For the Love of Bichon Frise
History of the Bichon Frise



The name Bichon Frise translates to mean, "Curly Lap Dog." Bichon Frise are tough and healthy who were bred to be a lap dog for French Royalty, but during the French Revolution, they became street dogs, and only the toughest survived.

The ancestor of the Bichon Frise is known as the breed - Barbet, or Water Spaniel. The name "Barbichon" came about from the Barbet which later shortened to become "Bichon". It seems that there are four varities of "Bichon" evolved from the "Babichon" family who all originating from the Mediterranean region - Bichon Maltais, Bichon Bolognaise, Bichon Havanais and Bichon Teneriffe, who later became as the Bichon a Poil Frise, and as the Bichon Frise (pronounced as Bee-shon Free-zay ) of today.

Bichon in Spain
The Bichon Teneriffe was extremely popular in Spanish courts during the 16th Century, and painters of the Spanish school often included such dogs in their paintings. Serval can be found in the works of Goya (1746 - 1828). Goya was both a painter and an etcher and was taken on as a court artist to Charles IV in 1789.



The Bichon was especially popular in the 16th Century Spain among royalty and artist who often depicted the dogs in their works.

Bichon in France
Under Francis I (1515 - 1547), the Bichon, known as the Bichon Teneriffe, appeared in France and a few decades later became especially popular. It was in the court of Henry III (1547 - 1589) where this captivating little dog found itself pampered, to the extreme by wearing ribbons and perfumes. It was recorded that the French Kings and their ladies loved their little white dogs so much that they carried them in tray like baskets attached around their necks by ribbons whereever they went. Under Louis XIV who reigned from 1643 - 1715, the small dog was designated as the court " Pet of Choice" reputedly because it was easy to carry about.



During the French Recolution in 1789, the Bichon were far less prominet, but they re-emerged with Napoleon III, who declared himself emperor in 1852.

Bichon's Decline
Having been a pampered pet for centuries, towards the close of the 19th century, the Bichon seemed to go out of fashion. However, some were still found in circuses and fairs, often called "the dog of the street". Their lives were far removed from the luxury the breed had known in earlier years. Sometimes, they can be found roaming in the streets and were occassional companions to the blind.

Bichon's Revival
A handful of breeders in France and Belgium decided to create a breeding programme for the Bichon Teneriffe. or Bichon a Poil Frise after the First World War was behind them. They hoped this would revive the breed and take it beyond the status of the circus or street dogs. In 1933, enough progress had been made for a breed standard to be drawn up. This was written by Mme Bouctovagniez, who was the President of the Toy Club of France. However, when the question of a breed name arose, it was Mme Nizet de Leemans, head of the Federation Cynologique International's Breed Standard Committee who made named them Bichon Frise, meaning fluffy little dog.



It was until October 18, 1934, the Bichon Frise was registered in the Livre des Origines Francaises. Despite this historical decision, many people continued to use the names Bichon Teneriffe or Bichon a Poil Frise even in the early 1950s.

María Teresa de Borbón y Vallabriga - 1783

Little María Teresa was the niece of King Carlos III of Spain in the 16th century. This dog has been identified as a toy griffon in certain texts, but the coloring appears wrong. The depictions of all these dogs in Goya's paintings strongly suggest Bichon with perhaps some Maltese.
- From the Bichon Frise in Art
Online Exhibition by Edward J. Shephard Jr.

Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua 1529

Everything about this portrait suggests a true Bichon
- From the Bichon Frise in Art
Online Exhibition by Edward J. Shephard Jr.



Bichon Frise by Julitte Cunliffe, Published by Interpet Publishing.