From Goya To Westminster, The Bichon Frise Has Come A Long Way Baby!

Originally a Spanish sailing dog, the Bichon Frise is mistakenly thought of as a French Dog because of the name. Some speculate the origin of bichon to be the result of shortening the word barbichon ("small poodle”.) While the name is derived from the French, "Bichon à poil frisé" meaning "curly lap dog," the preferred English spelling does not include accents and is known simply as "Bichon Frise."

18th Century

While the Bichon Frise breed dates back to the 14th Century, it wasn’t until the 18th Century when it really gained global notoriety. At the hands of some famous Renaissance artists, it came into its own.

Francisco de Goya was the most notable to recognize its uniqueness. He painted a forebear of today’s Bichon Frise with the Duchess of Alba. Titled ‘The White Duchess,’ the portrait is a life-sized (192 x 128 cm) oil-on-canvas depiction. The dog wears a matching red ribbon on one of his hind legs. The now-famous painting was completed in 1795 and can be found in the collectiont of the current Duchess of Alba in Madrid.

Goya also included Bichons in several of his many works over his illustrious career — including Maria Teresa de Borbón y Vallabriga which was contracted earlier in 1783. Interesting to note, that in both works of art, the Bichon had a more 'shaggy dog look' versus today's 'poofed groom coif.'

From Goya To Westminster, The Bichon Frise Has Come A Long Way Baby!

21st Century

Aside from being brought to the United States in 1955, the Bichon Frise did not reemerge into our zeitgeist until our most current century.

In 2001, a Bichon named J.R. won ‘best-in-show’ at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and was ranked the 40th most popular breed in 2013 according to the American Kennel Club.

Then, as a surprise to a packed Madison Square Garden audience, a Bichon was named once again: “Top Dog,” at the Westminster Kennel Club show. “Flynn” won best-in-show on February 12, 2018 to a stunned crowd of dog fanciers, owners and trainers.

Guided by expert handler Bill McFadden, Flynn beat out Ty the Giant Schnauzer, Biggie the Pug, Bean the Sussex Spaniel, Lucy the Borzoi, Slick the Border Collie and Winston the Norfolk Terrier.

"It feels a little unreal," McFadden said. "I came in expecting nothing except hoping for a good performance, and I think I got it."

This year, the 142nd Westminster event attracted 2,882 entries in 202 breeds and varieties. Just to understand the odds of a Bichon Frise winning twice [in less than 18 years] at an event that dates back to the late 1800's, breeds like Terriers have won ‘best-in-show’ 46 times.

Why go Bichon .  .  .

So the Bichon Frise is back. Enjoy their current notoriety, and for those interested in bringing one home, you couldn’t make a better choice.

While this breed's longevity is similar to other breeds of its size, it's somewhat longer than purebred dogs in general.

Bichons don’t molt and are hypoallergenic. This makes them a great option for pet owners who have wanted a dog but have avoided getting one due to allergies. Since they don’t shed, there’s no need to worry about cleaning dog hair off your clothes and furniture.

In addition to being very attractive pups with their solid white curly coats, this breed make great companion dogs for families and children They’re very obedient in training, quick to learn, and respond well to a lot of social interaction.  

Primary Source: Bichon Frise





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