Description & History

The breed is also known as the Tenerife. In spite of its Mediterranean sounding name, it is said to be of Belgian and French origin. The breed is a member of the Barbichon family which comprises the Bolognese, the Havanese and the Maltese.

It was known to have been popular in Spain - how they arrived there is not known - before being taken by Spanish sailors to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where they could possibly have been bartered for goods.

In the fourteenth century the breed was re-introduced to mainland Europe and by the sixteenth century they had, like other toy breeds, become fashionable at the French and other royal courts. Owing to their popularity with royalty, they were much sought after by the nobility and the wealthy as pets.

The political upheaval in France at the end of the eighteenth century saw the decline, and in some cases the extinction, of several breeds. Unfortunately, the Bichon Frise lost not only its popularity with the nobility but also its status at the royal courts. Like the Poodle, however, it was soon to become an accepted performer in the circus ring. After the First World War the breed once more gained in popularity. A number of dogs were taken home by servicemen from Belgium and France, thus introducing the breed to other countries.

In the latter part of the twentieth century they are much loved pets and also very successful show dogs.

Rosamund Walters.

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