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Characteristics, History, and Health


The Barbet is a French water dog, which is a medium-sized breed with a dense, curly coat, commonly seen in black, brown, or fawn. This breed is known for its intelligence, friendly demeanor, and versatility as a working dog. The Barbet's origins trace back to the 16th century in France, where it was initially used as a waterfowl retriever. The Barbet is said to be a proto-poodle, meaning that it is the breed from which the poodle was developed. The name Barbet comes from the French word barbe, which means beard, referring to the beard-like fur on the dog's face. Over the years, the breed has taken on many roles, including as a sailor's helper, a herder, and even a companion to ladies at the French court. During the World Wars, the Barbet breed faced the danger of extinction. However, efforts in the 20th century helped to revive the breed. It's now growing in popularity, particularly as a companion dog. An estimated 1,350 Barbets now exist in North America, and their numbers are said to be growing.

Main Info
Alternate Names
Mud Dog
Life Expectancy
12-14 years
Average Male Height
19-24.5 inches
Average Female Height
19-24.5 inches
Average Male Weight
35-65 pounds
Average Female Weight
35-65 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Curly, Wavy
Coat Colors
Black, Brown, Fawn, Gray, White
Coat Pattern
White Markings, Brown Markings, Gray Markings, Black Markings, Fawn Markings

Genetic Predispositions and Health

Barbets can suffer from eye conditions, including cataracts, entropion, and progressive retinal atrophy. They may also be affected by color dilution alopecia, cryptorchidism, hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, and von Willebrand Disease (Type I). Genetic screening is recommended to assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.

Personality and Behavior

Barbets are known to be intelligent, quick to learn, and eager to please, which makes them highly trainable. They are also friendly, sociable, and get along well with other animals and children. Their high energy levels and enthusiasm make them great playmates.

They are known to form strong bonds with their human families and can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long. Despite their history as working dogs, Barbets are adaptable and can thrive in an apartment as long as they receive adequate exercise. Like other water dogs, Barbets love to swim and they can be playful, making them an excellent companion for outdoor activities. They need regular exercise to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. Grooming can be a bit of a chore due to their curly coat, which requires regular brushing to prevent matting.

Fun Facts

The Barbet has webbed feet to help them with swimming.

The AKC likens the Barbet's shaggy coat to that of a Muppet.

The Barbet's coat is non-shedding and non-allergenic.


DOI: 10.1002/9781119540687