They've sailed the Mediterranean, sat as lapdogs to the French aristocracy and even enjoyed a stint in the circus, but today the Bichon Frise is best known as one of the most popular companion breeds in the world. Read on to find out more about the fascinating history and quirky personality traits of this charming and irresistibly cute little dog.
1. The breed has a maritime history in the Mediterranean
Although the name Bichon Frise is French and means "curly haired dog," the breed is actually thought to have originated in the Canary Islands. Bichon Frises were once the companion of choice for Spanish sailors, and it's believed that these sailors introduced the little dogs to the island of Tenerife during the 12th and 13th centuries. Then, in the 14th century, Italian sailors discovered them on the island and took them back with them to mainland Europe.
2. Bichon Frises were once the lapdogs of aristocracy
From the 14th century onwards, Bichon Frises were a popular lapdog and court companion in continental Europe, becoming extremely fashionable during the Renaissance period and a favourite amongst the French royal family in particular. In fact, King Henry III was so fond of these little white dogs that he used to carry them around in a basket suspended around his neck with ribbons.
3. They used to be circus dogs
By the 19th century, the Bichon Frise had fallen out of fashion amongst the aristocracy, and these natural performers started becoming known for their tricks instead. Bichon Frises started appearing in circuses and fairs, and even performing alongside organ grinders on the streets of Europe. And by the 1930s, the breed's talent for performing tricks was being recognised on the showgrounds too.
4. The Bichon Frise is not technically a water dog
Despite their maritime beginnings and the fact that they're descended from the water spaniel, the Bichon Frise is often more of a companion dog than a water dog. In fact, many count the Bichon Frise amongst the few dog breeds that don't like the water much at all.
5. They're very sociable
Bichon Frises are very friendly and playful by nature, and they get along well with other dogs as well as kids. They also make loyal and constant companion dogs, and they love nothing more than being at their human's side. This can mean, however, that the breed is susceptible to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods at a time.
6. They're one of the most hypoallergenic dogs around
The Bichon Frise's dense, curly coat is made up of two layers and hardly sheds at all, making this breed a good choice for those with allergies. However, it also means that the corkscrew curls of this little breed require regular grooming to keep their coat in tip-top condition.
7. The Bichon Frise is tiny, but not toy
Although diminutive in stature – according to the Australian Kennel Club, they should stand no more than 30 cm tall and weigh 11 kg at most – the Bichon Frise is still not classified as a toy breed in many countries.
8. They have a comparatively long life span
Smaller dogs typically live longer lives than larger breeds, and the Bichon Frise is no exception. These little dogs commonly have a life span of 12-15 years, and many can even live longer than that.
9. They're almost all-white
The Bichon Frise typically has a pure white coat, with a little bit of darker cream marking the ears, paws, mouth or nose.
10. They're super smart
The Bichon Frise is a very intelligent dog breed that excels in obedience and agility training. These high-energy dogs do particularly well on a rewards-based training program in particular, and they will happily perform tricks for treats.