History of the Bichon Frise

bichonThroughout time the Bichon Frise has given joy and friendship to many people and nationalities from kings to circus audiences. This happy go lucky little dog with it's friendly personality loves everyone, and everyone loves them.

It is said that Cleopatra owned several of these little white dogs and their image can be found on Egyptian sarcophagi. However the Breeds early history is uncertain, it is generally believed that the Bichon we know today is descended from the Barbet or Water Spaniel, the Barbichon group of dogs, which is considered to consist of four categories; the Maltese, the Bolognese, the Havanese and the Tenerife. All of these belonged to the Mediterranean region. The Tenerife, or lap dog of the Canary Islands is thought to be the Bichon Frise' we know today.

Spain is thought to be the country in which the Bichon Frise originated, from where it was transported to Tenerife by the Spanish sailors and bartered for goods. the country had a particular love for the little dog as it appears in many paintings.

The Renaissance saw the Bichon appear in Italy, traded by sailors at the busy and important Italian ports. The little dogs trimmed in Lion like fashion, quickly became firmly entrenched as pets of Italian nobility and of those striving to emulate the noble tastes.

The invasion of France by Italy during the later part of the fifteenth and throughout the sixteenth century saw the Bichon among the booty brought home from France, by the returning soldiers and sailors.

Under Francis1 (1515-1547) the Bichon was at the height of it's popularity with French ladies and gentlemen bathed, trimmed and perfumed. The French verb Bichonner, translated, to pamper, to curl, to make beautiful, has be noted as a tribute to the Bichon Tenerife. during the reign of Henry III its popularity became even more intense, this monarch was so devoted to his pets that he could be seen carrying them around in little tray like baskets hung around his neck with ribbon. The ladies of this period also loved the little white dogs and carried them around like an ornament tucked under their arm.

In the late nineteenth, early twentieth century fashion changed and the Bichon went out of style. Most breeds would have passed into oblivion but not the Bichon, no longer trimmed, perfumed and bathed, the shaggy little namad or (little sheep dog) as they became known because of their loose curly coat, quickly became popular with organ grinders, circus people and fairs. As they were extremely intelligent it was easy to train them to do tricks.

dogAt the end of World War I soldiers returning home who had fallen in love with the little street dogs brought them home as pets.

On March 5 1933, the societe Centrale of France prepared to accept a standard of the breed and it was to Madame Bouctovacniez president of the Toy club of France this was given, around the same time Madame Nizet de Leemans, a member of Federation Cynologique International’s Breed Standard Committee (F.C.I.),  suggested a more appropriate name for the Bichon Teneriffe, 'Bichon a Poil Frise’ was chosen.   This was used even as late as the 1950’s indeed when I purchased my first Bichon in Southern Ireland in the 1980s I was given the breed standard which said Bichon a Poil Frise’.

In 1935 0n October 18th the Bichon was admitted to the French Kennel Club stud book , and is listed by International Canine Federation as a French Belgian breed which has the right to registration in all countries.

A very important strain of Belgian Bichons had the Milton prefix, the Milton strain can be found in most U.S.A. dogs, and therefore U.K. pedigrees

The first Bichon to be registered in the U.K. was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Hobart, (Espor du Kloziers) in 1957 although this was a pet registration it allowed for the breed to be registered 1n 1974.