Griffon Barbet

A Barbet is a Barbet is a Barbet

Chiens D'Arret

Illustration from – “Les races françaises de chiens d’arrêt” – J. de Coninck; dessins de P. Mahler, 1891

FCI/SCC standard: 105 (21.02.2006)

  • The Barbet is qualified by the Société Centrale Canine as a rare French breed due to the fact that there are less than 50 births per year in France. It has never been a widespread breed. However there are many Barbet-type dogs in France as it is a natural breed.
  • It is a major contributor to the French canine patrimony due to the amount of breeds that contain Barbet blood in their veins.
  • The Barbet is known as the specialist in retrieving fowl in thick reed and swimming in extreme temperatures. It is the canis aviarius aquaticus par excellence. It has natural retrieving instinct.
  • The Barbet was named in France for the first time by Jacques du Fouilloux in the 16th century.
  • It is qualified as a very “undistinguished” and rustic dog.

The Barbet is THE French Water Dog and part of the bigger family of water dogs, of the FCI ( Federation Cynologique Internationale) SCC ( Société Centrale Canine) 8th group, which includes the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch water dogs and several water Spaniels. However, it is not a Spaniel. France is the only country where the water dog has an official name: “BARBET’. The water dogs that exist in other countries do not bear that particular name for their breed. The 8th group does not include the Hungarian water dog, or Puli, considered a shepherd. The Barbet NOT selected to become a Poodle gave way to the GRIFFON Français. A second name for the Barbet was: Griffon d’arrêt à Poil Laineux (wooly-haired pointer) or Griffon Boulet, now extinct, which resembled the Barbet. It only existed in brown.


The Barbet has a very long history which dates back to at least the 16th century. Before that time, there were water dogs/ rough water dogs in many countries, but they were not called Barbets. The word” Barbet”, historically and in France, was a generic word used to designate any long haired dog with a beard (barbe) before it became the official name of a breed of French dogs. How did the Barbet get to France and become a French dog? Hard to say and theories abound. When Attila the Hun moved across Europe he certainly had sheep and herding dogs to manage them. There are maps showing how they moved across countries, settled, mixed with local dogs and hundreds of years later when standards were written, each country had their own to write about. If the Barbet came up through Africa with the Moors in the 8th century, that could have been part of the migration from Mongolia. This having taken centuries!

The great early German authority on dog breeds, Dr. Fitzinger, listed six varieties of Poodles in his area: Gros Pudel, Mittlere Pudel, Kleine Pudel, Kleine Pinsch, Schnur Pudel and Schaf Pudel. The word Schaf means “curly and the word Schnur means, “corded”, a separate breed, which we shall describe in a moment. The Gros Pudel was called Can Barbone by the Italians and Grand Barbet by the French. It was the largest type, equal to our standard Poodle of today, and probably even included our royal standard, the super size that we occasionally see now. The Mittlere Pudel was called the Barbet in France and is currently known there as the Caniche. It is not a miniature but merely a shade smaller than our ordinary standard of today, the word caniche coming from canard, the French word for “duck”.

The breeds (including Barbet) as we know them (divided, supervised by clubs, and standardized) are relatively new concept. Before that process began (from beginning of 19th century) we may speak about some proto-breeds in general that put a fundament for future establishment of more specialized breeds (fe. spaniel). Therefore when You read about barbets in sources predating the second half of XIX century , the term “barbet” is never used as a name for a breed as we know it today (as it haven’t yet existed) but it is used as a name for the general group of dogs.  Therefore  however attractive as is looks, pre-XIX century sources citing “barbets”, have not much do to with Barbet as a breed. Famous litography of “Grand Barbet”, which may be the most easy to find around, cannot  be a representation of the breed which was born almost 200 years later.

Dogs have been around as long as humans have to help them hunt. They also  protected livestock, their home and their master. The oldest dog breeds are  not the poodle type, but the Dogue, the Spaniel, or Basset type dogs  (primitive dogs).

Henri IV’s mistress refers to a barbet she took to mass with her along with  her monkey and her buffoon. The Grognards of Napoleon had a barbet as  mascot. His name was Moustache. There are many references to the barbet  in French literature from Jules Verne, to Lafontaine and Voltaire and many  more as it was such a common dog.Painters such as Oudry, Huet and Manet  painted the barbet. Mahler also depicted a couple of Barbets in a very  famous  watercolor in 1907 for the Chasseur Français kennels.( shown here)  They were Griffons.

Chien and Chienne Barbet Siroco and Myrrha at work

Chien and Chienne Barbet Siroco and Myrrha at work

Many cynophile authors of the 19 th and 20th centuries refer to the Barbet as an exceptional swimmer, but not a great pointer (although how a dog points and the definition of pointing also differs from country to country). That could be a reason for the move into the 8th group in 1986 when Jean Claude Hermans decided to take care of it. Regardless, it remains a griffon type dog as it is and must remain a working dog: a gundog.

All along history the Barbet mixed with other breeds. It has contributed to the making of many breeds such as the Briard, the Berger de Beauce (Beauceron) the Terreneuve, the diminutive Poodle and the standard Poodle. Barbet called JANUS is famous for being one of the 7 founding fathers of the Griffon Korthals.

The Poodle (the Germans call it Pudel from the word puddle) was, in the meantime, becoming the chien-cane (canard = duck) and eventually Caniche and onwards from 1860, it was quite easy to make the difference between a Poodle and a Barbet (Griffon Français), as it is today. In 1861 in France the poodle accompanies the ‘bourgeois sportsman ‘. This poodle at that time was described as 15 to 18 inches tall (38 to 46 cms), very thick coat, and falling in long, sharply twisted curls or ringlets, while the colour is either pure white or pure black, but that usually they were a mixture of the two colours.( also called parti-poodles, or harlequin).

The Poodle in France was selected for solid only colors whereas the Barbet took on shepherd/herding dog colors, and different colors from the different breeds it contributed to. As an example, the brindle color could come from Portuguese Water Dog roots. The dark brown shades on many black dogs has been identified as a gift from the Chien de Crau, an extremely rare French breed for which a standard has just been written for in France. This particular breed settled in the Crau/ Camargue region of France, near Mrs Pêtre.


Depending 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 today’s Barbets indeed looks almost like poodles (influx of Poodle done in 80’s) and their proponents find it very useful to call those two breeds brothers, or one ancestor of the other.

Both breeds in the first days of their “lifes” were completely different breeds in all terms. Griffon Barbet was… a Griffon (even this was a heavy concept for some to accept), hunting dog, rustic with hair growing down, which excelled in hunting in heavy terrain, while Poodle was refine and elegant dog. Both breeds differed very much not only by terms of their morphology, with Poodle having different ancestry (pan-European) and older origin (standard’s dates), calling  Barbet an ancestor (or even a brother) of Poodle is a quite misconception (unless Barbet carries so much Poodle blood, that it looks almost like a Poodle). Barbet looked much more like other Griffons (and was shown as one of them) or Sheppards of that era, than Poodle with which the connection expect being a dog, was the confusing naming.  Neither Barbet was an ancestor of Poodle, nor Poodle was ancestor of Barbet. More accuarate would be to say that both breeds Poodle and Barbet are descending 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.

The Poodle was and is a finer, elegant, taller dog, the tail was cut and it only came in solid colors. It was accepted into ladies’ salons and it was perfumed!

The Barbet stayed in the countryside and the expression “crotté comme un Barbet” (to be up to the ears in dirt) continued its path, hunting, swimming and mixing with other breeds who needed the Barbet undercoat to protect the in water. Hence the palette of colours!

Some of the “old Barbet” or “Vieux Barbet Français” colors have come out in the last 5 years. For many years, those colors had not been seen. Pied is now becoming more visible and 1930 colors have also resurged in a kennel in the Netherlands. Sand, which had not been seen since the 70’s, has come several times to breeders in Finland and is much appreciated.

It is interesting to note that the same differences remain today between the Standard Poodle and the Authentic Barbet or Vieux Barbet Français as existed in the past. Side by side, these differences are quite obvious.

Grand Barbet de Buffon 1766 stood 55cms at the withers

Grand Barbet de Buffon 1766 , 

Is there just one “Barbet” as some claim today? It would be difficult to admit, considering the evidence available along with the standard written in France for a gundog/pointing dog called the Barbet d’Arrêt , SCC 7th group classification until 1986.

There are more likely two : a Barbet Moderne and the Authentic Barbet /Vieux Barbet Français (old breed).

However, there is only one standard. It was written in 1886 and validated in 1894 for a Griffon Barbet d’Arrêt. The Barbet characterized by the Count de Buffon (1766) above, no longer exists and never existed as a breed (meaning a dog with a standard to define its characteristics). It was selected into a Poodle which now has its own standard.

The Barbet Moderne school of thought believe in the re-incarnation of the Grand Barbet de Buffon, as explained by its founding “father”, Jean Claude Hermans who thought that by selecting, crossing and re-crossing poodles he would eventually get back to the Grand Barbet de Buffon (circa 1766). Jean Claude Hermans’s Barbet was to be as tall as possible and the tallest of the waterdogs, as he is quoted saying. a comment by Leendert Bosman – Using historical references without thorough research is a tricky thing and in special in case of the Barbet and the Poodle one easily gets confused and mixed up. Since Buffon (ca 1755) published a middle-sized (43 cm high and 70 cm long) company Poodle under the name of “Grand barbet” most sources confused the Poodle with the Barbet. This means you have to analyse first what is being meant with this or that breed term in the past. The Barbet was sometimes also called the Griffon des dunes de Boulogne, and not such a Paris boudoir pet, but more a rural hunting dog, 100 years ago still kept in Picardy in France. In the 1930ties Le Houelleur obtained his Barbets from there and started to drag the breed out of forgotteness. In the 19th century the breed was also kept for hunting and occasionally exhibited on shows in Belgium. Ad. Reul mentioed them the “Barbet belge”. From the same area as Le Houelleur Emanuel Boulet obtained the same dogs, which he used to crossbreed with other dogs, in order to create his own breed. A pity is that for his purpose Griffons (also Korthals) and Barbets were often put in the same class on dog shows, to make it easier for Boulet to exhibit his crossbreds as “Griffon à poil laineux” (Boulet was a high ranked figure in the French cynological organisation). Because of that the Barbet was also confused with griffons on dog shows and with caniches (Poodles) in books.

Babet Reese1820

Abraham Reese: quadrupeds 1820 (petit and grand Barbet)


The Grand Barbet, was selected in the mid 1800’s, to evolve into a sophisticated standard poodle. What was not “selected” continued as a rustic dog which is the one many mention in the 19th century as being an unsophisticated multi-service farm dog with a wooly curly, not frizzy coat like the Poodle. The Petit, the size of a diminutive poodle, a bichon, or a little lion dog already existed as depicted in many paintings by Oudry and several French and German painters in the 16th century. They mostly are shown with a lion cut which was popular in the 15th century and onwards.
The French paintings shown with dogs in hunting scenes were dated before the French Revolution, because the barbet (mostly the Petit) was used by kings such as Louis XV for hunting. After, the revolution, many years went by before selection started again, for obvious reasons. In the 19th century, most of the paintings were by British artists such as Stubbs, Donovan, Gainsborough, Reinagle, Emms and they were of Poodles. (rough coated water dogs).

When the breed called “Barbet” started?

There is no certain answer to this question. In 19th century the growing interest in in France breeding dogs led to establishment of first clubs and as we call them today – standards, the “blue-prints” describing the typical/ideal representative of breed. The moment when a certain line of dogs becomes morphologically unified and different form other dogs is the starting point of the breed, usually during that process the first standard and/or other documents describing the certain breed are issued. One of the first breeds that emerged from the proto-poodle (European naming/nomenclature) or proto-barbet (French naming/nomenclature) ocean of dogs was Poodle around 1850 (with two lines, corded and not corded). What needs to be emphasized that the breed was common in several European countries, but finally was standardized in France while Barbet was a typical and domestic breed only in France (few soruces also points to Belgium). Then Griffon Khortals and Griffon Boulet appeared. Then in 1886 in French magazine “Le Chenil” the first pre-standard of Barbet d’arret (hunting dog) was published. However two years before the first mention of Barbet’s pre-standard, there was a inscription to SBC of female griffon barbet named PERETTE II.

Is the 1886 starting moment? well probably not. Two years before pro-standard was printed, “griffon barbet” PERETTE II was already put under already categorized name, and in 1885 two Barbets named Thug and Plock had already won prizes at dog show. So to summarize the breed already existed and was recognized when in 1886 the first know to us pre-standard appeared.

Late 19th century is the time when Barbet as a breed started its history. However standard is only the final stage of formation of a breed, dogs of that particular type must have existed prior, and in fact they did – in 1863 over 60 different breeds including Griffon attended and were later photographed during exposition in Paris. So far we have been able to collect over 300 sources (including two photos from 19th century) about the breed that appeared in books, magazines, newspapers from second half of 19th century until the beginning of IIWW. Some of them are shown in – historical references section. We kept them in original, without any translation, as even single word may completely change the idea of article. As time allows more will be added. 

You can also browse trough yet not complete list of historical representatives of breed.

The barbet (rough coated waterdog) was a valuable hunting companion used for retrieving wild fowl shot down from water and on land. They are said to have a very soft mouth. Their thick, long, curly coat provides resistance to extreme temperatures. It also proved to be a handicap sometimes when catching everything like Velcro! It required a tremendous amount of care.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it began its decline because there were English hunting breeds being imported into France and they were more all-around breeds, and they had a short coat ( Griffon Korthals). The Barbet declined, but was still found in the countryside with many stories of people being narrated, who had Barbets in their childhood, in many areas of France, close to the Belgian border, the Somme area and later in the 1920’s and 30’s closer to the south of France. In other words, anywhere there was marshland, water and waterfowl to hunt and retrieve on land and in water.

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 are many adds in newspapers such as LE CHENIL for Griffon-Barbets/gundogs.

Barbet PILOTE, 1886.

Barbet PILOTE, 1886.

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.

Photos of the dogs and their progeny that laid fundament to the emergency of the breed in 60’s and 70’s. These were mainly TI dogs (Titire Initial) selected to fit the required by the standard of the breed type.
1. R’LUCKY (1968-03-01), 2. S’GANDAR (1969-07-28), 3. U’GRIBOUILLE (1971), 4. THAIS (1970-12-22 – R’LUCKY (T.I) x PHEBEE DITE DOLY (T.I)), 5. ISLAM (1973-07-01), 6. M’DIOUNE (1976-01-01), 7. NOE (1977-04-01), 8. O’PLUTART (1978-06-01), 9. OPS (1978-09-03 – U’GRIBOUILLE (T.I.) x THAIS ) , 10. PHELIE (1979-04-23), 11. RHETIE (1980-02-21 U’GRIBOUILLE x JOYEUSE)- 12. SOUSHONG (1981-07-25 – ISLAM (T.I.) x OPS), 13. GAUGIN des Marécages du Prince (1991-01-01)

In the same village, called Graveson, as the village where Doctor Vincenti, of the Mas de la Chapelle kennel, lived two 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. 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 1 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, into something he imagined. 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 two 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”. He did manage to convince a couple in France (Haut Paquis; de l’Ame du Prince des Hortillons).


Dogs introduced to the breed by Hermans in 80’s that gave start to modern line. Syptomaticaly most of their photos are nowhere to be found, however almost all of them were poodles (except H’Alix) and they are represented by their breeds silhouette  . 1. LYNX (1975-01-05) – first and the most griffon-type dogs of that group, 2. SERYNOIRE (1981-08-15), 3. BRUSS du Haut Pacquis (white Poodle) (1986-07-24), 4. BLACKY (Poodle) (1986-12-10), 5. BARON de l’Ame du Prince des Hortillons (Poodle) (1987), 6. UDITH del’Ame du Prince des Hortillons (Poodle) (1982), 7. do Condinho LUZ (Portuguese Water Dog) (198?), 8. ESTURGEONNE des Saute Ruisseaux ( 1989-01-05 – BARON de l’Ame du Prince des Hortillons (Poodle) x ULYSSIA des Marécages du Prince), 9. H’ALIX (1992-12-16), mix of PWD, poodle and Lynx&Serynoire – the most mysterious of those dogs, his ancestors (GALLO des Canailles de Verbaux  x do Condinho Luz (Portuguese Water Dog)) were removed by maintainers from so called database of pedigrees in september 2012.

In 1980, he started 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! There was never any type of selection work done, only TALL dogs which still dominate nowadays.There were LOF Barbets around with Barbet blood in them, others were ATI, but his strategy was to re-incarnate 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, claiming the Griffon Barbet did not exist and modified the standard so taller Poodle type dogs would correspond “better” to his vision of the breed. The thick frizzy 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). That is a reason why authentic/ Vieux Barbet Français” try to avoid mixing with the too tall, thin headed, and curly Poodle types. The character of the dogs has also changed into many very nervous high strung types.

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. The situation never improved and to this day there is still a battle between the two factions. 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. Their work has been invaluable for the” Authentic/Vieux Barbet Français” ’s survival, but ignored by the breed club.

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. 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. It is however mostly ignored. These dogs do all have common ancestors and it is getting worse now as in some countries all the dogs are related. 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. This has given several defects in the morphology of the Barbet, such a bicolor and tricolor coats and light brown eyes on black dogs, The suspected contributor is the Portuguese Water dog “hidden” in the pedigrees. 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.

French-born ULYSSE di Barbochos Reiau de Prouvenco, his pedigree derives from six dogs (Islam (ATI), S’GANDAR (ATI),Phebee/Dolly (ATI),R’Lucky (ATI),Noë (ATI),M’Dioune (ATI) ) introduced in 60’s and 70’s with no single drop of poodle influx done in 80’s. Due to his value toe the Vieux Barbet line and outstanding characteristics he was hunted down in order to prevent him from breeding by Swiss Barbet Club. His first litter was almost entirely refused confirmation, after re-registration in France, he was still a subject of attacks – Swiss Barbet Club letter in which it demands banning ULYSSE from breeding

Comparison of coat quality. On left – ULYSSE, with open curls, easy to manage. Above swiss male descending mainly from poodles, tight curls makes coat unmanageable, coat is kept short (in long-coated breed!)

Physical characteristics:

The Barbet is a medium-sized dog. The most visible and essential characteristics of any breed of dogs are the head, the tail and the coat and the overall morphology. The coat grows down on the body and and is long wooly and curly often hanging in strands Body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. It is a stocky, vigorous, compact, unsophisticated dog. It goes to water like a duck.
The Barbet moves with a medium stride and soft easy movements define its gait with powerful hindquarters. He is not a fast moving dog. Feet are round and webbed. Muzzle is square and shorter than the skull which is round and broad. It is quite square, the bridge of the nose fairly broad, and thick, well pigmented lips covered by long hair. There are some suspected contributions of long necks brought by the Poodle. Beard and mustache cover the entire nose and the coat grows down (not out like a Poodle) from the top of the skull to the bridge of the nose.

Head quality is essential. Without a correct head a dog is not representative of the breed and the Barbet’s head is very wide, but not out of proportion. The head supports the breed’s function as a water retriever and gundog.

Nose has wide nostrils and can be black or brown according to the color of the coat. The Barbet has an incredible sense of smell, necessary to accomplish his work. Jaws and teeth are strong. A scissor bite is preferred.
Eyes are generally deep brown and rounded whereas the rim of the eyelid is either black or brown. Many brown Barbets today have much lighter eyes than dark brown. This trait was brought by the mixing of other breeds. Interesting fact: Lynx, the Griffon type dog registered ATI in the late 70’s had light eyes. The light brown eyes on black dogs are appearing more and more. Ears are long, flat and wide starting at eye level or lower and are covered by long strands of hair. The neck is short and strong and the top line is solid. Loins are arched, short and strong with a rounded croup visible from the side as a smooth continuation of the visual line of the loin. Chest has a rounded ribcage which is deep, broad and well developed but not like a barrel (a trait brought by the Spanish Water Dog). The slightly raised tail is low set and forms a hooked end. Skin is thick.

Tail is set low and forms at crochet at the end. It does not curl over the back, but can rise to above horizontal when the dog is moving. Colors have been of a wide palette of natural colors that range from black, black and white (pied), dirty white and black or brown, gray, fawn, sand and fawn. Shade should be the same all over the body, however with the brown color which also fades, there are sometimes up to 5 different shades on a given dog due to the graying factor.


The Barbet is a happy dog, loving, attentive and always looking to please you; he admires you, is very sociable with other dogs, very playful with children. He is extremely intelligent, and needs to do some obedience at an early age. He does not appreciate people who scream a lot…as he is a peaceful dog. There are sadly more and more barkers and nervous types.


The Barbet being a rustic dog with a long curly coat it therefore requires weekly brushing as the coat matts easily when not regularly taken care of. When brushed, the curls must automatically come back. It is similar to the coat of the Irish Water Spaniel and is not bushy nor fine and frizzy. It does have undercoat to protect it in extreme temperatures and in water. The standard has never specified a length of coat, only “long”. It can be shaved once a year (at the same times as the sheep!). The hair grows more slowly on the ears and tail which is why it is not recommended to shave them entirely.

It can arbor a working cut which is much shorter but not described in the standard. The lion cut has never been a working cut for the Barbet, but one for the diminutive and standard poodle or the Portuguese Water Dog. There is a propensity in several countries such as Canada and the United State, to overgroom the dogs for show purposes making it thus a generic water showdog, but the majority do have a long coat with curly strands. The Barbet Moderne is generally regularly shaved from head to tail. The coat is extremely difficult to manage when left long over 3 cms. It is not recommended to mate extremely curly tight frizzy coats together as the results have been nightmares for the owners who cannot manage the work to untangle the coat.

The Barbet is a working dog above all and all working breeds make nice companions.

The breed is gaining popularity in many countries outside of France, but its survival is not yet assured.

Until the French breed club decides to take a stand for the survival of the breed in France, it will continue to be managed from Switzerland where it is structured and organized into only using certain lines and brushing and old lines aside, to carry on the legacy of Mr Hermans and his “Modern” Barbet. The Barbet can only survive if lines are selected properly to maintain its function as a gundog.


Long live the Barbet: French National Treasure
Robot translations tools can be misleading many to think the Barbet may correspond to an old French Poodle or even an H 2o dog! More and more histories are being drawn up by simply clicking on a translation tool and make for the strangest accounts, especially to a neophyte. This document is the result of several years of first hand research from original documents, books and interviews with people who were directly concerned with the breed and have left us their legacy.

This History is dedicated to M Rainier T. Georgii who passed on in his 81st year, on June 18th 2011.

Mrs Elaine Fichter,

All rights reserved. This document cannot be reproduced in part or in whole without written permission of the author. December 22, 2013.

Photos and collages of founding fathers, photo of Ulysse, comparison of coats, and photo of greying dog with description added by Tomasz Targowski.

If You want to know more about the breed’s history visit the historical references section