The world of dog breeds and kennel clubs can be confusing and contradictory. This is even more true when you dip your toes into international waters. Take a look at the Akita. One breed in the United States and Canada whereas the rest of the world has the larger American Akita and traditional Akita Inu. Breeds like the Brittany have never split, but there is a distinction between the North American Brittany (no longer called a spaniel) and France’s Epagneul Briton.
Names alone can cause confusion, even without a language barrier. English Toy Spaniels are King Charles Spaniels in England where the smaller variety of the Manchester Terrier is known as the English Toy Terrier. And don't get me started on Russell terriers - Jack, Parson, or neither!
Perhaps one of the most confusing breed (or breeds) is the German Spitz. One dog with five sizes under the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and several breeds everywhere else.
To attempt simplicity, let's examine the FCI standard first, before trying to explain where everyone else fits in. The German Spitz is a classic northern breed, spitzen, or arctic, if you prefer. Reminiscent of dogs like the Lapphunds and Samoyed, they are believed to be amongst the oldest European breeds. Just how old the German Spitz is remains unknown, but it has been present in the region since at least the 1400s and may have arrived via the Vikings.
There are many mysteries in the world of dogs. From the entire species beginnings to the development of each breed. The origins of few dogs are known with exact certainty. Others can be pieced together by ancient writings or archaeological finds. And some are wrapped in the mists of legends.
One of the more fascinating locations for dog history lies in the Mediterranean. Two of the oldest groupings developed there. However, no one knows where their ancestors came from. These dogs are the small bichons and the primitive Mediterranean sighthounds. Neither is related, but both trace their roots throughout the islands in the region.
I have been updating the site and after researching both groups I thought I would compile my findings here. None of this information can be stated as fact, but it is the closest I have been able to come to a logical answer. Due to length I have split them into two posts, with today’s covering the bichons. The sighthounds will be covered next week.
The bichon family includes seven modern breeds of dogs that are recognized, the Bichon Frisé, Bolognese, Coton de Tuléar, Havanese, Löwchen, Maltese, and Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka. There is disagreement in some additions to this grouping, mainly the Löwchen and the Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka. Some experts believe the Löwchen is not part of the bichon family and many others (including most kennel clubs) do not yet recognize the Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka as a breed.
Since several of these breeds are not well known, let’s introduce each of them before further diving into their history as a whole.
As we begin this winding journey, it is important to remember that until a few hundred years ago none of the bichons were a breed as we know today. Historically few dogs have been isolated enough to breed true without direct human intervention. Geographically, the Mediterranean has been a trade route for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations have risen and fallen in this region. While in later centuries European explorers would traverse the islands. Therefore, it is probable most, if not all, of the bichons interbred throughout their early beginnings.