Although they do share some early history (listed here) the term “Griffon Vendeen” as used when referring to a breed of dog is a generic term that may apply to one of two types: the Grand Griffon Vendeen or the Briquet Griffon Vendeen. Please select the specific type you are interested learning more about from above.
The Griffon Vendeen is a type of French hunting hound distinguished by its wiry coat. There are two varieties of the Griffon Vendeen, which are usually considered separate breeds, the Grand Griffon Vendeen and the Briquet Griffon Vendeen. These Griffon Vendeens are the ancestors and close relatives of the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen and the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. For many years these dogs were virtually unknown outside of continental Europe, but they are beginning to attract followers in Britain and America.
During the Middle Ages, hunting with hounds became a popular sport among the nobility of Europe. Not only was the sport important as a pastime, but it strengthened the personal and political bonds of the nobility. As the Renaissance and modern era came into being, hunting spread to the emerging Middle Class. The desire to emulate the nobility helped spread hunting to ever increasing numbers. France has always been the center of European hound hunting culture. The nation has also for centuries been the center of hound breed development.
The earliest known records of meticulous hound breeding in France come from the Saint Hubert Monastery in Mouzon, located in the Ardennes region. Saint Hubert is the patron saint of the hunt and hounds, and the monks of his monastery carefully developed a breed of hunting dog known as the Saint Hubert Hound or the Chien Saint Hubert. The Saint Hubert Hound became an established breed sometime between 750 and 900. The exact origins of the breed are unknown. Legends say that the dog is descended from Turkish or Arabic dogs brought back by crusaders, but the Saint Hubert Hound was in existence for at least 200 years prior to the First Crusade. It is more likely that the monks bred the most desirable local hunting hounds. It became customary for the monks of Saint Hubert to send several pairs of Saint Hubert Hounds to the French King every year. The King would then give the dogs to his nobles as royal gifts. These dogs would become the foundation stock of, or at least heavily influence, the packs of the nobility across France and England, where the breed became known as the Bloodhound.
Partially inspired by the success of the Monks of the Saint Hubert Monastery, hound breeders from across the entire kingdom of France undertook their own hound breeding programs. By the end of the Middle Ages, there were a variety of hound breeds across France, dogs such as the Porcelaine and the extinct Montaimboeuf. In an age where most people never traveled more than 30 miles from the place of their birth, hound breeding became heavily regionalized. Many regions of France developed unique breeds, most of which were named after their birthplace. Some of those that have survived to the present day include the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne of Brittany, the Chien d’Artois of Artois, and the Bleu de Gascogne of Gascony.
French Breeders developed a wide variety of hounds, in many sizes, colors, coat-types, and other characteristics. Several breeds of French hounds developed a wiry coat. These wiry-coated breeds have traditionally been known as Griffons. These wiry coated dogs were popular in several parts of France, notably Vendee, Nivernais, and Brittany. The wiry coats gave these dogs extra protection from the elements, particularly water. As a result, these dogs are generally more capable of working in inclement weather and in and around large bodies of water than most other breeds.
It is unclear how the original Griffons were developed, as the breeds came into existence prior to the time when dog breeders kept careful records. Many dog experts think that wiry-coated hounds predate Roman times. The Gauls, who were the residents of modern day France before being conquered by Rome, kept dogs known as the Canis Segusius. These dogs were said to have wiry coats, much like modern-day Griffon breeds. It is widely believed that the modern day Griffons descend from the Canis Segusius, but that is probably impossible to prove. Other theories state that the Saint Hubert Hound/Bloodhound was the base stock from which these dogs were developed. As the King of France dispersed these prized hounds throughout France, it is highly likely that the breed did heavily influence the Griffons, as well as all French hounds. However, this would not explain how Griffons came to have their wiry coats. The now extinct Chien Gris de Saint Louis is also sometimes said to be the ancestor of Griffon breeds. Legend has it that this breed was brought back to France by crusading knights. However, this story cannot be substantiated, nor can the Chien Gris’ supposed connection to the Griffons. Other theories for the origin of Griffon have the dogs being developed from wiry-haired hounds born to smooth-coated litters, or that smooth coated hounds were crossed with either Barbets, Poodles, or Spinone Italianos. What can be substantiated is that the Griffons’ wiry-coat developed many centuries ago. The oldest of the Griffon breeds of which we have a good record is the Griffon Nivernais. These hounds were already in existence around the city of Nevers by the 1200s.
Prior to the 1400’s, there existed a breed in the Vendee region of France known as the Grand Vendeen. There is some dispute over the breed’s origin. Some say that the Grand Vendeen was descended from a pack of white hounds owned by the king of France. It is also said that these dogs were descended directly from the Canis Segusius, the Saint Hubert Hound, or the now extinct Grand Fauve de Bretagne. However, it is impossible to prove any one of these theories. Sometime during the 1400’s hunters in the Vendee region began favoring Griffons. They took the Grand Vendeen and native Griffons and sought to improve them with the addition of dogs from other regions. It is widely believed that Vendee breeders used the Saint Hubert Hound/Bloodhound, the Griffon Nivernais, the Spinone Italiano, and the Bracco Italiano. By the 1500, these dogs became known as the Griffon Vendeen, literally the Griffon from Vendee. Originally, these dogs came in one size, what is now known as the Grand Griffon Vendeen, or Large Griffon Vendeen. These large dogs were primarily used for hunting wolves and boar. Hunters in the 1600s eventually decided to breed smaller versions of the Griffon Vendeen in order to pursue smaller quarry. While the French Revolution and World Wars caused the extinction of the majority of large French hound breeds, the Griffon Vendeens survived.
These dogs have a thick double coat which needs regular brushing with a wire brush. This should be done several times a week at the very least. Care must be given to ensure that the dog does not develop painful tangles in the coat. Some trimming around the eyes and feet should be done regularly. These dogs may need to see a professional groomer a few times a year, but do not need to go as regularly as a breed such as a Poodle. This breed should not be frequently bathed.
Special care must be given to the Griffon Vendeen’s ears. Like most droopy-eared hounds, the Griffon Vendeen tends to get ear infections if the ears are not cleaned regularly. As this process can be uncomfortable and alarming to dogs who are not accustomed to it, it is advisable to begin when your Griffon Vendeen is still a puppy.
These dogs are generally healthy. They have long been bred as working dogs, and those that were unable to perform would not have been bred. This does not mean that the breed is not frequently victim to certain health problems.
The most common serious health problem experienced by the Griffon Vendeen is allergies. Many of these dogs suffer from either skin or food allergies. Some allergies are genetic; others develop as a result of environmental exposures. Because of the breed’s sensitivities, owners must pay close attention to the Griffon Vendeens diet. It is also advisable to use a great deal of caution when feeding a Griffon Vendeen a new treat or food. A dog with skin allergies is likely to require extra grooming attention and care. You may also have to provide regular medicine. Although like humans dogs can be allergic to essentially anything, some of the most common dog allergies include fleas, mites, and cleaning products.
Other common health problems experienced by the Griffon Vendeen include: