendous amount of damage was done to the breed. M Hermans finally gave up presidency of the club he founded, in 2001. He is now involved in other breeds and updates a website concerning dog paintings, postcards and the likes. He is honorary member of the Swiss Barbet club. After years he stated that ” We have therefore recreated the barbet thanks to the standard of another breed and thanks to the confusion of misleading information“. Today it is easy to differentiate two lines in the breed , one so called “Vieux Barbet” – the old type, pedigrees of those dogs are mainly founded on dogs registered in 60s and 70’s in France (our Ila is a good example) and so called “modern Barbet” – pedigrees of those dogs are mainly founded on poodles and other dogs introduced to the breed by Hermans – Swiss example.
Barbets have an unusual ailment to appear in the heart of events that change the course of history. Unfortunately, the same history for them is extremely cruel and many times these dogs have been facing extermination. With the drainage of swamps and wetlands, these dogs have lost their natural environment. Loss of “hunting culture” and the emergence of other more popular breeds meant that their benefits have ceased to be valued and the population quickly dwindled. Only few survived the First World War. After the Second World War, only a handful of dogs on a French farm, Mas de la Chapelle survived. And when one could thought that breed will be rebuild in “normal” way the Herman’s poodles came in. People who have old bloodlines dogs were marginalized, dogs were denied registration and issuing of pedigrees. Standard was defined and several times changed in such way, that the dogs could not meet (quite mention that over the years the standard increased dogs heights by 1 / 3). More and more poodle blood was introduced.Unique contribution to the preservation of race was done by Rainer Georgii and Mr.Petre, who devoted their entire life for the breed. Their hard work has enabled the breed to survive in spite of difficulties.
More details about the history, including the blood lines and efforts to sustain the great diversity of this race can be found here here.