The Braque de l’Ariege is a breed of pointing dog native to France, specifically the region of Ariege. This is one of the most recently developed French hunting breeds, and was first developed in the late 19th or early 20th Centuries. The Braque de l’Ariege was driven to the brink of extinction in the mid-20th Century but is being slowly revived by a dedicated group of French breeders. The Braque de l’Ariege is known for being a talented versatile gun dog, meaning that it performs a number of tasks well including scenting, pointing, flushing, and retrieving. The Braque de l’Ariege is also known as the Ariegeois Pointer, the Ariegeois Pointing Dog, and the French Pointer (Ariegeois).
The Braque de l’Ariege was first developed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The breed was almost exclusively developed in the Pyrenees Mountains and foothills of Southern France, especially the region of Ariege. The mountainous terrain of the region is often difficult for dogs to work on, but has also protected the area from development. The Pyrenees remains one of the wildest and least developed parts of Western Europe, and is one of the last strongholds for a number of rare species. The hunting in the area has also remained some of the best in France, with a number of popular game species having substantial regional populations.
Although this breed was created relatively recently, it is descended from much older breeds. The Braque de l’Ariege is thought to have been developed by crossing three different dogs. One is the Braque Francais (Gascogne). This is one of Europe’s oldest gun dog breeds, with a history that goes back to at least the 1600’s. Although there is a substantial amount of debate, the Braque Francais (Gascogne) is thought to have been developed from either the Spaniel-like Chien d-Oysel or some combination of Spanish and Italian pointing dogs. This breed spread throughout France by the end of the 1700’s, and is considered ancestral to all other Braque breeds. The second primary ancestor of the Braque de l’Ariege is thought to be the Braque Saint-Germain. The Braque Saint-Germain was developed in the 1830’s by crossing the Braque Francais (Gascogne) with the English Pointer. This dog became associated with the Saint-Germain Forest, located just west of Paris. The Braque Saint-Germain became the most fashionable Pointer in France for most of the 19th Century, and was also considered the most valuable and desirable. The third primary ancestor of the Braque de l’Ariege is thought to be local Ariegeois pointing dogs. The exact nature of the dogs used by sportsmen in Ariege prior to the development of the Braque de l’Ariege is unknown. It is, however, widely believed that they were a cross between the Perdigueiro de Burgos of Spain and the Bracco Italiano of Italy.
Beginning in the late 19th Century or early 20th Century, hunters introduced the Braque Francais (Gascogne) and the Braque Saint-Germain to Ariege. Hunters there heavily crossed these two breeds with their local pointing dogs. The result was a unique breed that was substantially different than those found elsewhere in France. The Braque de l'Ariege was found in either white and orange like the Braque Saint-Germain or brown and white like the Braque Francais (Gascogne). The breed also exhibited the large color patches of the Braque Saint-Germain and the ticking common among Braque Francaises (Gascognes). The head and face of the dog looked like a perfect blend of French, Spanish, and Italian pointing dogs, and the body was an intermediate form between them as well.
The Braque de l’Ariege was extremely well-suited to life in its homeland of Southern France, and became relatively popular with hunters in the region. However, the breed never achieved much popularity outside of its homeland, even in the rest of France. The breed was probably never especially common, although numbers were increasing prior to World War I. World War I caused a great deal of hardship in France, and the Braque de l’Ariege suffered as a result. Luckily for this dog, its homeland was spared most of the worst impacts of the conflict and it did not suffer a population collapse like that experienced by the Braque Saint-Germain or other Northern French breeds. World War II, however, did almost drive the breed to extinction. The War caused tremendous hardships throughout France, and saw Ariege and surrounding regions controlled by the Nazi puppet state of Vichy France. Many owners abandoned their dogs when they went off to war or could no longer afford to keep them. Breeding of the Braque de l’Ariege essentially stopped, and many individual dogs died during the War.
Luckily for the Braque de l’Ariege, traditions die hard in the Pyrenees, and a number of local breeders continued to maintain the dog for almost 50 years. The Braque de l’Ariege was able to maintain a very small population and its Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognition. However, the breed was very rare since the end of World War II, and was always in imminent danger of extinction. In 1990, a group of Braque de l’Ariege fanciers decided that it was unacceptable to lose a piece of French hunting heritage and banded together to revive the Braque de l’Ariege. The most important of these breeders was probably Mr. Alain Deteix, who organized and spearheaded the recovery efforts and dedicated himself completely to the goal. For more than 20 years, Braque de l’Ariege breeders have worked to gradually increase the breed’s population, as well as to raise its profile across France. These efforts are slowly proving successful. One method that has been utilized is a softening of the breed’s standard. Braque de l’Ariege fanciers want to keep the standard as loose as possible to ensure that the greatest numbers of quality dogs are bred. The breed’s recovery is now well underway and the Braque de l’Ariege is no longer in immediate danger of extinction, although it remains vulnerable.
The Braque de l’Ariege is essentially unknown outside of France. The vast majority of breed members still reside it their home country, and essentially all Braque de l’Ariege breeding takes place within French borders. In recent years, a few breed members have been exported to other countries, but the breed has not yet become established outside of France. It is unclear if any breed members have made their way to the United States, but it is a very small number if any have. In the United States, but the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Rare Breeds Association (ARBA) give full recognition to the Braque de l’Ariege, as do a number of other rare breed registries. Unlike most modern breeds, the Braque de l’Ariege remains primarily a working dog. The vast majority of breed members are either working or retired gun dogs, although most of these dogs are also treasured companion animals. Although the Braque de l’Ariege is likely secure for the immediate future, its limited population means that its long term future is still in doubt and likely will continue to be so unless it can find more fanciers and serious breeders.
The Braque de l’Ariege is among the most distinctive looking of the French Braques, and clearly shares features with Spanish and Italian pointing dogs. The Braque de l’Ariege is a medium to large sized breed. Males typically stand between 23½ and 26½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females typically stand between 22 and 25½ inches tall. Most breed members weigh between 55 and 66 pounds, with males generally weighing slightly more than females. This is a generally well-proportioned dog, but most examples are slightly longer from chest to rump than they are tall from floor to shoulder. The Braque de l’Ariege is first and foremost a working dog and should always appear as such. This breed should be devoid of any exaggerated feature that would in any way impede its working ability. The Braque de l’Ariege is a very well-muscled and athletic breed, but these features are often slightly obscured by the dog’s relatively loose skin. The tail of the Braque de l’Ariege is traditionally docked to about half of full length, but this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of the Braque de l’Ariege is of moderate length, strong at the base, and tapers towards the end.
The head and face of the Braque de l’Ariege are somewhat more variable in appearance than those of most French Braques. The ideal head is long and angular and narrow over the zygomatic arches. The muzzle is long and straight, although it is sometimes slightly convex. The lines of the muzzle and skull are usually slightly divergent from one another. The head and muzzle remain distinct but connect more smoothly than is the case with most pointing dogs. The nose of the Braque de l’Ariege is either pink or pale brown depending on the color of the coat, but should never be black. The color of the large and well-opened eyes of this breed is also determined by coat color, and may be dark amber to brown. The ears of this breed are set at eye level or below. They are quite long and floppy. Although they droop down, they are not carried close to the head. The overall expression of most breed members is gentle, frank, and intelligent.
The coat of the Braque de l’Ariege is short, close, and glossy. The hair on the head and ears is finer and smoother than that found on the rest of the body. The Braque de l’Ariege comes in four acceptable coat colors and patterns: White with pale, orangey fawn markings, white with brown markings, white with pale, orangey fawn ticking, and white with brown ticking. Dogs without ticking tend to have a very small number of small markings, although most breed members have markings that completely cover their ears. Those dogs with ticking are covered in small colored markings that make it appear as though the dog is covered in ticks. Sometimes breed members are born with different coloration, especially black fur. These dogs are penalized in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as capable working dogs and companions as other breed members.
The Braque de l’Ariege is almost exclusively kept as a working gun dog which makes it very difficult to make any statements about its temperament outside of a working environment. This dog is said to be considerably more independent than most other gun dogs, and is probably less fawningly affectionate as well. There do not seem to be many reports on the breed’s suitability with children, although most similar breeds do very well with them if properly socialized. The Braque de l’Ariege would probably not make an especially effective guard dog as they are not aggressive enough.
This dog is noted for being very easy to train. Breed members are natural hunters and become quite skilled at gun dog work with minimal effort on the part of their owners. The breed is also said to be quite docile, and it is not common for this breed to challenge its owner’s authority. Although this dog is rarely trained for tasks other than hunting, it would presumably excel at a number of canine sports such as canine agility and obedience.
The Braque de l’Ariege is capable of working long hours in very difficult terrain. This breed is not only willing to work, but actively seems to enjoy hunting. As one would expect of such a dog, the Braque d l’Ariege is a very energetic and active breed that requires a substantial amount of daily exercise. These dogs need at least an hour of vigorous daily activity and would preferably receive more. These dogs make excellent jogging companions but truly crave the opportunity to run around off-leash in a safely secured enclosure. It would be nearly impossible to meet this breed’s needs in an apartment, and they should probably be kept in homes with large yards, preferably with at least several acres. A Braque de l’Ariege that does not get the proper exercise will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, over excitability, excessive barking, and nervousness. Those looking for a working versatile gun dog will probably be very pleased with a Braque de l’Ariege, but those looking for a companion animal may be better off with a less driven and energetic breed.
The Braque de l’Ariege has very low grooming requirements. This dog should never need professional grooming, only a regular brushing. Owners of these dogs do have to regularly and thoroughly clean their ears. Otherwise, their drooping ears will collect dirt, grime, food, water, and other particles, which can lead to irritations and infections if they are not removed. There do not seem to be any reports as to the Braque de l’Ariege’s shedding, but it is safe to assume that this breed does shed and most likely sheds heavily.
It does not appear that any health surveys have been conducted on the Braque de l’Ariege. This makes it impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. It does not appear that any genetically inherited conditions are especially common in the breed, but this is not clear. The breed would appear to be at high risk of a number of conditions as a result of the founder’s effect. This dog has gone through several genetic bottlenecks over the course of the 20th Century, and the entire breed is descended from a very small number of dogs. If any one of those founding dogs were affected by or carriers of a condition, all of their descendants may be as well.
Although the breed’s health status is unclear, it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although no health studies have been conducted for the Braque de l’Ariege, they have been for several closely related and similar breeds. The problems that have been discovered to be of the greatest concern include: