The French Spaniel is a breed of dog of the Spaniel-like setter. It was developed in France and Canada as a hunting dog, descended from dogs of the 14th century. Popular with royalty during the Middle Ages, it nearly became extinct by the turn of the 20th century but was saved by the efforts of Father Fournier, a French priest. One of the largest breeds of Spaniel, it typically has a white coat with brown markings. It is a friendly breed that has few health issues, but can be affected by a syndrome called acral mutilation and analgesia. The breed is recognised by Canadian and international kennel clubs but not by The Kennel Club (UK). The American Kennel Club has included the breed in its Foundation Stock Service, the first step to full recognition.

Spaniels were first mentioned in France during the 14th century in Gaston III of Foix-Béarn’s work Livre de chasse, later translated into English as The Master of Game. They were speculated to have originated during the Crusades of the 11th century. The French Spaniel was referred to as a specific type of Spaniel by 1660 and was noted as being distinctive from the King Charles Spaniel of the Holland type.

The breed was popular during the Middle Ages with it used for falconry and as a settling dog for net hunting. They became a favourite of French Royalty and Kings and Princes at the royal courts of Versailles favored them over other breeds of hunting dogs. In addition, Catherine I of Russia (1684–1727) was known to have owned a French Spaniel named Babe. During this period, the French Spaniel was known to have split into several regional types.

The Sporting Magazine wrote of the French Spaniel and the hunting of mallards in 1805, “The rough French Spaniel has been found the best companion on these occasions: he watches the conduct of the sportsman, and, with a velocity unequalled, darts on the wounded prey, presents it with all possible speed at the feet of his master.” In the 1850s, the Brittany (formerly known as Brittany Spaniel) was developed from crossing French Spaniels with English Setters.

James de Connick established the first breed standard for the French Spaniel in 1891. At the turn of the 20th century, the numbers of French Spaniels dropped so low that they nearly became extinct due to competition from foreign sporting dogs, in particular as French hunters chose to hunt particularly with English breeds of hunting dogs. A French priest named Father Fournier undertook the task of gathering the remaining French Spaniels in his Saint Hillaire kennels in order to preserve the breed. There he built the lineages that are representatives of those we now have. The French Spaniel Club was founded in 1921, with Father Fournier as the president of the association. The modern French Spaniel is one of a group of recognised French Spaniels, including the Brittany, Picardy and Blue Picardy.

Source: Wikipedia

French Spaniel