The Barbet’s coat is an interesting topic. Standard says:
1894 “Long, woolly and curly”
2005 “Long, woolly and curly”
What is for sure that nothing changed in standard since 19th century. Definition of “wooly” – I don’t how precise this word is in french. In many languages You use “wooly” not only to describe wool from sheep, but in general when we talk about very dense coat (eg. from a goat). If it is woolly it doesn’t mean it has to be like sheep’s wool. Maybe our vision of “woolly ,curly and long” is formed by the dogs we have seen. Standard didn’t change, dogs did. To get the view of how “long, wooly curly” coat looked like and should be interpreted now, You can look at historical photos of Mas de Chapelle barbet’s taken in 30’s. Quick look at those photos should direct to some simple and easy conclusions on coat.
My experiences with Barbet’s coat are like that. It is a big simplification. But I have seen two basic types of coat.
1. Coat curly, but not tight, not frizzy, very dense and wooly and very long and easy to maintain although it also matts if it is not brushed regularly. Well oiled, excellent for work in water or dirty areas. It is the coat that after coming from forest You can take a water hose and clean the dog. This is the coat presented in barbets from Poppenspaler or di Barbochos kennels, and it resembles the Mas de Chapelle types of coat. It is such a coat that if is not brushed it becomes thick (tangled?) but not mated. And this moment, when such a coat becomes a little tangled – it works like it should. I think this is the best kind of coat that barbet could have (I would use the word quintessence of Barbet’s coat), the coat that hunters from 19/20 century had in their dogs, they would not afford the dog that would need brushing and clenaing after every trip to forest.. You can always take a comb and easily brush it to the point that You will able to see the skin again, and then left it to become tangled again. It can be rarely brushed and it takes long time without brushing to became really mated and You still will be able to work it out without cutting.
2. Other type is a very curly coat, frizzy. Many dogs have that kind of coat it is a nightmare for their owners. Every time I meet people at dog shows, they want to know how to deal with it. This is the kind of coat that if left un brushed for a month or two may be only cut/shaved off. It mats very quickly, it keeps dirt (water and heat) inside too. Many owners of such dogs cut it regularly even if they are not working, because this coat is too hard to maintain even at home. The degeneration of coat led us to the point in which it is unable to keep it long and clean even in “home” environment, not to mention hunting or working in general. And it is not a question of owner’s laziness. I have people who are willing to travel 200 km in one way only to show me the dog, and ask if it is possible to save his coat. And of course the longer it gets the harder it is to maintain. That is why when you go to many websites around the internet, the dogs’ coats are cut short. Because that type of coat will never grow long to form strands and this type of coat is unable to be maintained.
While talking about coat, we have to remember that barbet is a hunting dog which is supposed to work in certain environment. By the environment I mean : cold water, marshes, dirt and mud. The coat must protect the dog and help him in his work. Only first type of coat meets those requirements.