Learn about the 15 most famous French dog breeds in our latest guide at Woof Bark Growl.
When asked about French dog breeds, most people default to the French Bulldog, and… that’s it, really! Few of us can name any other breeds that hail from France.
Yet as it turns out, the list is surprisingly long and includes both rare, unusual breeds and those we all know and love.
Without further ado, let’s meet fifteen dog breeds with French origins. Number one won’t surprise you, but a few of the rest certainly might!
1. French Bulldog
You’re bound to have seen it coming: kicking off the list is the French Bulldog. Though the breed as we know it today originates from France, these dogs actually have French-British roots.
French Bulldogs were created in the 1800s by crossing the British Toy Bulldog with local French dogs of unknown heritage.
Smart, gentle, and playful, they make for popular pets worldwide – in fact, according to a report by the Kennel Club, French Bulldogs were second on the list of the most registered purebred dogs in the UK in 2019.
In America, they rank in fourth place – still a highly respectable result!
The large, long-haired Briard was first bred in France several centuries ago as a herding and flock-guarding dog.
The breed is somewhat unique in this respect – usually, two separate dogs would be needed for these duties.
Often, sheep farmers would use a Pyrenean Shepherd and Pyrenean Mountain Dog duo. But Briards can take care of it all on their own!
Briards are intelligent, gentle, hard-working, and very loyal. For these and other reasons, they make for great pets and therapy dogs. Allegedly, Napoleon Bonaparte was fond of the breed and owned at least one Briard.
Many Briards have double dewclaws – a dewclaw is an extra toe on the side of a dog’s paw.
Whether or not Briards must have two of these on each paw to be considered purebred is a matter of ongoing debate among breeders.
3. Pyrenean Shepherd
Pyrenean Shepherds are the smallest French herding breed, weighing up to 15kg. As their name suggests, they originate from the Pyrenees – the mountain range that forms the border between France and Spain.
Like virtually all herding breeds, Pyrenean Shepherds are extremely energetic, quick-witted, and intelligent. Though some people keep them as pets, they are still actively used as herding dogs in the south of France and elsewhere.
Pyrenean Shepherds can be either medium- or long-haired, and there is a separate ‘smooth-faced’ variety – with shorter fur on the snout.
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4. Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Traditionally, the large Pyrenean Mountain Dog worked as a flock guardian, while Pyrenean Shepherds herded the sheep. Like the Shepherd, this breed originates from the Pyrenean mountain range.
Due to their large size of up to 54 kg, these dogs are sometimes called Great Pyrenees.
Despite their formidable appearance, Great Pyrenees are gentle, patient, calm dogs that make for excellent family pets, even with small children around.
Interestingly, just like with Briards, the breed standard for Great Pyrenees mentions double dewclaws on the rear feet.
The Barbet is a rare breed of French hunting, working, and all-around companion dogs. Their name comes from the French word for ‘beard’, which is likely because of their thick, curly coat.
Interestingly, a Barbet named Moustache is said to have taken part in French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
As hunting assistants, Barbets would flush and retrieve waterfowl in French marshes. They would often get covered in mud in the process, which gave rise to the expression ‘muddy as a Barbet’ in 19th century France.
A Barbet’s appearance is strikingly similar to that of a Poodle. In fact, many people mistakenly believed them to be the same breed for over a hundred years!
6. Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
Since the original name of this breed is quite a mouthful for those of us who don’t speak French, these dogs are better known in Britain as Roughies.
Coming from the Vendée region in western France, these hounds make for excellent rabbit-hunting companions.
Roughies are very lively, intelligent, and energetic, excelling at agility and obedience training despite their infamous stubborn streak.
Another thing they’re known for is their affinity for howling – start singing next to a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen and see what happens!
7. Basset Hound
There’s some confusion as to whether Basset Hounds are a French breed or a British one. As a matter of fact, although the breed was first registered in Britain, it descends from hounds imported exclusively from France.
So, you could say Bassets have a British passport, but a thoroughly French ancestry!
The name of the breed is French, too – the word basset comes from the French word for ‘low’, likely thanks to the dog’s short paws.
Basset Hounds have an especially keen sense of smell and are excellent at hunting small game. As pets, they’re playful, friendly, and famously patient – which makes them perfect companions for families with small children.
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The Papillon is one of the smallest French breeds of dog, similar in size to a Maltese. Though in truth the breed’s origins are uncertain – with mentions of Italy, England, and Belgium alongside France – the Papillon is most often described as a French dog.
The word papillon literally means ‘butterfly’ in French, and the name refers to these dog’s large ears that resemble a butterfly’s wings.
Interestingly, there is a variety of Papillons with dropped ears – called phalene – or ‘moth’.
Papillons are exceedingly healthy dogs, often living to 15 years or more. They’re also highly intelligent – in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, Professor Stanley Coren ranks them among the top ten brightest breeds.
9. Berger Picard
Coming from the historical Picardy region (now Hauts-de-France) in northern France, the Berger Picard is a vigilant, loyal, medium-sized herding breed with characteristically large, upright ears.
Unfortunately, the breed is very rare nowadays, even in its native France. The Berger Picard population dropped drastically during both world wars – they had lived mostly in north-eastern France, which was heavily occupied.
Nowadays, there are only around 3500 Berger Picards in France and just 400 in the U.S. and Canada.
Professional breeders are hard at work to bring the breed back to its former popularity, so with luck, we’ll see more and more of these gorgeous French dogs.
10. Picardy Spaniel
The Picardy Spaniel (or Épagneul Picard) is a medium-large breed of hunting dog from France. Though the breed’s history reaches back several centuries, Picardy Spaniels became especially popular after the French Revolution, when hunting became a more widespread activity.
Picardy Spaniels arose as a result of breeding spaniels with setters, which is still quite evident in their modern appearance.
They’re loyal, gentle, sociable dogs, usually with an easy-going attitude and a willingness to learn.
It’s worth noting that most Picardy Spaniels enjoy excellent health – there are no known hereditary health issues with this breed.
Tall, lean, and elegant, the Porcelaine is a rare French breed of hound with a long – and difficult – history.
Porcelaines were first bred in the 1700s and excelled at hunting both small and larger game, even aiding in taking down deer and wild boar.
Unfortunately, during the French Revolution the breed’s population declined almost to the point of extinction.
Thanks to the efforts of French and British breeders in more recent years, the number of Porcelaine dogs in Europe and beyond is now on the rise.
12. Dogue de Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux (or French Mastiff) is one of the biggest dog breeds in the world, often weighing more than 65 kg. Originating from southern France, this breed has likely been around since at least the fourteenth century!
Although they’re very large and incredibly strong, dogs of this breed are known for their patience and laid-back attitude. Unfortunately, Dogue de Bordeaux have a relatively short lifespan, rarely living beyond 8 years.
Surprisingly, Poodles are French more by association than by direct heritage. Most sources agree that they actually come from Germany, not France.
Still, Poodles are France’s national breed, so wherever they originated, they’re definitely French dogs nowadays!
Poodles have an incredibly long history, with mentions of the breed as early as the 15th century.
Though we tend to think of them as sweet companion dogs (especially the modern toy variety), they were actually bred for duck hunting.
Throughout centuries, Poodles often appeared in art – most notably in the work of Rembrandt, who included his pet Poodle in a self-portrait.
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14. Braque du Bourbonnais
The Braque du Bourbonnais – literally, the ‘pointer of Bourbonnais’ – is a rare breed of hunting dog originating from central France.
The breed was first described during the Renaissance (the 1600s – 1700s), but by the 20th century, it had almost ceased to exist. There was a brief period of increased popularity for the Braque du Bourbonnais after World War I, but the breed soon fell into decline.
Luckily, nowadays the number of Braque du Bourbonnais is on the increase.
This is largely thanks to the efforts and initiative of the Swiss artist Michel Comte, who successfully recreated the breed in the 1970s. Braque du Bourbonnais are now increasingly popular, especially in France and the U.S.
Named after their region of origin in north-western France, Brittany dogs are medium-sized and famous for their hunting skills.
Brittany dogs have assisted during hunts since the 17th century, and continue to excel in this field today.
Since arriving in the U.S., the breed has split into two distinct lines: the French Brittany and the American Brittany. The French variety is slightly smaller and behaves somewhat differently during hunts.
Though hunting is their main claim to fame, Brittany dogs also make for excellent family pets thanks to their trainability, positive energy, and loyalty.
And here we are: you’ve made it to the end of our list of fifteen French dog breeds! Some dogs have centuries-long histories of living in France, others have a mixed European heritage, and the Poodle somehow manages to be French despite actually being German.
Still, regardless of their background, they all have their unique quirks, talents, and characteristics – and that’s precisely why we love them, wherever they may hail from!