Here’s a dog that nearly fell into extinction….and then climbed out. World Wars II was hard on the Braque du Bourbonnais (sometimes called the French Pointer). After the war, the number of pups born declined and the breed club ceased to exist because there were no Braques du Bourbonnais in the French register. An enterprising breeder took it upon himself to bring the dog back.
The Bourbonnais is one of the oldest known pointing dogs, with roots going all the way back to the Bourbonnais region of France during the Renaissance. Most breed authorities believe the Bourbonnais was developed by crossing a Braque Francais, or large French pointer, with hunting breeds from the Bourbonnais region. Although the Bourbonnais was well established in France by the end of the 17th century, the breed standard was quite strict and may have limited the number of people acquiring one.
Breeders of the time had a near-obsessive focus on coloring. They wanted to produce a highlight or ticking in a unique color they called faded lilac. Additionally, the dog had to be born either with no tail at all or a very short tail. These requirements may have prevented breeding; Braque du Bourbonnaises that did not meet the standard were not considered pure or used for breeding.
Fast-forward to the late 19th century and one of the reasons breed numbers began to decline. French hunters of the time began to prepare English pointers over their French hunting breeds. Seeing their numbers decline, a group of breeders came together to try and save the dog, and just before World War II they were making a recovery.
It was World War II that nearly destroyed the Bourbonnais. Breeding activity dropped off and the breed club ceased to be active,. Many people believe that the breeder’s rigid standards for coloring, tail and appearance had “bred out” a good deal of their hunting ability. By the 1960s, the breed was no longer in the French registry.
In 1970, French hunter and breeder Michel Comte, determined to revive the breed, began looking for dogs that had some Bourbonnais blood. He came up with just four dogs, all of them mixed with some other dog. After some trial and error, he registered his first dog in the French registry from 1973 to 1975. Other breeders joined him, establishing their own lines. Gradually, the number of births increased.
In 1981, the breed club was reformed, with Comte as its president until 2001. It was discovered that the dog performed exceptionally well in field trials as well as pointing, and their numbers continued to grow.
The US welcomed its first Bourbonnais in 1988, and its numbers have been growing in this country ever since.
Today’s male Bourbonnais stands around 19.5 to 23 inches; the female is 18.5 to 22 inches. Weights should be around 35 to 55 pounds.
The Bourbonnais standard of today calls for one of two colors: Fawn, also called peach blossom; and liver, also called wine dregs and faded lilac.
The Bourbonnais carries a gene that gives him a short, stubby tail or no tail at all. Docking is not necessary.
Like most dogs, the Bourbonnais cherishes the company of his family and is quite affectionate. He suffers separation anxiety when kenneled; if you need to leave without him, a private home with a dedicated pet-sitter is a better option. While their sheer size may frighten a child, when properly socialized they generally love and protect children as family members.
As with most dogs, training and socialization are critical. A trained Bourbonnais makes a wonderful family member, showing affection to adults, children and even strangers. However, because of his natural prey drive, it’s not advisable to keep smaller animals in the home.
The Bourbonnais has a life span of 12 to 15 years, Because of their fairly recent reemergence, not a lot of health information is available on the Bourbonnais. Breeders are concerned about instances of hip dysplasia, Ectropion, Entropion, and pulmonic stenosis.
Because of their size, the Bourbonnais is not an apartment dweller and does better with a large fenced yard. The fencing is necessary to prevent impromptu small game chases. The Bourbonnais needs 45 minutes of vigorous exercise each day. He makes a good running companion but also enjoys being allowed to run off-leash in a secured area, such as a large fenced yard. The breed is ideal for active families; when he’s not hunting, the dog needs an outlet for his exercise (walking and running the dog makes a good chore for teenage children old enough and strong enough to handle the dog).
The Dog Breed Info Center has a rescue link on its website. Consult them if you think you’d like to give a Bourbonnais a home, or if you have one you need to surrender.