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An historian's point of view

An historian’s point of view about the barbet’s story



I met the barbet four years ago, since; I can’t stop getting information about him and specifically about his past in History .I would like to thank Miss Fabre, in charge for the Media library of the SCC, and her collaborator, Miss Ratiarson for their help and their high availability during my researches in their Parisian premises.

 I have studied history to the Free University in Brussel from 1976 up to 1980 and I got my history degree that same year. After a commercial career, I returned to my original choice and qualified as a specialist history teacher in 2005.


The historian work is fascinating, but also very hard on account of all the patience and objectivity it requires. The historiography of history showed us that many mistakes were made, such as bad interpretations, translation mistakes, or worse, biased researches and easy shortcuts.

Historian work is different from the journalist‘s work thanks to its particularity of being out of time, yet, both are parts of what we call at times “the fourth power”, both of them plays a part in the ideas and mentalities’ s evolution.

Searchers, as the professionals of information, have to respect a “deontological code”, which also advocates “publishing high quality information, by training one’s critical mind, and that asks us to methodically doubt about everything”.

The most important thing is probably to distinguish clearly the facts from the comments, and that needs a total support to the principle of objectivity. Well, these last years a new kind of “journalism” has appeared with the development of the internet and of the photography, allowing anyone to broadcast texts and images on websites, with the risks and consequences everyone knows.

By reading many items about the barbet’s story, I came to the conclusion that, as in History, the authors of those items were generally inspired with other previous documents without taking care of their truthfulness. That’s how I have decided, in this article, to deal with, on the one hand, the theory of the “ancient barbet, or the three descendants” that exists nowadays on the internet and which could also be, unfortunately , borrowed and recopied as the holy µBible.

In “Histoire Naturelle” _an enormous encyclopedia written by Buffon (1) and his collaborators, from 1749 up to 1788_ we can read that the barbet is native from Barbary (Northern Africa). You certainly think that it’s a silly idea! It’s really hard to imagine this curly-wooly-hair water dog in the African lands! Yet, this theory came down through the ages to reappear suddenly in the 1950’s, and which is, still today, mentioned on many non professional websites.

(1)Buffon (Georges – Louis Leclerc de Buffon, 1707-1788). With his collaborators, they undertook this huge work of 36 volumes, just when d’Alembert and Diderot published their famous “Encyclopédies” of 26 volumes. It’s advisable to put back this intellectual will to gather the knowledge of the past and to share it with the future generations, into the context of the “Lumières”.

In Miss Sophie Licari’s (2) great article about the poodles (Vos Chiens, August, 7th 2008, n°255) we are informed about the results of the searches on that subject, and we can better understand how an intellectual legal expert and naturalist of the XVIII the century could have thought that the barbet had African origins. !


In “ Historia Animalium” (1551), by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner, the chapter devoted to dogs ends with the description of a strange variety, the “Canis Getulus” (“getulia” is an ancient north African word). The text describes a dog-head animal, with particularly dense-fur shoulders, a black pointed head, a dog sound and a monkey’s walk!


    1.  Archeologist, journalist, novelist, Sophie Licar was born in 1962 and she published an historical novel in 2003 ( L’Or et le Sang), but she’s still, without any doubt, more known by a large audience thanks to her unlightened articles about the canine world. Among articles for different reviews, she also realised for the SCC, some very scientific and complete files, as the one which has just been published in  «  la Revue Officielle, n° 145 et 146, untitled « La domestication du chien ».

The drawing that illustrates the description reminds us a kind of poodle.

A century later, in 1658, was published the work “history of fourfooted beasts and serpents” by Edwards Topsell, who picked up the famous drawing “Canis Getulus” . We would easily understand that this so-called canis is nothing but a baboon.

Reading Gesner, Buffon probably thought that the barbet could be compared to this African dog “.

At the end of the 19th century, an Austrian zoologist, Leopold Fitzinger (3), picked up the poodle’s African origins’ theory, but as J.C Hermans(4) précised in his work about the ancestral barbet, “the French dog lovers did not Fitzinger’s theory; neither Pierre nor Paul Megnin made the barbet coming from Africa (Le Chien, 1932). It is true that the famous “Dictionnaire Littré” had already voiced serious doubts about that theory as far back as 1872! In fact, the theory in question only appeared in 1958 in Jeancourt Galignani’s book’s first publication. Since, it was picked up by everyone and is still today on many websites dedicated to barbets and even in some recent encyclopedias. (6)

(3) Born in Vienne in 1802, Leopold Fitzinger left school at 15 years old and entered the Natural History Museum. He worked there for more than 25 years and published many books, principally about the reptilian world. Nevertheless, he also wrote a book about the dog breeds (Der hund und Der Hund und sein Racen », Tubingen, 1876) about which we are talking now.

(4) J.C Hermans was the leader of the « Club du barbet et autres chiens d’eau » from 1980 up to 2001. He published as an author in 2000  Le chien chez les naturalistes de l’Antiquité au XIXéme siècle  (éd. de la Barbette) and two years later Chiens de France d’hier et d’auourd’hui. He is the judge for the Central Canine Society (CCS) for about 40 breeds, including water dogs, pointers , bulldogs and maltese.

(5) J.Galignani (Madam) Les caniches et leur élevage, 1958, Crepin-Leblond, p.189
She was the secretary and then as far back as 1952, the chairwoman of the Poodle’s club. (Do not confund her with Antoine Jeancourt Galignani, chairman of TOTAL, A.G.F, Paribas….)

(6) World Global Dog encyclopedia ; the world’s 331 known breeds, Ed.De Vecchi, 2008. P 689.


If the interrogation of a breed’s origine is almost always impossible to prove (as far as we consider that the dog breeds are as artificial as the human being’s fronteers), in the Middle Ages, the french water dog was named « barbet », which means « bearded ».
The barbet is a long-curly hair dog, well adapted to water and harsh climate.

Iconographic and written sources suggest that the barbet had spread in western european regions, including favourable biotypes to aquatic birds ; at that marshy zones were very much spread than they are today. That’s why we can not assign a precise geographical origine, the barbet is, in a way « european », even if his french designation can be a clue.

 The « ancient » barbet, or french barbet theory or even « the three descendances theory, is more recent, and it offers a certain interes because it is presented in a so –called historic packaging that could easily convince any ill informed reader.

This theory (that we can find on the PronaturA France , and also in la Revue Officielle du Club du Barbet, du Lagotto et autres Chiens d’eau (januray,2009, n° 94)) has been developped by E.Fichter , barbet breeder. Let’s see what this theory is about.

« The breed has never disapeared during the 20th century » as it was told, because many items of my own are taken from the Central Canine Society (CCS) in Evreux (France). The items concerning the barbet, their canine-exhibition results, the pictures and testimonies are, among others documents, prooves of the barbet’s existence and also of it’s large diversity »,according to Gregoire Leroy, an ingeneer preparing his doctorate at the CCS.

« I have been able to list three descendants, including one, (the principal) to 1886, thanks to all the items about the barbethe existence of the french barbet i was given. »

Thus, let’s see the three asertions given by the author :

  • The race never disappeared

  • It has got a large diversity

  • There are, at least, three ancient barbet descendants.

If the race had never disappeared, there should be uninterrupted official pedigrees sinc 1886 until today. But the author him self precises that « the barbet descendance can be retraced up to 1886 thanks to the phenotype, and up to 1925 thanks to the genotype.

What are the phenotype and the genotype ?

The genotype depends on the genes inherited from the parents, according to the conditions of his environnement.The phenotype is all the characteristics corresponding to the realisation of the genotype.

In other words, the genotype actually depends on the parents, that’s why we can prouve, thanks to it, that dogs are brothers and sisters and that they have common relatives. On the contrary, the phenotype only fits to the individual’s visible characteristics, for example, people living in southern europe are more dark-skin than northern european people. The sun rises the skin pigmentation. We can’t conclude that all the people from south have the same ancestors. That is the same thing for dogs. Dogs which have the same phenotype will have the same bearing, the same type but that doesn’t mean they’ve got the same ancestors.

When E.Fichter writes « the barbet’s descendance can be listed since 1886 thanks to the phenotype », there is an incoherence in her sentence ; a breed can be retraced thanks to the genotype, but not thanks to the phenotype ! When she asserts that she is able to list the barbet’s descendance since 1886 thanks to the phenotype, nhe is wrong ! To illustrate his theory, tha author presents us a series of pictures the aim of which is to prove us that these dogs, here, Pilote 1886, and Hourri (1992-2007) are very similar and that can lead to the conclusion that they’ve got the same ancestor.

As we explained previously, a picture, which represents a part of an individual’s phenotype is not enough to deduce that they are relatives.

Let’s examine more closely the second part of his sentence ; «  the barbet can be listed up to 1886 thanks to the phenotype ans up to 1925 thanks to the genotype ». Does that mean that we should be able to list the barbet’s origines up to 1925, thanks to the genotype ? That could be possible considering that there is a list of pedigrees (L.O.F –(Livre des Origines Françaises- the French Origines Register- or VBBFL) defending this theory.


However, we can notice that :

1. « Héros de Floirac » is not registered to L.O.F, consequently, we don’t have any proof of his origins

.2.  « Besef de Floirac » is not registered to FOR, but his parents were a Flanders Cowterds(Medor), and a pointer « Timbale », thus, E.Fichter explains that Besef was a « reconstituted »barbet ;anyofhisparentswerebarbets.

 3. Hourrie is registered to FOR, she is Besef and Piram’s daughter. We told about Besef previously. Piram is registered to FOR,but « à titre initial (ATI) ( that means that her parents were not registered to L.O.F, and she is the first L.O.F registered of her familly. For that, she had to be examined, and had to pass competitions ) but her parents are unknown.

 4. As E.Fichter introduced us S’Gandar after Hourrie, we could suppose that Hourrie is S’Gandar’s mother. Yet, she is not ! S’Gandar is French Kennel Club registered, but with an ATI status ( unknown origin), that means that his origines were totally unknown ! Hourrie is not his mother as the CCS ‘s genitors list shows us.

5. In the complete pedigree of Company II, we encounter Hourri di Barcochos Reiau de Prouvenco, a female dog. But be careful,names are similar but it is not the same dog at all ; Hourrie de Floirac was born in august ,15th of 1933, whereas Hourri di Barcochos Reiau de Prouvenco was born in june, 24th, 1992, 59 years later , and we can’t find any common ancestor in the pedigrees for these two dogs.

Hourri, we encounter in Company II and Dixie Chic ‘s pedigrres are totally different from Hourrie, (with an –e), born in 1933. Hourri is Miss Pêtre’s dog… In that conditions, when the author deals with Hourri (Miss Pêtre), which dog is he dealing with ? Another incoherence !



E.Fichter ‘s assertion ; « the barbet ‘s descendance can be listed up to 1925 thanks to the genotype » has no grounds at all.

In the pedigrees, nothing proves that Dixie Chick is Besef or Hourrie de Floirac’s descendant.
Why can’t Fichter prove that we can list the barbet’s descendance up to 1925 thanks to the genotype ? The reason is quite simple ; between 1936 and 1966, there was no barbet which were used in order to create again the barbet’s breed. His assertion that « the breed never disapeared during the 20th century » is wrong. Between 1936 and 1966, the barbet was an extincted breed.

Then, if it’s true, the barbet offers today a large genetic diversity, M. Gregoire Leroy has never mentionned the breed’s past, ans even less the so-called « ancient descendants ». On the contrary, this scientist asserted that « concerning the barbet, the high heterozygosity rate highly contrasts with the genealogical analysis since it indicates a great variability among the breed.

Such a result can be, in fact, linked to the reconstitution, at least partial, from different breeds (poodle, Cao de Agua…) the barbet is the was the object of for these last 30 years.

This reconstitution brought a high genetic variability quality into the breed, that not much spoiled by consanguinity. (7)

(7). Diversité génétique au sein des races Barbet et Lagotto Romagnolo, extract from the Gregoire Leroy’s thesis, Revue offcielle du Club des barbets, du Lagotto et autres Chiens, n°94, 01/2009)

 Thus, it’s completely wrong, indeed untrue, to let us believe that an eventual large « diversity » among the barbet would have came down through ages. On the contrary, M. Gregoir Leroy precises that this large genetic diversity is due to the partial reconstitution of this breed from different breeds.

This study was realised with the barbets coming from different origins. All the barbet can take advantage of this genetic diversity and not only those one from one or another breeding.

At last, about the famous « three descendances »theory, the author deals with, it’s advisable to finalise everything before going on with other analysis.In his work « Génétique et sélection chez le chien »(Paris-Nantes, 1997, p 167), Dr Bernard Denis gives the definition of a descendance :  « the descendance includes all the descendants straight away from a given ancestor (male or female) or a given couple, with the possibility of the contribution of an external blood for every generation.

One of the two genitors only has to be a descendant of the chosen ancestor so that the descendance could be maintained. Thus it ‘s absolutely inopportune, in that case, to talk about descendances ! The name « type of dog » would be more appropriated, but it would take all the credibility away to this theory.

Without making a word by word analyse, we can notice few things concerning the serious of that work and that can be made by descendance :

  1. De Floirac and Du Mas de la Chapelle ‘s descendance ; with this descendance, we proved the difference between phenotype and genotype (i.e previously)

  2. Second descendance ; Barbet X , «chien de crau ». Balthazar, chien de crau, has been used by the Dr Vicenti, whose affix is «  Mas de de la Chapelle » , to make a mix with the french barbet of the Floirac ‘s descendance of Monsieur de Houelleur, in the 1930’s.


Several documents can attest of that fact. Balthazar came from the Mas de l’Amarée, his parents were Pebrale and Copain, and we also have the genealogy of his two parents !

E.Fichter, told us about items giving the proof of this mix made during the 1930’s, but these are hand-writting documents, (ie.March, 7th, 1936, Vincenti). Moreover, if this mix was eventually made, it has got non official descendance.

 At last, we can notice that the sheepdog de Crau is not recognized as a breed by the CCS, and the affix « Mas de l’Amarée », is not named in the ICF’s official list of affixes.

« Other mixes with this beautiful local breed were made, this once, by Miss Pêtre, Dr Vincenti’s daughter, whose affix is Barbocho Reiau de Prouvenco, near Tarascon, in St Gabriel » Thereto , we don’t have any proof of these mixes.


According to the professor Denis, in order to talk about descendances, « one of the two parents only has to be the descendant of the designated ancestor so that the descendance could be maintained » . Thus, it’s absolutely non appropriated to talk about descendances here. They are only hearsay.


To illustrate this descendance, E.Fichter tells us about Joyeuse and U’Gribouille. Joyeuse was born in 1974, she had puppies with U’Gribouille in 1977. This descendance exists since 1974, as the major part of the barbet’s descendance.

Consequently, this is not an old barbet’s descendance as we could believe.


  1. Third descendance ; Barbet X Griffon Boulet

The Griffon boulet (7th group of pointers), is an extincted breed, his standard was taken off the CCS’s files. Noé, the barbet, was probably a griffon boulet, but ATI confirmed since they were often confunded with wooly hair griffon.

Two things must be said ;

-Firstly, « Noé  was probably a griffon boulet. », the author insists on the « probably ». For the CCS, Noé had unknown origines. When a pedigree dog is used to make mixes of breeds, that must appear into the pedigree. That was done for the barbet with the poodle.(for example, Bruss du Haut Pacquis). A descendance built on « probably » things is not enough to draw conclusion.


-In a second time, Noé was born in April, the 1rst, 1977, consequently, this is not an ancestral descendance.


-To finish, what can we conclude about tis theory according to which the barbet’s breed had never extincted, because of few « descendances » that would have came through time, still intact ?

 We can conclude that this theory is opposed to the official version, which asserts that the barbet ‘s breed had extincted at the begining of the 20th century, and that it reappeared in the 1970’s, and aht consequently, thers was no « elder » or « purer » descendance than the others !


We can conclude that this theory tries to make us believe that there were two kind of barbet ; the « ancient », and « the new » ones, though it’s false. All the current barbet descendances are the same age.


We can conclude that this theory wants to be credible only by :

 Using scientific terms (as phenotype and genotype),

 Turning away scientific words ( Gregoire Leroy ),

 Making of his theory an so-called « historic » theory that only relies on uncertainties, and ill- advisedly used documents.

 And that, finally, i twas important for me, as an historian, to bring in light the danger of this theory which, little by little, gains ground at the internet users’s, and which, enventually, can easily make disciples, because in this case, we speak well and truly about faith and certainly not about science or history.


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