Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

History and Development

We know that the Bichon. like his cousin the Caniche, descended from the Barbet or Water Spaniel, from which came the name “Barbichon”, later shortened to “Bichon”. The Bichons were divided into tour types the Bichon Maltaise, the Bichon Bolognese, the Bichon Havanese and the Bichon Teneriffe. All originated in the Mediterranean area. Appreciated for their dispositions, the little dogs traveled much through antiquity. The dogs found early success in Spain and it is generally felt that Spanish seamen introduced the breed to the Canary Island of Teneriffe, hence the name Bichon Teneriffe.

In the 14th century, Italian sailors rediscovered our little dogs on their voyages and are credited with returning them to the continent. They soon became great favorites with the Italian nobility arid the new middle class of merchants and, as with other dogs of that era, the Bichons were often cut “lion style”.

The ” Teneriffe ” or “Bichon” made his appearance in France under Francis I, the patron of the Renaissance, who reigned from 1515 to 1547. Their great success, however, was during the reign of Henry III from 1547 to 1589. This king so loved the little dogs that he carried them wherever he went in traylike baskets attached around his neck by ribbons, a custom quickly adopted by the ladies of the court.

The breed also enjoyed considerable success in Spam as a favorite of the Infantas; painters of the Spanish school often included them in their works. One finds such a dog in several of the paintings of Goya, (1746-1828). Their success was moderate after this period until a brief renewal of interest under Napoleon III (1808-1873).

But the fate of our aristocratic dog is altered. In the late 1800’s, he becomes the “common dog”, running the streets, accompanying the organ grinders of Barbary, leading the blind and doing tricks in the circus and fairs. At the end of the First World War returning soldiers brought a few of these dogs back with them, but no effort was made to breed or keep records. In France, however, tour breeders began establishing their lines through controlled breeding programs. On March 5, 1933, the official Standard of the breed as written by Madame Abadie of Steren Vor Kennels was adopted by the Societe Centrale Canine of France. As the breed was known by two names, Teneriffe and Bichon. the President of the International Canine Federation, Mine. Nizet de Leemans, proposed a name based on the characteristics that the dogs presented and the name “Bichon a poil Frise” or “Bichon of the curly coat” was adopted. On October 18, 1934, the Bichon was admitted to the Stud Book of the French Kennel Club. The breed is recognized in Belgium. France and Italy, and in 1971 was accepted into the Miscellaneous Class of the American K.C.

The Bichon of today copies no other breed m the Style of presentation. He is unique and ready to take his place among the recognized breeds of America.

Bichon Frise: Color

All white, or white with cream, apricot, or gray on cars and/or body.

Bichon Frise: Care

Unfortunately, in the show rings of the Continent, emphasis on meticulous care was lacking. It was the custom to exhibit with little or no grooming. Dogs were unwashed, mi brushed and unscissored, and were generally lacking in the basics of show appearance which are taken for granted in the present-day American show ring.

For effective presentation, the Bichon should be trimmed to show the eyes and to give a full, rounded appearance to the head and body. The hair around the feet should be trimmed to give a rounded look. The effect, when properly brushed, is of a “powder puff”. Puppies may be shown in short coat, but the minimum show coat for adults is 2″ long.


The general appearance of this small, gay and playful breed as given in the Standard of the Bichon Frise Club of America is that of a sturdy, lively dog of stable temperament, with a stylish gait and an air of dignity and intelligence.

The head is in proportion with the size of the dog, the skull broad, somewhat round, and covered with a topknot of hair. The ears arc drop, covered with long, flowing hair, the leather about half as long as the muzzle. The muzzle is of medium length, not coarse or snipey, with a slight stop. The body is slightly longer than the height, which is not exceeding 12″ and not less than 8″. The back inclines gradually from the withers to a slight rise over the loin, which is large and muscular, and the tail is carried gaily, curved to lie on the back, and covered with long, flowing hair. The coat is profuse, silky in texture, and loosely curled, with a good undercoat.

Selections from the book: “The World encyclopedia of Dogs” (1971)