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24 Fancy French Dog Breeds – The Ultimate Guide to Dogs from France

There are approximately 57 French dog breeds in the world.
Written by Richard Jeng

What’s comes to mind when you think of France? Fashion, the cuisine, FC Paris and most likely the Eiffel Tower. But as a dog lover, I think of the 57 amazing French dog breeds. Yes, there are that many of them, and we have France to thank for that.

In fact, France is tied with Great Britain for producing the most number of dog breeds! Though, Germany follows closely with 47 dog breeds of their own. And if you’re interested, check out my guide to all 31 recognized German dog breeds.

While mainly used for work in the past, French dogs have made their way all over the world – for good reason! Many are excellent gun-dogs, whereas others are first-class guardians of people or sheep flocks. So, let’s dive into the 24 recognized French breeds.

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Small French Dogs

Dog breeds from France come in all sizes, including small – or as I like to call them, the fun size. They’re fantastic small dogs that have become widely popular lap dogs and playmates. What’s a small French dog? We classify these dogs as 5 to 22 pounds in weight.

1. Toy Poodle

Highlights: Lively, Intelligent, Confident

Some claim Poodles originated from Germany, however, many say they’re from France. But no matter where the true origins, few people can deny the charm of a Toy Poodle. They’re sweet, lively and energetic, making them perfect for older kids.

Unlike the other size variations, Toy Poodles are adventurous and spirited little dogs that tend to understand when to play and when to obey. While they can be great lap dogs, their energetic drive means they’ll need moderate exercise, despite being small.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • A Toy Poodle’s coat will never stop growing. However, they don’t shed a lot either, so regular grooming is necessary.
  • The Poodle is the national dog breed of France. Hence, the “French Poodle.”
  • Technically, the Toy Poodle was first bred in America. However, this variation originated from the Standard Poodle.

2. Lowchen

Highlights: Loving, Sociable, Optimistic

Lowchens are, yet another breed, believed to have originated from either France or Germany. Not only are they one of the best lap dogs, but they’re also the most expensive dog in the world. Nicknamed, the “little lion dog,” they’re fur-balls with a huge heart.

These dogs play with a cheerful vibe that’s contagious and fun. Don’t mistaken their small size for weakness, though. Lowchens are surprisingly active dogs that’ll be able to keep up with you on the field. However, they love lounging too.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • A Lowchen from a reputable breeder can cost you upwards of $10,000 USD.
  • During the middle ages, the Lowchen were popular dogs among the noblewomen of France.
  • Through Renaissance art, we know that this breed has not changed in appearance for over 500 years.

3. French Bulldog

Highlights: Playful, Alert, Docile

Frenchies are undoubtedly one of my favorite dog breeds in America, period. In fact, they’re the single most popular lap dogs. Physically, they resemble mini bull dogs, but stand apart with their erect triangular ears (bat ears).

Although small, they make excellent watchdogs and don’t require much care. And because of their mild temperaments, they’re our favorite dog breed for kids. They’re also quite adaptable and perfect for all types of environments and owners.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Due to their round heads and squat frames, most French Bulldogs can’t swim. Keep an eye on them near water.
  • Because Frenchies have unusual body builds, they need to breed through artificial insemination. This is likely why they cost so much.
  • These dogs have much shorter snouts than others, meaning it could be difficult to breath in warm temperatures. Don’t let them overheat and keep them cool.

4. Papillon dog

Highlights: Intelligent, Friendly, Cheerful

Papillon dogs are the 10th smartest dog breeds in the world, putting them in the same class as Labradors and Rottweilers. For this reason, they perform extremely well in agility competitions and are very responsive to training.

However, the more casual owners will enjoy the Papillon’s ability to pick up tricks quickly. In the home, they’re typically happy dogs that can perform their watchdog duties. And despite their care-free personalities, they’re an alert breed.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Papillon in French means butterfly. They were given this name because of their wing-shaped ears.
  • According to researcher Stanley Coren, Papillons are the eight most intelligent dog breeds.
  • Not all Papillons have the butterfly ears. Some have droopy ears and they’re called the “phalene type.”

Medium French Dogs

Unlike Japanese dog breeds, the French dogs come in a wide variety: different sizes, shapes, colors and looks. Each breed is completely unique in their own right. For the purpose of this guide, medium dogs weigh between 23 and 49 pounds.

5. Barbet Dog

Highlights: Affectionate, Good natured, Lively

The Barbet is known for it’s almost-rectangular frame, along with a long sweeping tail and fluffy head. They’re intelligent dogs but also deceivingly athletic – capable of quickly retrieving birds, ducks and other small game.

In the home, they usually have a very calm demeanor. But don’t let that fool you. They need quite a bit of exercise to maintain a healthy and happy life. Even so, they’re one of the best companions the canine kingdom has to offer.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After WWII, the Barbet dog was nearly extinct. Using the few dogs left, devoted breeders successfully revived this breed.
  • The Barbet dog has an affinity towards water. Let them go for a swim and they’ll be as happy as ever.
  • At a point in time, the name barbet was a generic term for dogs with long, curly and woolly coats.

6. Basset Fauve de Bretagne

Highlights: Intelligent, Happy, Courageous

Also known as the Fawn Colored Brittany Basset, this French dog breed is a versatile hunting dog, capable of tracking small game on all types of rough terrain. Though they may look slow, a Basset Fauve has a quick step and will chase down a rabbit with ease.

On the other hand, their charming yet warm personalities make them fantastic breeds for all families. Thanks to their prey-drive, they will require plenty socializing to co-exist with other small pets and cats. Plus, they can be stubborn at times.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • These dogs were derived from the extinct Grand Fauve de Bretagnein during the 1800’s.
  • The word “bas” in French means low. So, “basset” means low set, which refers to their short legs.
  • Although relatively vocal dogs, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne doesn’t really bark much.

7. Braque du Bourbonnais

Highlights: Friendly, Adaptable, Calm

The Braque du Bourbonnais is part of the pointer dog group, though they have a relatively calm demeanor. In other words, they’re probably the perfect balance between a hunting and family dog. Braques are agreeable, obedient and highly trainable too.

In fact, i’d say they’re most ideal for families that go on hunting trips, or at least those that like to keep active. On the field, they’re serious workers with a keen sense of smell. However, they’re affectionate and friendly dogs at home.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Braque du Bourbonnais is the oldest and most ancient breed from the pointer dog group.
  • In french, “braque” means “to point,” which refers to the type of dogs they are: pointers.
  • There is evidence tracing these dogs back to the 1500’s, where they appeared on old French artwork and in literature.

8. Braque Francais Pyrenean

Highlights: Friendly, Loyal, Intelligent

The Braque Francais Pyrenean is the legendary French hunting dog bred to maneuver through the rocky terrain of the Pyrenees mountain range. As a highly skilled retriever, the Francais Pyrenean also has all the top traits of a loving family dog.

They’re docile, affectionate and get along with both people and other dogs. These French dogs are also people-oriented and respond well to obedience training. As a result, there are few French breeds as balanced as the Francais Pyrenean.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Up until the 19th century, these dogs were considered to be the same as the Braque Francais Gascogne.
  • The Braque Francis Pyrenean is considered to be the ancestor to all the shorthaired pointing dog breeds today.
  • Like with some retrievers, the Braque Francis Pyrenean dogs love water and are great swimmers.

9. Brittany

Highlights: Lively, Bright, Playful

Don’t let their playful nature fool you, the Brittany is a fierce and tireless retriever on the field. They’re one of the best gun dogs France has to proudly offer. Brittany dogs are always bursting with energy, but also obedient when necessary.

But keeping such a dog comes with responsibilities. They need a ton of exercise both mentally and physically, but can be exceptional family dogs with the stimulation. My recommendation: they’re the perfect dogs for any outdoorsy family or single owner.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • These dogs originate from the most western region of France – also called Brittany.
  • Brittany dogs frequently appeared in paintings by famous French, Dutch and Flemish artists, suggesting they were popular dogs in the 17th century.
  • They were originally bred to be the most versatile bird retrievers – and they were.

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10. Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

Highlights: Independent, Cheerful, Sociable

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen, or GBGV for short, is a rugged and sturdy dog who loves nothing more than to work. They’re some of France’s best scent dogs and they don’t tire easily. If given a job, these reliable dogs will make sure it gets done.

Give them a scent and they’ll track for hours. Outside of their “work,” the GBGV is a consistent and stable dog you can depend on. They’re as great for families and they are for a search and rescue squad. However, they’ve very vocal dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • These dogs were hunting dogs for the poor. The GBGV’s short legs allowed poor hunters that couldn’t afford horses to keep up with them.
  • It wasn’t until 1990 that the GBGV officially made it to the United States. The first litter gave birth just four years later.
  • GBGV dogs are trained in the US and Europe for professional mantrailing, which is following the scent trails to find people.

11. Griffon Fauve de Bretagne

Highlights: Intelligent, Optimistic, Determined

The Griffon Fauve de Bretagne is a determined hunting breed developed for tracking. But what makes them special is their ability to adapt to a variety of terrain. They take their hunting jobs very seriously and it shows when they’re on the field.

Aside from hunting, these dogs can make great family pets. Always bright and cheerful, few French dog breeds have the loyalty of this griffon. Tricks and obedience are no problem with these dogs, as they are very eager to please the owners.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Due to the extinction of native wolves, these dogs were nearly wiped out without a job. However, they were successfully revived in the 1940’s by a group of enthusiasts.
  • The GFDB are relatively common dogs in France, but a rare sight outside Europe.
  • Like the Brittany dog, the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne also originated from the Brittany region of France.

12. Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

Highlights: Alert, Lively, Cheerful

Among all French dog breeds, the Petit Basset is certainly the most animated and lively. Great with kids, the PBGV is also famously known for being skillful rabbit hunters. And apparently, the PBGV has been hunting since the 1500s.

They’re top-tier hunters and they know it too. When at home, they’re a completely different dog. This Basset tends to get along with people and other dogs, thanks to their pack-dog mentality. In fact, they need to be sociable with others.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The PBGV’s coat, mustache, eyebrows and beard were specifically bred to protect them from the harsh terrain of coastal France.
  • These dogs are nicknamed “the happy breed” due to their constant cheerful personalities.
  • King Louis XII had several of these dogs in the late 15th century. In fact, the PBGV was called “Chiens Blancs du Roi,” which meant “King’s white hounds.”

13. Standard Poodle

Highlights: Very Intelligent, Lively, Proud

As the official breed of France, the Poodle is an active and versatile French dog known for having first-class dog intelligence. It’s true! Standard Poodles are the second smartest breed – only behind the Border Collie.

Poodles were originally bred to be skilled water retrievers, so they’ll have bright personalities and will be very proud, as they are indeed graceful and noble-like dogs. For ambitious owners, Poodles make some of the best show dogs in the world.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • A Poodle’s coat serves the purpose of protecting vital organs and areas while swimming in water.
  • Elvis Presley was a huge fan of Poodles. Not only did he own one (Champagne), but he also frequently gave them away to all the women of his life.
  • The standard Poodle is ranked as the second most intelligent dog breed – only the Border Collie ranks higher.

14. Pyrenean Shepherd

Highlights: Passionate, Devoted, Alert

The Pyrenean Shepherds are ancient herding dogs originating from the Pyrenees mountain ranges of France’s border. Though they look like calm companion dogs, they’re actually tough and agile herders, as most top shepherd dogs are.

They bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the table and can be a handful for some owners. On the other hand, they’re quit easy to train due to their work ethics and obedient nature. Keep these vigorous dogs occupied and you’ll have a brilliant family dog.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • There are no official historic records of breeding the Pyrenean Shepherd. However, historians estimate they may have been around for over 6,000 years.
  • During World War I, these dogs served as couriers (delivery dogs) and search and rescue dogs for the French Army.
  • A Pyrenean Shepherd managing a 500 sheep flock will run almost a marathon a day.

Large French Dogs

France is home to some of the most famous large dog breeds. From the Bloodhound to a Great Pyrenees, large French dogs have made international headlines. Whats’ a big dog breed? We classify the dogs in this section as 50 pounds and up.

15. Basset Hound

Highlights: Docile, Patient, Stubborn

Though the Basset Hound is a borderline large/medium dog, an adult male can reach up to 65 pounds. With long droopy ears and a charming personality, the Basset Hound has received a lot of love from international dog fans.

They may look a little funny, but make no mistake – these dogs have a strong core with a solid and powerful stance. The stamina in Basset Hound means they’re able to tirelessly track down deers and rabbits with their sharp noses.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Basset Hounds have 220 million smell receptors in their nose. This gives them one of the best noses among all dogs – second to only the Bloodhound.
  • Their droopy ears help bring scents to their face, while the loose skin on the chin (dewlap) helps trap scents.
  • In 2011, a Basset Hound named Victoria was elected co-mayor of Concord, Ontario (Canada).

16. Beauceron

Highlights: Calm, Loyal, Obedient

The Beauceron is yet another favorite among women and families. That’s because they’re both powerful and compassionate dogs, with a sensitive side. Beaucerons will be loyal to a fault, making them outstanding guardians of the home, especially with kids.

Despite these family-oriented traits, the Beauceron dogs were bred to be competent herding dogs. That said, these muscular 100-pound dogs need extensive socialization and obedience training to make awesome companions.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Beauceron dog was used to develop the Doberman Pinscher.
  • Their droopy ears help bring scents to their face, while the loose skin on the chin (dewlap) helps trap scents.
  • In 2011, a Basset Hound named Victoria was elected co-mayor of Concord, Ontario (Canada).

17. Berger Picard

Highlights: Devoted, Cheerful, Vigilant

Some owners will tell you that the Berger Picard is the best problem solver in all of the canine kingdom. With an independent mind and a strong will, it’s not hard to believe this. Even so, a Berger Picard has a certain liveliness that few owners can resist.

At times, it seems like these intelligent herding dogs have unlimited energy. So, it’s important to keep these dogs physically stimulated to prevent destructive behavior. As such, the Berger Picards are best for owners with an active lifestyle.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Historians believed the Berger Picards were brought to the northern region of France in 400 B.C.
  • After World War II, few could spare enough food to feed large dogs like the Berger Picard, thus nearly putting them into extinction. They were successfully revived in 1950.
  • They were popular in northern France in a region called Picardy, hence the name. At one point, they were called Picardy Shepherds instead.

18. Bloodhound

Highlights: Affectionate, Curious, Self-determined

Bloodhounds are world famous for their amazing noses. They do one thing better than any other dog, that is, finding lost people. Though when they’re off duty, Bloodhounds are superb family dogs with a gentle touch.

Despite popular belief, Bloodhounds are quite sociable creatures and love being around family, especially with kids. They’ll have an even-temper, but training these dogs isn’t recommended for new owners, as they tend to get distracted with interesting scents.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • It’s estimated that the Bloodhound has nearly 300 million scent receptors, giving them the best nose in the dogdom.
  • The Bloodhound can follow a scent for 130 miles even 300 hours after the scent has left the area.
  • In the United States, a Bloodhound’s nose-work results are considered reliable and admissible in a court of law.

19. Briard

Highlights: Affectionate, Confident, Loyal

Dog owners looking for a true companion dog, look no further. The Briard is a highly devoted and loving dog that wears his heart on his sleeves. People-pleasing and sociable, they enjoy always being the center of attention.

On the field, they’re skilled herding dogs, often rounding up hundreds of sheep at a time. Still, Briards possess all the best traits of herding dogs: they’re trainable, hardworking and intelligent. And, they’re as loyal as dogs come.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • French military leader Napoleon had a strong dislike for dogs. Despite this, he was a fan of the Briard dog breed.
  • As the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson owned and loved these dogs. He’s credited with bringing the Briard to America.
  • Prior to working as calm herding dogs, Briards were used to protect livestock from wolves and poachers.

20. Dogue de Bordeaux

Highlights: Friendly, Devoted, Brave

A mastiff breed running at full speed.

The Dogue de Bordeaux, or Bordeaux Mastiff, is arguable the “king” of French guard dogs. In fact, these massive mastiff dogs can easily grow over 100 pounds with an intensely muscular frame. But don’t worry, they’re not as vicious as they look.

Not only are they affectionate with the family, but they also have great protective instincts. In the face of a threat, you know they’ll courageously jump into action. But when they’re with their family, the Bordeaux is both sensitive and sweet.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Dogue de Bordeaux is the most ancient French dog breed. They existed before France was officially France.
  • These French dogs are known to be serious droolers. Seriously, they drool a lot.
  • Folklore says the Dogue de Bordeaux was brought to France by Julius Caesar since they were used as Roman war dogs.

21. French Spaniel

Highlights: Calm, Confident, Sociable

There’s not a lot to dislike with the French Spaniel, if any. Like a true spaniel breed, this dog is both loving and energetic, though fearless when needed. As such, they’re a very balanced spaniel and make decent companions for hunters.

French Spaniels often have a very calm and docile temperament. What’s more, they tend to get along with all animals – people, dogs or cats. But when on the field, they’ll be enthusiastic companions that you can rely on to retrieve and flush.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • By the 20th century, the French Spaniel was nearly extinct. However, the breed was almost single handedly saved by a French priest, named Father Fournier.
  • The French Spaniel is a relatively new dog breed in the United States. In fact, these dogs didn’t make it there until 1997.
  • Among all spaniel dogs, the French Spaniel is the largest from the group.

22. Great Pyrenees

Highlights: Vigilant, Patient, Gentle

Bred in the Pyrenees Mountains, the Great Pyrenees is nothing short of greatness. Although a male dog can weigh past 100 pounds, these dogs are known to be patient, calm and friendly. After all, they were guard dogs bred to protect and guard.

So thanks to their protective instincts, the Great Pyrenees dog is a fantastic guard dog of the home. There aren’t many animals (or people) that would want to see this powerful bear-like beast, charging at them with their deceptively quick sprints.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Great Pyrenees is so ancient that archaeologists have found fossils of these dogs dating back between 1800 to 1000 B.C.
  • These dogs are nocturnal by nature. They were originally bred to protect livestock while the shepherds were asleep at night.
  • The Great Pyrenees were considered royal dogs in France. At one point, King Louis XIV had declared the Great Pyrenees as the Royal Dog of France.

23. Porcelaine

Highlights: Independent, Lively, Strong

Porcelaines are highly adaptable hunting dogs that know when to turn it on and off. Not only are they fierce hunters when assigned the task, but also an obedient, gentle and calm family dog when put into a loving home environment.

Unlike most hunting dogs, it’s relatively easy to train a Porcelaine, making them great for even novice owners. When properly trained, the Porcelaines can get along well with other dogs and older children. Just make sure to watch out for their high prey drive.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • According to historians, the Porcelaine dog is the oldest French scent hound still in existence today.
  • The French Revolution put the Porcelaine extinct. However, they were reconstructed and successfully revived post war.
  • Historians believed the Porcelaine made its way to the United States as a gift from French royalty to President George Washington.

24. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Highlights: Affectionate, Trainable, Loyal

These diligent sporting dogs are second to none when it comes to retrieving. Also known as the “supreme gun dog,” the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is always eager to perform his job. It’s probably why they’re some of the best in the business.

Though in the home, they’re loving and faithful dogs. Given their vigilant nature, this breed will make an excellent watchdog too. However, they dog require a decent amount of exercise and grooming. They don’t shed much, but their wiry coats need brushing.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon have webbed feet and are some of the best swimmers in the dogdom.
  • Although this dog breed has Dutch origins, most of the development was done in France.
  • Many believed that renowned Greek historian, Xenophon, mentioned this dog back in 500 B.C. They’re more ancient than you think!

Finding a French Dog Breed

Looking for a French breed from this list? You’re in luck. All these dog breeds are recognized by the FCI and/or more importantly, the American Kennel Club. For this reason, you’ll be able to find these dogs with relative ease.

The first step that I always recommend is to look in your local animal shelter. However, unless you’re looking at a Poodle or a Basset Hound, it may be pretty difficult to find your breed.

These French dogs aren’t as popular as the German Shepherds or Labradors, so it may take some time to find one – if ever. But with a little persistence, you should have no problem.

After you’ve looked through shelters, look online for a specialist breeder. More often than not, you may be able to find a breeder, but not close by. If you have your hearts set on one of these dogs, be prepared to travel a bit.

Reputable Breeders

It’s important to find a reputable breeder when looking into special dogs, such as French dog breeds. Because many people become desperate when looking for less common breeds, they resort to non-reputable breeders.

However, there are so many benefits in finding an experienced and responsible breeder.

First, you will have access to the history of your puppy. In other words, the medical history of the pup’s bloodline. Any potential ailments or diseases can be verified with a reputable breeder. Unless you’re adopting, never buy a dog without checking out the pedigree.

What’s great about these reputable breeders is that they’re true professionals, and you’ll have access to their knowledge and expertise. Raising a puppy can be a difficult task, so it’s probably a good idea to keep an expert on hand.

And lastly, reputable breeders follow the breed standard. That is, these breeders are breeding for the “typical” appearance and temperament of that particular breed. Sleep well knowing that you’re getting what you paid for.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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