There are over 340 dog breeds in the world, but only 167 breeds are recognized by the AKC here in the United States. This month for our breed spotlight, I am highlighting a breed that has a storied history. Surprisingly, it has only been recently recognized as a distinct breed by the AKC organization. Let me introduce you to — the Barbet. At one time there used to be around 25 in the whole United States, now there are an estimated 300 Barbets in the country.
Barbet’s (pronounced bar-bay) are a breed that has been traced possibly back to the 14th century for hunting waterfowl in France. One person of royalty who was noted to be fond of them was Henry IV. There is a story in history that one of the king’s mistresses was told off for trying to bring one into a church. It is thought to be related to such breeds as the Poodle, American Water Spaniel, the Otterhound and the Portuguese Water Dog. In fact for many years, the Barbet and the Poodle were referred to as the same dog. It’s main usage was for hunting game and retrieving waterfowl. The breed survived for many years, however it was nearly extinct due to loss of huge numbers during World Wars I and II. Through the efforts of a very devoted few, the old breed is being reborn as a dog of the future.
Barbets have a wooly coat that gives them excellent protection when working. They also have a distinct beard, hence where their name came from, ( “barbe” is french for beard.) They have webbed paws to make them fantastic swimmers and are sometimes referred to as the “mud dog” because it would often get pretty dirty in pursuit of waterfowl.
This medium-sized dog averages between 35 and 60 pounds with heights of 19 to 24 inches at the withers. They have a life span of 12 to 15 years. The Barbets are very intelligent and perform well in confirmation, agility, obedience, rally and retrieval trials. Barbets are calm, friendly and affectionate, so they can be good pets for families as long as their exercise needs are met. They enjoy outdoor activities and are gentle with children, which can make them attached to their families. Sometimes they may suffer from separation anxiety. They are also good with other pets including cats if they are socialized at an early age.
Barbet’s are all shades of black, gray, brown, and fawn with or without white markings. They have long ears that extend past their jaws. Because they have hair and not fur, they can be considered hypoallergenic making them a good option for people who want a dog but suffer from allergies. Because the hair is so long, they will require some commitment to brushing and combing the long coat daily so that it doesn’t matte, especially if they swim a lot. It is also a breed that will need to be taken to a professional groomer regularly so that the hair can be trimmed from its feet and ears.
Surprisingly, Barbets are a relatively healthy breed, with just a few health issues noted as common in the breed. These include elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, eye problems, such as entropion and cataracts, and epilepsy.
In general, the Barbet is a great dog for hunting if you need a soft-mouthed retriever, or as a family companion. It can live in homes for most type of people including young and old. It does need exercise so it will need room to explore. Barbets are friendly, loving and devoted and will want to hang out with you and it prefers that you not be out all the time. It is a brave dog that is quite happy to play around in the mud, so get ready for some fun bath times if this breed for you.