After many years of sharing our Barbet news and writing about the growth and development of our Barbet puppies we retired the blog at the end of 2020. All of the past entries remain posted so feel free to take a look around and scroll through previous posts to get a feel for the breed, our dogs and how we raise our litters. More information about the Barbet (French Water Dog) can be found on our website: www.northrockbarbets.com
The origins of the Barbet, or French Water Dog, are believed to trace
back to ancient times, and according to the Barbet Club of Great Britain, “The generally accepted theory
is that the Barbet is 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.”
Henry IV of France, who reigned from 1553 until 1610, is said to have
enjoyed hunting waterfowl with his Barbets, and Napoléon Bonaparte is reported
to have owned the breed. The breed is believed to be in the background of many
of today’s purebred dogs, including the Poodle, Bichon Frisé, Newfoundland,
Briard, Otterhound and perhaps others.
This painting, “The Water Dog,” by Philip Reinagle (1749-1833) was used
to illustrate an article that appeared in an 1803 edition of the periodical
The breed’s more modern evolution occurred in France beginning in about
1930. Its heritage cannot be traced precisely, but it is a breed similar in
many ways to the other water dogs, such as the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog,
Spanish Water Dog and Irish Water Spaniel, all willing water retrievers with
curly coats and long, pendulous ears.
The Barbet’s name, pronounced “bar-bay,” derives from its signature chin
whiskers, as ”barbé” is the French word for beard. Today the breed is a
medium-sized water dog of moderate proportions, found in colors ranging from
solid black to solid white and a variety of colors in between, including fawns,
browns, reds and greys. He’ll carry a wooly, curly coat that offers protection
against the elements, in particular the frigid waters that may be found during
a winter hunt.
Ch. BarbuGaulois ChocoVan is owned by Michel Raymond of Quebec, Canada,
who was instrumental in getting the breed recognized in that country and who
also bred the first Canadian BIS Barbet, Ch. BarbuGaulois Darwin. Photo
courtesy of Judy Descutner.
In spite of its ancient heritage, the Barbet today is a relatively rare
breed around the world. Recognized by the FCI and the kennel clubs in Finland,
Canada and France, the breed is not officially on the books at the Kennel Club
in Great Britain or the American Kennel Club. Although the United Kennel Club
in the U.S. has recognized them for more than a decade, even today there are
fewer than 90 Barbets in America.
Michelle Steffen of Wisconsin founded the original breed club in America
in the 1990s. As with many developing breeds, fanciers have formed numerous
Barbet clubs over the years. Today the AKC-affiliated club has only a few
members who are interested in actively breeding and showing. Judy Descutner,
who belonged to the original club and is now secretary of both the
AKC-affiliated parent club and that of the UKC, worked with the health
committee of Club Barbet Canada to get the breed enrolled in the Canine Health
Information Center. CHIC is the canine health database that is jointly
sponsored by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for
Canadian, UKC and IABCA Ch. Neigenuveaux’s Ermagarde, the first UKC Best
in Show winner, bred by Florence Erwin of Ontario and owned by Judy Descutner.
Photo courtesy of Judy Descutner.
One of the breed’s most ardent supporters, Judy recognizes that, with so
few Barbets worldwide and such a small gene pool, interest in the breed must
expand for it to flourish, but it’s crucial that it be in the hands of people
who know what they’re doing.
“More than anything, the breed needs to be discovered by experienced dog
people,” says Judy. “The breeding decisions that are made with such a small
population have far-reaching consequences, and, in the hands of novices, will
be devastating to the future of the breed.” Of course, owners who are
interested in Barbets as companions only are also important to the breed’s
future, but finding responsible breeders is a pressing concern. “Low inbreeding
coefficients, health clearances, balanced conformation, correct gait, excellent
temperament – all of these take on even greater importance with such a small
The breed is fairly well-established in Canada. American exhibitors often
travel north to find competition for their stock. “We travel to Canada to show
because a Canadian championship is the most meaningful of our current venues,”
Judy says. “The breed is definitely further advanced in Canada, with many
established breeders and, of course, full recognition at CKC shows.”
Bred in the Netherlands by Greet and Alex Los-Romeijn, Ch. Quaciendas
Alba Aqua-Aura, owned by Anne Plomp, also of Holland, is a very good example of
a Barbet. Photo courtesy of Judy Descutner.
Those breeding Barbets in North America today are all breeding from
stock imported from Europe. “The people who originally imported the dogs are no
longer active with the breed, “ explains Judy. “In Canada, the breed was
originally imported primarily from France, with other dogs brought in from
Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland, although most of these
dogs also came from the original French dogs.” Barbets in the U.S. are either
from Canadian breeding programs or were imported directly from Europe.
One Barbet who has made friends for the breed in the U.S. is the
Canadian-bred Tolouse Biscay’s Sapphire, owned by Tracey Schnabel of Hoboken,
N.J. Tracey and ‘Tug’ have devoted countless hours to therapy work, and Tug
became the first Barbet ever to earn an AKC Therapy Dog title, which requires
at least 50 therapy visits. Tracey also tried out Tug’s retrieving instincts
last year at a Sporting breeds seminar in Michigan, where, she says, “Tug’s
lack of technique for the retrieves was made up for by instinct. When he heard
the shotgun, he was focused and looking for his mark.” As an FSS dog recorded
with AKC, Tug has also tried his “paw” at lure coursing.
Tolouse Biscay’s Sapphire, with his owner Tracey Schnabel, is AKC’s
first Barbet to earn the Therapy Dog title. Photo courtesy of Tracey Schnabel.
The first ever Barbet National Specialty, hosted by Club Barbet Canada, will
be held August 24 through 26, 2012, in Long Sault, Ontario. The show has drawn
an entry of 34 Barbets, by far the largest entry ever in North America.
Praised for its intelligence, versatility and zest for life, the Barbet
is perhaps a gem of a purebred dog that is as yet undiscovered by many. To
learn more about the breed, visit the Barbet Club of America website.
Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel
full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s
apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and
Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly
all-breed magazine ShowSight.
This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in
Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad
sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part
of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She also
currently owns the 50-year-old iconic print magazine Terrier Type, and lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black
Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier puppy.