Bichon à poil frisé, Bichon Tenerife
A favorite of the noble and wealthy, the Bichon Frisé has primarily been kept as a companion animal. However, after the French Revolution it became common to see them as part of a circus act or beside an organ grinder.
It is believed 'Bichon Frisé' is derived from the French ‘Barbichon’, meaning ‘little Barbet’. Their other name, Bichon à poil frisé, means ‘the bichon with the curly coat’.
The Bichon Frisé is one of several breeds included in the bichon family of dogs, the others being the Bolognese, Maltese, Coton de Tuléar, Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka, Löwchen, and Havanese.
Bichon Frisé Standards
- 7-12 lbs
- small bichon breed
- ears are drop and covered with long, flowing hair
- tail is well plumed and carried over the back
- undercoat is soft and dense, outercoat is coarse and curlier texture
- white with apricot markings
- white with buff markings
- white with cream markings
History of the Bichon Frisé
The origin of the Bichon Frisé, like all of the bichon family, is largely a mystery. It is likely that the Maltese is the oldest member, having been favored by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. As for the Bichon Frisé, in particular, there are three theories to their origin.
The most popular theory is that the Bichon Frisé is a direct descendant of the Bichon Tenerife (indeed it was once known by this name), a now extinct breed that was found on the Canary Island of Tenerife. It is believed the Spanish originally introduced small, white dogs to the island. However, it could have been the Phoenicians, who were thought to have passed dogs and goods throughout the Mediterranean. It was the Spanish that brought them back to France in the 1500s, but similar dogs were already known in Continental Europe, including France before this time.
Others conclude that the Bichon Frisé was bred down from water dogs, such as the Barbet and Poodle. However, bichons predate both breeds, but it is possible they were used in its later development.
Lastly, since the Bolognese has existed in Italy since at least the 1200s and was often given as gifts it is quite possible they were the primary stock of the Bichon Frisé. In reality, there is probably a bit of truth in all these theories as before strict breeding policies it is likely all small white dogs were bred together.
Eventually, the Bichon Frisé became popular in both France and Belgium, and since their exact ancestry has been lost in time the Fédération Cynologique Internationale recognizes both as its country of origin.