What you need to know

French Dog Breeds

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2021
French Dog Breeds

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France is well renowned for its rich history and culture. Their gastronomical influence is vast, their literature is translated across the world and they have been the hub for many great artists. However, not everyone will be as familiar with their influence on canine culture. This is starting to change as breeds such as the French Bulldog are becoming popular all over the world.

It's perhaps easy to recognize the French Bulldog as a French breed from its name, but there are more than 40 breeds of dog known to have originated in French territory. Unfortunately, many are extinct due to various reasons. AnimalWised brings you the 20 most popular French dog breeds still around today. We provide pictures and information on their character and characteristics.

  1. Barbet
  2. Poodle
  3. 3 Basset Hound
  4. French Bulldog
  5. Papillon
  6. Dogue de Bordeaux
  7. Briard
  8. Grand Bleu de Gascogne
  9. Beauceron
  10. Great Pyrenees
  11. More French dog breeds
See more >>

1. Barbet

We start our list of popular French dog breeds with the Barbet, a medium sized water dog. Water dogs are known for their keen swimming ability. They are often used in professions based on or around the water such as water rescue dogs.

the Barbet's body is well suited to water tasks as they have a strong build with long fur which is woolly and curly, similar to a Poodle. They have a thick dense undercoat which protects them in cold water temperatures. There are some controversies about their origin, but the Barbet is generally recognized a French dog. Part of the mystery in their origin is due to their being one of the oldest European dog breeds, if not the oldest.

French Dog Breeds - 1. Barbet

2. Poodle

The Standard Poodle is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and is perhaps the most popular French dog breed on this list. While they stand out for their distinctively adorable look, it should be remembered they are among the smartest dog breeds in the world. They are especially sensitive to their human guardians and have a predisposition to training.

One of their main characteristics is their curly coat. This requires a certain amount of care for maintenance, but many also choose to cut and groom them in various styles for show purposes.

French Dog Breeds - 2. Poodle

3 Basset Hound

Despite their forlorn looking face, Basset Hounds are one of the most gentle and contented French dog breeds. They are part of a group of hound dog breeds which originated in St. Hubert in the Lorraine region of France. Some theories claim that the Basset comes from smaller dogs bred from French hound crosses. Others claim they derive from certain Bloodhound lineages. What is known for sure is that the word Basset comes from the French word ‘bas’ which means ‘low’ due to their close proximity to the ground.

These dogs spread rapidly throughout Europe, seen as one of the most effective French hunting dog breeds. However, they have subsequently become more popular as companion animals. Their characteristic ‘sad’ look has made them popular in cartoons and cultural depictions throughout history. They are known inside America as the mascot of shoewear manufacturer Hush Puppies, leading to many to refer to this breed as a ‘hush puppy’.

These precious hounds are much more than their physical appearance. Their powerful nose makes them exemplary trail hunters. As companion dogs they stand out for their loyal and fun nature and are considered one of the quietest dogs. Despite their remarkable hunting instinct, they coexist very well with pets and children if well socialized.

French Dog Breeds - 3 Basset Hound

4. French Bulldog

Also known as the ‘Frenchie’, the French Bulldog is one of the most popular small French dog breeds. Their small, but robust and plump body originates from English Bulldogs. They are good natured, sociable, playful and affectionate, helping us to quickly understand why these ‘bat-eared’ dogs are such beloved companions.

However, it is important to remember that these dogs require a lot of attention and have a great need for company if they want to maintain a balanced temperament. A French Bulldog which spends too much time on their own will develop destructive behaviors and separation anxiety. Therefore, if you spend a lot of time away from home or live a very independent life, it might not be well suited to you.

Additionally, it is essential to remember that these are brachycephalic dogs which need special care to preserve their good health. This is also in aid to help prevent common diseases of the French Bulldog.

French Dog Breeds - 4. French Bulldog

5. Papillon

The Papillon is one of the most exquisite looking small French dog breeds. They have a graceful demeanor and smooth walk, one reason it is considered one of the most elegant looking dogs in the world. They are intelligent and active as well as affectionate and extroverted within their family, even if not especially sociable with strangers. The name derives from their distinctive head shape which looks like a butterfly with outstretched wings.

Of course, we must remember that the behavior of every dog will depend on their education and environment provided by their guardians. If we want a sociable and obedient Papillon dog, we need to pay extra attention to their training and early socialization.

French Dog Breeds - 5. Papillon

6. Dogue de Bordeaux

Little is known about the origins of the Dogue de Bordeaux, but it is estimated that their ancestors would have been introduced to the French by the Celts. The first recorded specimen of this French dog breed is from the 14th Century, a period during which they were mainly used for hunting large animals and for protection. Unfortunately, the Bordeaux Mastiff (as it is sometimes known) has also been used as a fighting dog until the prohibition of this activity in the 19th Century.

The Bordeaux Mastiff stands out for being a large French dog breed with a very robust build and well-developed musculature. Their head is striking and their skin wrinkles when looking attentively. Their imposing appearance belies a good natured, sensitive and calm dog which is loyal to their human family.

However, due to their physical build and powerful jaw, the Dogue de Bordeaux is considered a potentially dangerous dog in some countries. Although their morphology does not define their behavior, we must remember that these dogs need to be well educated and socialized from an early age. This is why they are better suited to more experienced dog owners who have the time and patience they require to lead contented lives.

French Dog Breeds - 6. Dogue de Bordeaux

7. Briard

The Briard is considered a rare dog breed outside of their native France. However, when they are spotted it is easy to see their appeal as they have an attractive long-haired appearance. They are a large dog with a rectangular body, rustic appearance and well developed musculature. Their fur is long, dry and of a coarse texture which is sometimes known as ‘goat hair’. Usually, the classic photo of Briard dogs show their face and eyes partly covered by a long fringe.

Regarding their character, we can say that the Briard is an active, playful and loyal dog. They are balanced and very secure in themselves. As they are protective and devoted to their their families, especially with children, they can be somewhat shy and suspicious of strangers. Another reason it is so essential to socialize puppies so that they may be able to interact positively with other animals and people.

As their original French name of Pastor de Brie indicates, these furry fellows originated from the Brie region of France. Besides this, there is little known about their exact origins. They are thought to be one of the oldest French dog breeds, probably descended from old shepherd dogs from the Paris basins.

French Dog Breeds - 7. Briard

8. Grand Bleu de Gascogne

Originally from the French region of Gascony, it is little recognized in other European countries. In France, it is one of the most popular hunting dogs. They are a hound dog with a large and sometimes imposing appearance. They have a strong musculature, long and strong legs and long droopy ears.

Due to their highly developed sense of smell and physical structure, it has historically been a hunting dog in a pack. Subsequently, due to their loyal, serene and noble character, they developed into well-loved companion dogs.

However, they have a powerful bark and we need to pay special attention to their education and socialization to prevent compulsive barking. Again, they are not recommended for tutors without previous dog owning experience.

French Dog Breeds - 8. Grand Bleu de Gascogne

9. Beauceron

The Beauceron is sometimes known as the Berger de Beauce which means the sheepdog from the Beauce region. They are a large French dog with a rustic appearance and muscular body. They have a short and dense coat which is often black and tan, but can also be harlequin merle style. The first registered dog of this breed was registered in France in the year 1893.

Their name is from their place of origin, specifically the plains near Paris known as Le Beauce. Originally they were employed as field workers. This included everything from guiding herds of livestock to protecting lands from poachers. Subsequently, they accompanied the French army in both World Wars.

Despite being little recognized outside of France, Beauceron dogs are very intelligent, energetic and confident animals. They are very affectionate and loyal with their family, but they may be reserved around strangers.

French Dog Breeds - 9. Beauceron

10. Great Pyrenees

Also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the last dog on our list of popular French dogs is perhaps the most ‘controversial’. The controversy arises from whether or not they are originally French. This is because they come from the mountainous Pyrenees which border both France and Spain. For this reason, some may consider them a Franco-Spanish dog rather than exclusively French.

However, it is fair to say that the Great Pyrenees have maintained special popularity in France, even going as far to be declared the royal dog of the French court of Louis XIV. He was a particular admirer of the beauty and character of this breed.

Currently, the great Pyrenees has become a popular companion dog, but is still employed as a shepherd dog in some mountain regions of France and Spain. They are a protective, loyal and somewhat independent which demonstrates an excellent predisposition for learning various tasks and functions.

Due to their large size, the Great Pyrenees needs a home with a lot of space and sufficient food to keep them in optimal nutrition. Additionally, their abundant coat needs brushing two or three times a week to keep their fur healthy. This is also why they cannot stand the heat very well.

French Dog Breeds - 10. Great Pyrenees

More French dog breeds

In addition to the aforementioned hairy above, there are many other breeds of French dogs that are less well-known outside of the Gallic lands. Below, we list some other dog breeds that originated in France and have remarkable qualities as service dogs, hunting dogs or companion animals:

  • French Spaniel
  • Braque Francais (French Pointer)
  • Griffon Bleu de Gascogne
  • Brittany dog
  • Basset Fauve de Bretagne
  • Griffon Fauve de Bretagne
  • Braque Saint-Germain
  • Grand Anglo-Francais Tricolore
  • Braque de Bourbonnai
  • Poitevin (Chien de Haut-Poitou)

These French dog breeds are large and small, depending on the specific animal. You can see the differences for yourself with the photos below. If you want to find out more information about different European dog breeds, take a look at our article on the different Italian dog breeds.

French Dog Breeds - More French dog breeds

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French Dog Breeds