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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 Mediterranean area.

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 their voyages.

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 artist’s model.

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 Club.

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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