What’s that adorable, shaggy-haired walking down the street? No, it’s not a designer Poodle mix—it’s a Barbet, a French sporting dog with a long history. Truly “the original” water retriever, the Barbet has been around since the 14th century. This versatile gun dog worked alongside hunters flushing, pointing, and retrieving birds. The Barbet is part of the family tree of many well-known breeds, including the Bichon Frise, Poodle, and Newfoundland. The breed’s name (pronounced bar-bay) comes from the word barbe, which is French for “beard.”
Popular for centuries, Barbet numbers in Europe waned in the years following the two World Wars. The breed was saved from extinction by a small number of dedicated fanciers, but it remains rare. Today, about 120 Barbet live in the United States, and a few hundred live in Canada.
Barbet stand 19 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder. Females weigh about 40 to 45 pounds and males can top off at about 60 pounds. Although black and brown are the most common colors, Barbet also may be grey, fawn, or white. The long, wooly, curly coat ranges from soft waves to tight curls. The hair grows continuously, so the Barbet must be clipped on a regular basis. The coat does not really shed, but must be thoroughly combed and checked for mats weekly. On the plus side, many people with dog allergies find they can live with Barbet.
Barbet are relatively healthy, with an average life span of 12 to 15 years. Health concerns include hip dysplasia, eye disease, and epilepsy..