A Brief History of the Blue Picardy Spaniel
By Don Fath, Alexcyril Sporting Dogs
There are five spaniels native to France: the Brittany, the Pont Audemer, the French, the Picard and the Blue Picardy. These spaniels are a “mayonnaise of chromosomes” from dogs indigenous to the Middle East, the British Isles, Italy and Spain. Like many other breeds, the ‘ancient’ history of the spaniels of France is sketchy and there is more than one interpretation of the available historical information.
In French, the word “spaniel” evolved from the verb “espaigne” which, in old French, means, “to drop on the ground”. During the Fourteenth century, the French Spaniels were very often used for hunting under the net. This method of hunting consisted in catching game (and the dog) by using a net laden with weights. The dog was to lie down flat on its belly as soon as it saw a covey of partridges or a hare, and the net was thrown over top. From this came its name of “setting dog”, or spaniel.
The first French spaniels originated from the Middle East. During the Crusades, near the end of the Eleventh century, the French knights traveled to the Holy Land accompanied by their pointers (Braques) and hunting hounds. Inevitably, breedings between Arab Greyhounds and the pointers occurred and the first ancestors to the French spaniels were born. In the 14th century, Gaston Phébus and Henri de Ferrières recorded the first descriptions of the French “setting dogs” in their treatises on hunting. Gaston Phébus had more than 1,000 dogs including Spanish and Italian Pointers. In 1578, the French nobility prohibited hunting to all people except the nobility. After the French Revolution, privilege hunting ended.
Over the years, the spaniels of France separated into many regional types, where size, color and hunting abilities varied according to the areas they inhabited and their owners’ hunting habits. Picardie, France, particularly the area around the Bay of Somme, was a paradise for hunters of waterfowl. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, hunters and dogs from Great Britain crossed the English Channel to hunt in France. The Picardie marshes and Brittany’s sandy moors became the favorite hunting grounds of many setter and spaniel owners. When the British quarantine was implemented, effectively prohibiting the re-entry of their dogs into Great Britain, many hunters boarded their setters on Picardie farms. Consequently, the Picard Spaniels were crossed with blue Belton English and Gordon Setters and the Blue Picardy Spaniel was the result.
The presence of the first black, blue-gray coated spaniel was recorded in 1875 but it was not until after 1900 that the Picard Spaniel (French Spaniel crossed with French herding dogs and hounds) first appeared in the dog fanciers’ circle. In 1904, a Mr. Ratel showed a Picard Spaniel, officially classified as a French Spaniel, at the Paris Canine Exposition. It was not until 1907, when the Spaniel Club was founded, that specific classes were formed for each variety of spaniel.
In 1921 the Picard Spaniel and Blue Picardy Spaniel Club was formed. The Blue Picardy Spaniel was classified as a separate breed because of its distinctive “grayish-black mottled” color and its blue rather than brown skin pigmentation. In Europe, the breed was recognized as a distinct race in 1938. The Canadian Kennel Club officially recognized the Blue Picardy Spaniel in 1995.
Les Epagneuls de France — Pierrick Le Louarn — 1995
Club d’Épagneul Picard, Bleu de Picardie, Pont Audemer
Atout Chien Magazine — 1987 and 1995
The International Encyclopedia of Dogs — Anne Rogers Clarke and Andrew Brace — 1995
Dogs – David Alderton – 1993