The Barbet is a rare breed, renown for their loving personality and thick, wooly coat. They were an original water dog and were primarily used in France for hunting water game.
Pronounced Bar-bay, the word Barbet comes from the French word barbe, which means beard.
History of the Barbet dog
The history of the Barbet is lengthy and impressive; an ancient European Water Dog, the breed was developed in France, and referenced for centuries in European historical documentation. The term barbet became throughout centuries a "generic" name for a dog with a long, curly, woolly coat.
The exact origin of the Barbet is unknown but is thought to have stemmed from corded-coat herding dog stock perhaps as early as the 7th or 8th centuries.
The breed was known to have worked as sailor's companions but also as hunting partners, guard dogs and general companions. It was best known for being a waterfowl retriever in the marshes, wetlands, and estuaries of France.
The first reference to the Barbet as an individual and specific breed was in 1387, when the breed was mentioned in a book written by a Gascon Count. However, it wasn't until Fouilloux, a sixteenth century cynologist began calling the breed "Barbet" that it was officially named.
The name Barbet came to include many of the Water Dog breeds, and during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Barbet and Poodle were considered to be the same dog. Poodles were developed to be more aesthetically different and soon enough the two breeds became separate. The first breed standard and original bloodlines of the Barbet can be traced back to 1891.
After the World Wars, the Barbet was nearly extinct, but through the efforts of a very devoted few, this old breed is slowly being reestablished and developed.
There are very few Barbets in the United States. Estimated Barbet numbers living in America as of 2013 were between 150 and 200. Steps are being taken to slowly and responsibly increase the Barbet population in the States, through careful breeding and imports from Canada and Europe.
The Barbet, being a typical water dog in appearance, is sturdy and medium in size with a long wooly coat and webbed feet. The Barbet's head is wide and round and their eyes are round and dark brown in colour.
The muzzle is square and short and they have thick, darkly pigmented lips and strong teeth. The ears of the Barbet are long and flat, covered in abundant hair. A signature physical characteristic of the Barbet is that the muzzle and lips are covered in long hair that forms a moustache and beard.
The Barbet has a short but strong neck that leads into sloping shoulders. Their limbs are straight and muscular and they have a fairly curved back with a deep chest.
Another unique feature of the Barbet is their feet that are wide, round and covered in thick hair, making them webbed. Their tail is set low and has a small hook at the end.
The breed stands 58–65 cm (23–26 in) for the males, 53–61 cm (21–24 in) for females and their average life expectancy is 13-15 years.
The Barbet's coat is one of their defining characteristics. An abundance of hair covers the whole body evenly with thick, natural curls that range from large and loose to tight, smaller curls. As their name suggests, they have a distinctive beard.
Colour-wise, the Barbet's coat can be solid black, grey, chestnut, brown, fawn (ranging from pale to reddish brown), white, and pied. Generally the coat should be a single color, but white markings are accepted on the chest, legs, and feet.
The thickness of their coat and its wooly texture allow it to be waterproof, letting the Barbet work in icy waters for extended periods of time without any problems.
The Barbet is renown for being friendly, sociable and eager to please. They are a devoted, carefree and energetic dog with a high intelligence level and a loyal and obedient nature, making them perfect companions.
They are also know for being a calm breed that will happily play with other animals or children for hours. The Barbet desires constant companionship and will want to be included in group activities and spend “quality time” with their companions.
The Barbet is better suited to an active lifestyle and will thus need an owner who is willing to devote amply time and energy to walking and exercising him.
They also love to play and has been successful in games such as Frisbee, fly ball, ball catching, jumping, and many other agility games.
Health and care
Despite it's sturdy, robust body, the Barbet is prone to a few genetic diseases due to its small genetic pool. Of the few health issues that have exhibited themselves; epilepsy, hernias, hip dysplasia and entropion, most problems can be traced back 4–6 generations.
Conscientious breeding practices may help to prevent the known conditions from developing further in the Barbet population.
Due to their illustrious coat of fur, daily brushing and combing is a must to prevent mats from forming and debris from collecting. Regular bathing may also be necessary to keep the Barbet clean, depending on the type of activities that the dog participates in.
Despite being seemingly high maintenance, the Barbet is a light shedder making them a hypoallergenic breed.
As the Barbet sports floppy ears that are abundantly covered in long hair, it is important to clean and check the ears regularly in order to prevent ear infection, a common problem with this type of breed.