The Barbet is a breed of dog; it is a medium-sized French water dog. It is listed in Group 8 (retrievers, flushing dogs, water dogs) by the Société Centrale Canine, the French Kennel Club.
The breed name comes from the French word barbe, which means ‘beard’.
The Barbet is a rare breed. Most Barbets, especially those shown in conformation shows, are entirely black, black and white, or brown. It is common to see white chest spots and white paws or legs on black or brown coated dogs. Particoloured, cream (or creme), and pied variations are being bred but in limited numbers.
Male Barbets usually grow to be about 21 to 25 in (53 to 64 cm) tall and between 40 and 60 lb (18 and 27 kg), while females usually reach about 20 to 23 in (51 to 58 cm) and 30 to 50 lb (14 to 23 kg).
The breed stands 58–65 cm (23–26 in) for the males, 53–61 cm (21–24 in) for females with a tolerance of 1 cm +/- 1 cm (0.39 in), and weighs 17–28 kg (37–62 lb). The Barbet is a prototypic water dog, with a long, woolly, and curly coat.
Their coats grow long and must be groomed regularly, otherwise the coat can become matted and the barbet may lose small tufts of hair like tumbleweeds.
The accepted colours of the breed are solid black, brown, fawn, grey, pale fawn, white, or more or less pied. All shades of red-fawn and pale fawn are permitted. The shade should, preferably, be the same as the colour of the body. Grey and white are extremely rare; mixed colours are considered a fault. The most common colors are black or brown with white markings. The birth figures worldwide for 2007 are 176. All born were black or brown some with white markings on the chest, chin, and legs.
The Barbet’s personality is described as friendly, joyful, obedient, and intelligent. They are quick to learn and need lifelong obedience training. They are a great with children, families, and the elderly. Barbets will bond with their family and prefer to be in the same room with the family at all times. They need exercise daily to keep the dog in a healthy state of mind and body.
They are capable retrievers for waterfowl hunting. In France, the Barbet can take the test d’aptitudes naturelles (TAN), a basic water-retrieving test, and has recently been permitted to participate in the brevet de chasse a l’eau (BCE), a general hunting-dog test involving field and water trials. In Germany, the Barbet takes part in field trials.
Barbets are vulnerable to certain genetic defects. Due to the limited gene pool for this breed, conscientious breeders carefully study pedigrees and select dogs to minimize the chance of genetic diseases. Unfortunately, like many breeds, a growing popularity has encouraged breeding by people who are not knowledgeable about the breed. Of the few health issues that have exhibited themselves; epilepsy, hernias, hip dysplasia and entropion, most problems can be traced back 4–6 generations. Often this was due to limited breeding stock as well as the fact that many matings were with dogs of unknown medical history.
Due to the extremely low number of barbets in the world, little is known about long term health issues. Some issues that have exhibited themselves are ear infections, hip dysplasia, hernias, undescended testicles, undershot/overshot bites, and epilepsy. However, a study has just begun in France about health issues in the barbet as several breeds have recently “contributed” to the Barbet. Most breeders today hipscore[clarification needed] the parents before any matings and A, B, and C hipscores can be used.
The most common of these issues are ear infections, a problem in most water dog varieties. Ear problems can be minimized by proper ear care. A veterinarian should be consulted if the dog shows signs of an ear infection. The ear should always be clear of any hair, and inspected very regularly.
Like the poodle group of breeds, the Barbet is vulnerable to hip dysplasia. The risk of a Barbet developing the condition can be greatly reduced by thoroughly checking the pedigrees and health clearances in both the sire and dam of the dog.
The breed is an integral part of dog history, and many familiar breeds have Barbet in their ancestry. Depending on geography and necessity, the barbet connected through the centuries in various capacities, and as a companion dog, but more as an all-around working dog. The term barbet became throughout centuries a “generic” name for a dog with a long, curly, woolly coat.
The Grand Barbet depicted in Count George Louis Buffon’s book Histoire Naturelle (1750) is thought to be the original source of the various water dog breeds (poodles, Portuguese Water Dog, American Water Spaniel, and so on). Its actual origin is lost in antiquity but may stem from corded-coat herding dog stock, also ancestral to breeds like the Komondor.
Barbets have also worked as sailor’s companions, much like the Portuguese Water Dog. It was best known for being a waterfowl retriever in the marshes, wetlands, and estuaries of France. This is where the expression “muddy as a barbet” came from in the 19th century. Between the late 18th to early 19th centuries, the same dog was known as the barbet in France, the barbone in Italy, and the Pudel in Germany; for almost a hundred years the barbets and poodles were considered the same breed.
With the advent of dog shows and selective breeding based purely on aesthetics, the poodles were developed to be more elegant and of a solid colour, to distinguish them from their more common progenitors. The versatile nature of the Barbet has meant its survival, and many of today’s Barbets still have traits of their ancestral stock lost in the poodle group. The Barbet’s origins and bloodlines can be traced back to the writing of the first standard in 1891.
The breed is gaining popularity in Scandinavian countries and North America as more and more people are becoming interested in this all-around working dog, often simply as a pet.
Status in the United States
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.
Currently, Barbets may be fully registered in the United States with American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) or the United Kennel Club (UKC), and there has been a recent acceptance in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service Program. For a breed to receive full AKC recognition, there must be at least 150 breeding specimens registered with the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, and there must be an active breed-specific AKC-affiliated club promoting the breed (e.g., through competitions, training programs, and conformance shows. US breeding has been slow: in 2009, there was only one new litter of six purebred Barbets born in the United States; in 2011, two additional litters totalling sixteen puppies; two litters in 2010; and three in 2013.
Status in Great Britain (UK)
In modern times, the first Barbet, a male, was brought into the UK in 2001, although he did not reproduce. In 2007, two unrelated females were brought in from France, having completed their period of quarantine; the majority of Barbets currently in the UK are descendants of these. Since then, further examples of the breed have been imported from France, Netherlands, Canada, Poland, and Sweden. Several UK-born barbets have been used in the breeding programmes of other countries; their offspring can be found in Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.
From April 2018, the Barbet will be the 220th breed recognized by The Kennel Club of the UK. Barbets born in the UK prior to this date have been registered in France by the Société Centrale Canine (SCC), a national affiliate of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). There are on average only one or two British-born litters born per year. As of 2018, there are approximately 140 barbets living in the UK.
The majority of Barbets in the UK are kept as pets, although a small number are used regularly as gun dogs, agility dogs, and for search-and-rescue work; they can also take part in conformation shows in FCI-member countries, with two British Barbets achieving French Champion status in 2014.