Bichon Frise: History
The Bichon Frisé (pronounced Bee-shon free-zay)
descended from Barbet or Water Spaniel, from which the
name "Barbichon"originated and was later shortened to "Bichon".
The early water spaniels were chiefly hunting dogs
retrieving fowl from water while the smaller Bichon
developed into a companion dog. All four categories: the
Bichon Maltais, the Bichon Bolognais, the Bichon
Havanais and the Bichon Tenerife. originated in the
Bichon Tenerife evolved into today’s Bichon Frise
coming from the Mediterranean area to the Canary Islands
specifically the Island of Tenerife. hence the name
Bichon Tenerife. Possibly used as barter as well as
companions the Bichon accompanied Spanish sailors on
In the 1300’s the Italian sailors returned the Bichon
to the continent. There the Bichon Tenerife attracted
the attention of nobility and the new middle class of
merchants. The newly popular pet was often groomed in
the lion style.
In the 1500s the Bichon became wildly popular in
France as the French sought to imitate popular Italian
culture. He became even more popular when King Henry III
(1574-1589 insisted on carrying his favorite pet
everywhere. They became the darlings of the royal court
and the ladies were seen carrying them everywhere.
The Bichon Frise was also popular in France during he
reign of Napoleon lll (1808-1873)
From the paintings of Titian in Italy, Goya in Spain,
Fragonard in France, Reynolds in England and even the
work of Benjamin West in America, the Bichon has enjoyed
an international celebrity as a much sought after
Toward the end of the 19th century haven fallen out
of favor at the royal court the Bichon was embraced by
the common man. This talented and lively little dog
became a street and circus performer. Because of its
nature and faithfulness to its owner it became a
seeing-eye dog in England.
In 1933 the International Canine Federation adapted
the names the breed was known by at the time “Tenerife”
and “Bichon” and the name Bichon Frise`was born. "Frisé"
refers to the dog's soft, curly hair. In 1934 the Bichon
Frisé was admitted to the stud book of The French Kennel
Eventually the Bichon Frise found his way to the the
United States in 1955 and was recognised by the American
Kennel Club in 1973.
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