Ah, France. A country known for its cheese, wine, champagne, bread, pastries and exquisite, romantic culture. Surely, we hear you say, it’s not possible for this country to have even more things for us to adore?
Well think again, for another of France’s gifts to the world is their dogs, and we’ve gone and found 15 French dog breeds that you’re sure to fall in love with. From the popular French Bulldog to the perhaps lesser known Barbet, these dogs are national treasures. So alors, let’s take a look at these 15 French dog breeds, and see which one is your favourite.
Perhaps the breed most associated with France, the fabulously fluffy and floppy-eared Poodle is actually a French imposter who actually originated in Germany with ancestors from Asia, Hungary, Russia but also (thankfully) France. Before becoming style icons, the Poodle was bred as a water dog – and are as home in the water as a fish would be. Now, they’ve seen the light of luxury and make chilled out house dogs, as well as impressive dog show contenders.
A fun fact for you: Poodles have been favoured by celebrities through history, with famous owners such as Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Streisand, Priscilla Presley, Jackie Kennedy and Rihanna.
Dogue de Bordeaux
The handsome Dogue is a big dog, with a big wrinkly head and a big heart for its family – with a big tendency to snore and drool, too. The Dogue de Bordeaux, or the French Mastiff, has been around since the Middle Ages, becoming hugely popular in the UK since its introduction in the 20th century.
A fun fact for you: Beasley, was the name of the handsome Dogue de Bordeaux who starred alongside Tom Hanks in the 1998 film Turner & Hooch. If you’re likely to watch the film soon, stock up on the tissues.
Pyrenean Mountain Dog
With humble beginnings as a livestock guard, the loyal and lovable Pyrenean Mountain Dog rose through the ranks of French nobility, eventually becoming an official court dog in the 1700s. How about a great career, right? They’re people-oriented dogs, and are often used as therapy dogs due to their soft fur and calm, affectionate nature. Truly, a good dog.
A fun fact for you: This French dog breed was seriously adored by royalty, with owners like Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette and even Queen Victoria across the English Channel.
Whilst definitely a dog (we checked), the name ‘Papillon’ is actually the French word for butterfly, given to this little breed because of the resemblance its ears had to a butterfly’s wings. Dating back to the 13th century, the Papillon was bred as a companion dog, ideal for ladies of court to carry tucked under their arms. They’re smart, lively dogs from the Spaniel family, who need lots of exercise to exert their energy.
A fun fact for you: It’s said that one of notorious dog lover Marie Antoinette’s beloved companions was a Papillon named Coco.
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
This little short but strong scent hound was originally bred to sniff out hares and other small game on hunts. It’s French name is the perfect, simple description for the breed, literally translating to ‘small, low to the ground, rough coated, from the Vendée region of France’. With a confident and curious nature, this friendly little dog will be quick to lick the hands of any human willing to give them attention (relatable).
A fun fact for you: In 2013, the winner of Crufts Best In Show was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen called Jilly.
Another French dog breed loved by the nation’s nobility, the Barbet is a rare dog that’s thought to be the ancestor of our other French four-legged friend, the Poodle. The breed’s name originates from ‘barbe’ – the French word for ‘beard’ – and has webbed feet and a water-resistant coat that meant they were originally ideal companions for sailors and hunters to retrieve waterfowl. Later in the 1800s, the lovable, loyal and intelligent Barbet became a companion dog.
A fun fact for you: After World War I, the Barbet was faced with near-extinction, despite their long history. Thankfully, they’ve made their comeback in recent years. Phew.
Braque du Bourbonnais
Part of the Pointer Sisters family, this intelligent gundog is one of the oldest Pointer dogs that exists today. The Braque du Bourbonnais is an old, old French dog, originating from the original French Pointer in the 1500s. During the 1960s, the breed almost became extinct, but began to increase in popularity and breeding again in the 1970s. And we’re ever so glad they were.
A fun fact for you: All French Pointers are named after the region they were developed in, with other notable breeds including the Braque d’Auvergne and the Braque Saint Germain.
France is home to the origin of many Spaniel breeds, originally bred for hunting, pointing and retrieving – which they historically all did excellently. Whilst the French Spaniel originated in the Middle Ages, the Picardy Spaniel (named after the Picardy region in France) was only separated from the generalised breed name and give its own recognition in the early 1900s.
A fun fact for you: The Picardy Spaniel is pretty rare outside of France and Canada, with huge waiting lists for big time admirers to bring one of these gorgeous dogs into their families.
Perhaps not known so widely as a French dog, the Briard is an ancient herding dog with a handsome, bearded face. They’re known for their unwavering loyalty and protectiveness, used by the French military as sentries and ‘pack dogs’ during World War I. Today, the Briard is still used as a sheepdog, by search and rescue organisations and the police.
A fun fact for you: It’s said that Napoleon Bonaparte owned a Briard – and you can’t get more French than him, can you?
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is one of France’s oldest and beloved dogs throughout the nation’s history, wagging its tail since medieval times. With it’s high energy and high intelligence, it’s no surprise that this breed was used for herding sheep, and also as a courier, watchdog and rescue dog during World War I. Pyr Sheps are devotedly loyal, but also harbour a delight for mischief, too.
A fun fact for you: Pyrenean Sheepdogs can be so attached to their owners, that they’ll follow them around the house to ‘help’ with daily chores.
Believed to be the oldest of the French scent hounds, the Porcelaine was bred to hunt hare, roe deer and boar. Sadly, Porcelaines are rare these days, with only 14 puppies bred in the UK since 2009, after disappearing post-French Revolution. Currently, many breeders and clubs are working to help the breed regain its once stellar popularity.
A fun fact for you: Perhaps obviously, but ‘porcelaine’ means porcelain in English, referring to its shiny white coat. But you probably guessed that already, didn’t you?
Thought to be from the Mediterranean (or Côte D’Azur, if you’re fancy) region of France, ‘Le petite chien lion’ (the little lion dog) was originally a companion dog for the elite only, appearing in French literature and art dating as far back as the 15th century. It’s name comes from its traditional haircut, featuring a rather fantastic mane that Simba would envy, for sure.
A fun fact for you: Despite its French origin, ‘Löwchen’ means ‘little lion’, but in German. Go figure.
Berger Picard (Picardy Shepherd)
Another ancient French dog breed, the Berger Picard is a herding dog originating from the mountain region of Picardie in France. After World War I and World War II, they nearly became extinct and still remain a rare breed today. They have short legs, but big personalities and are loyal, lively and people-oriented – as well as highly intelligent.
A fun fact for you: Three Berger Picards (Scott, Laiko and Tasha) starred in the film Because of Winn-Dixie which led many fans of the film to mistakenly think that ‘Winn-Dixie’ was their mixed-breed.
Those well-travelled, or excellent at Geography will put two and two together to realise that yes, this breed is from the Brittany region of France. Bred originally as a gun dog in the 17th century, the Brittany excels in this sport still today. This breed has a calm and curious temperament, but can also sometimes be shy.
A fun fact for you: Like many dating profiles on the internet, this dog loves long walks and exploring the countryside.
And of course, who could forget the iconic and hugely popular French Bulldog. Often referred to as the ‘Frenchie’, this endearing breed currently ranks as #2 in the UK’s most popular breeds, just trailing behind the Labrador. These dogs have a playful attitude and gorgeous nature, but as with many brachycephalic breeds, can face breathing difficulties due to their flat noses and faces.
A fun fact for you: As well as being popular with us regular non-famous folk, celebrity Frenchie owners include Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock), Reese Witherspoon and countless others.
So, there you have it. Our 15 French dog breeds. Do you own a French dog? Send us your snaps across our social media channels, or tell us all about your dog in the comments below.