The Sweet-Natured Barbet

The Barbet is known to be a fun-loving and smart dog breed. It was originally bred for retrieving waterfowl for hunters. It is an archetypic water dog of France who appeared in artworks as early as the 16th century. It is a strong and solidly-built dog that was bred for centuries to be a keen hunter and as well as a tireless swimmer. But in spite of that, Barbets have a calm nature, and it is easy to live with them as long as you meet their required exercise needs. Let us know more about the history and characteristics of the Barbet dog breed. 

History of the Barbet Dog Breed

The Barbet dog breed, or also called the French waterdog, has a long and impressive history. The first certain reference to the breed occurred in the 14th century when a Gascon count talked about them in a book that was written in 1387. Based on De Canibus Britannicus, which was written in Latin by Dr. Johannes Caius, it was in 1570, when the earliest attempt at categorizing the Barbet was made. In 1576, it was later on translated to English, stating that Aucupatorii, a group of dogs for hunting and fowling, were a setter, water spaniel, and waterdog or barbet. 

The Barbet has also contributed to the French language, “être crotté comme un Barbet” which means “to be very, very muddy”. It’s because this dog breed was always enticed by muddy, swampy places, earning the nickname, “Mud Dog”. 

King Henry IV’s mistress named Corisande was reproached by Monsieur de Bellieure Chancellor to Marie de Medici in 1587, for attending church with “a fool, monkey and a barbet”. Even though his comments had a political hint, the mention of the Barbet breed has its own implication. 

Francois-Marie Arouet, or more popularly known as the French philosopher Voltaire was quoted as saying the barbet is a man’s best friend in the early 1700s. 

Ever since the French National Library began publishing old books and magazines, the knowledge about the origin of the Barbet breed has been growing rapidly. So far, there were more than 300 sources that have been collected and confirmed about the breed appearing in books, newspapers, and magazines from 1886 until the start of World War II. 

In the late 1880s, the Barbet was applied to a certain phenotype of dog, and a standard was written for it. The Barbet and Poodle were thought to be synonymous with the same type of dog up until the mid-19th century. By the middle of the century, the Barbet emerged as a selected and morphological breed. The Barbet breed got its official start when the French magazine called Le Chenil published a “chienne griffon barbet francais – Parette II” in 1884, which was entered to Stud Book Continental.

The Barbet has also been used in developing other dog breeds. These include the Briard, the Newfoundland, and the Bichon Frise. Even though it was being used in breeding other dog breeds, the Barbet itself almost got extinct. Before World War II began, only two Barbet breeders were left in the world, and both of them are in France. One was Dr. Charles Vincenti, who thought that there were no more breeders left. After the war, only a few Barbets remained. But more than 20 years later, the breeding was started again by Dr. Charles’ daughter, Madame Petre.

In the present time, Barbets are rare are still endangered, but they still continue to delight and amaze people around the world. They are versatile in nature, that’s why they were able to survive. In fact, they still have the assets attributed to them from the past today. 

The Sweet-Natured Barbet

Characteristics of a Barbet

Average height: 1 foot and 8 inches to 2 feet and 1-inch-tall at the shoulder

Average weight: 37 to 62 pounds

Hypoallergenic: Yes

The Barbet belongs to the sporting dogs breed group, and they can live up to 15 years. Male Barbets stand 22.5 to 25 inches at the shoulder, while females can grow from 20.5 to 24 inches. They can weigh from 37 to 62 pounds. It is a medium-sized dog with a thick, wooly, fleecy coat. The accepted colors of Barbets are solid black, brown, grey, fawn, pale fawn, and white. Grey and white Barbets are extremely rare, while brown and black with white markings are the most common. They only shed a little, making them perfect pets for those with allergies. 

Barbets are docile and very devoted to their master. They are not aggressive or timid, and they are very sociable as well. Aside from that, Barbets are fond of the water, since they are initially waterdogs used for wildfowling. It is also a brave dog breed that does not fear to go to cold, or any type of weather. 

The Barbet is a suitable pet for homes with kids because they are playful, energetic, and affectionate around them. They are also easy to train and won’t require too much attention and effort. In general, they are laid-back pets and can interact well with other pets, as well. They should also be kept mentally stimulated with different games and training because they are intelligent dogs. Barbets adore companionship, and when you leave them for long periods, they may develop separation anxiety. 

Caring for a Barbet

The Barbet has sturdy and adequate bones to perform its task as a sporting dog. They are bred as marsh or swamp retrievers, making them agile athletes and loyal partners in any activity, most especially those that involve water. This means that when you have a Barbet, you need to meet its required exercise needs. Aside from swimming, you can also play with Barbets in the backyard or take them for a walk several times a day. They enjoy lots of playtimes, and they are happy when well socialized. 

When it comes to grooming Barbets, it should start with a full brush-out. Then, a comb through its skin and a good bath. After bathing them, blow-drying is required to straighten their hair. You should also trim their strong and fast-growing nails regularly to avoid splitting and cracking. Also, check their ears to prevent the buildup of wax, which can result in infection. And also brush their teeth regularly to avoid bad breath. 


For their nutrition, Barbets should do well on high-grade dog food. It can either be manufactured or prepared at home, as advised by your veterinarian. Any diet should be appropriate to a Barbet’s age. They are not big eaters, and during drier months, you can give them oil supplementation. Treats are important aids in training but do not give them too many because that can cause obesity. You also need to learn which human foods are safe for them, and which are not. It’s better to consult your vet about your pet’s weight and diet. Ensure that clean and freshwater is always available for your dog at all times. 

A Barbet is an excellent pet for people with active lifestyles. They are playful dogs that you can bring with you when doing outdoor activities.