Country Life - January 9th 1992

The article is from the January 1992 edition of Country Life magazine. The text has been digitally reproduced in its entirety for ease of reading whereas the image is a scan from the original magazine.

The article has been reproduced with kind permission from 'Country Life'


4,000 gundogs at Crufts. Why not the Barbet?
Cover of Country Life - Jan`92.

Cover of Country Life - Jan`92.

At first sight it is difficult to imagine that the Barbet could possibly be a gundog. It has a woolly coat like a sheep’s, short legs and a turned-up tail. A society lady’s lapdog, perhaps, but a gundog? And yet the Barbet is undoubtedly one of the oldest gundog breeds. From the Middle Ages on it was widely used as a water dog. In the 18th century, the naturalist Buffon described it in his natural history, emphasising the dog’s extraordinary swimming prowess. For some reason this attractive animal began to lose popularity in the late 1950s. However, 20 years later, breeding was resumed and many Continental sportsmen now use the dog for shooting over marshland. With its dense waterproof coat, the Barbet can work in the coldest winters, swim in rivers full of broken ice and even - so it is said - spend an entire day in icy water.

Although it used to be classified as a pointer, today it is grouped with retrievers and water dogs and is used especially for game whose habitat is water. Its ability to retrieve a wounded duck or flush out teal camouflaged in rushes is unequalled. The Barbet is hardy, sticks close to its master, rummages through rush beds thoroughly, retrieves the game and relentlessly pursues wounded birds. The dog’s strength combined with gentleness, its equable temperament and working capability are now ensuring its success. To an extent it is replacing the Labrador, being even less susceptible to cold.

Useful for short forages, hunting “underfoot”, the Barbet is not as elegant as either the Labrador or golden retriever. But it does not lack charm and its behaviour in water is peerless. Grooming its dense coat can be a problem: it collects bits of bramble, grass, burrs and other oddments every time it goes out, and regular brushing is essential if the dog is to look presentable. It makes a wonderful house dog and is excellent with children. Small in size and with a moderate appetite, it is equally at home in front of the fire or immersed in broken ice.