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HISTORY OF THE BICHON FRISE

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This small dog, the Bichon Frise, (pronounced bee-shawn free-zay), is a member of the Non-Sporting Classification in both the Canadian Club and the American Kennel Club. This dog is primarily a companion and show dog in today's society.

The original purpose of this breed was and is a domestic companion first and foremost. Like the poodle and many of the curly-coated dogs originating from Europe descended from the Barbet or Water Spaniel. The name “Bichon” is a contraction of “Barbichon” a diminutive form of “ Barbet.” While the early Water Spaniels served as hardy workers as bird dogs the smaller Bichon developed into a companion dog, rather than a hunter’s dog.

Since the time of the Renaissance, the breed has been known as the Bichon Tenerife, after the largest of the Canary Islands. Apparently, Spanish sailors brought this Mediterranean dog with them to the Canary Islands where the exotic name “Tenerife” for the Italian and Spanish noblemen. The French invaders of Italy in the 1500’s brought many of the dogs home as war booty.

Under Francis I (1515 - 1547) the Bichon became established in the French royal court society. Sadly its peak of popularity came under the reign of Henry III (1574 - 1589). The monarch, unhappy to be separated from his beloved dogs during the day, fashioned a basket to hold them- and fastened it around his neck with ribbons. Carrying the little white dogs thus, he could stroll about the imperial court and conduct his royal affairs with his favoured pets at his fingertips.

The ladies of the royal court entered into the spirit of the king’s fancy adorning themselves with the small dogs. Carried under their arm or wrapped in the folds of a gown or shall their royal pets had attention lavished upon them, treated almost as though they themselves were of royal blood. Throughout history royal courts of many countries have each had their favoured dogs.


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