History of the Braque du Bourbonnais

The Braque du Bourbonnais (pronounced brock-do-bor-bon-NAY) is an ancient breed. The Braque du Bourbonnais is considered one of the most ancient pointers of the pointing breeds developed in France. The breed was described in French literature as early as the late 1500’s.  Even then, the breed was known for its keen hunting instincts.  Like many of our contemporary pointers, the Braque du Bourbonnais is thought to have originated from the ancient Spanish pointer.  Of the numerous French pointers, most experts agree that these breeds originated from the same stock, the French Pointer or Braque Francais.  Each breed of pointers in France is named for the region in which they were developed.  Some examples include the Braque Saint Germaine, which is the pointer from Saint Germaine.  The Braque d’Auvergne is the pointer from the Auvergne region and the Braque du Bourbonnais from the province of Bourbon, a region of central France.


The word “BRAQUE” is derived from a French verb which means to aim or point, and as a noun can be translated as “pointer”.


Even in the 1500's authors described the Braque du Bourbonnais as an agreeable hunting partner that was strong–looking and very hardy. Historically the breed was required to be naturally tailless or born with a very short tail.  In addition, the breeders strived for an original coat called "faded lilac".  A coat with a white background completely covered by fines lines or distinctly ticked liver or fawn coloring the French call lie de vin or fleur de peche or "wine dregs" or "peach blossom".  A dog that deviated from these characteristics, with a tail and/or with spots, was considered not pure and was not used for breeding.  Apparently, the Braque du Bourbonnais was never a common breed, however, strict adherence to these breed requirements and the effects of two world wars nearly drove the Bourbonnais to extinction.


After the First World War, a group of dedicated breeders formed the first Club du Braque du Bourbonnais in 1925.  The first breed standard was published in the club's first bulletin in 1930.  The goal of this organization was to revive the breed and bring it back to its pre-war prominence.  Although the organization and these breeders made considerable progress, their efforts were again nearly wiped out by the Second World War.  Following WW II, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) dropped the breed from its registry for lack of breeder activity.


Shorty with Sharptail GrouseThe strict adherence to a naturally tailless dog and stringent color requirements resulted in a dog based on appearance rather than performance.  Consequently, many breeders lost interest in the breed and no pups were registered from 1963 to 1973.  In 1970, under direction of Michel Comte, a group of breeders joined together with a common goal – to ensure the survival of the breed.  A second Club du Braque du Bourbonnais was created in 1982, with official recognition by the Society Centrale Canine (SCC), the French affiliate of FCI in 1985.  The goal to revive the breed has been achieved, the breed standard was relaxed, spots and docked tails were considered acceptable and the breed’s noted hunting instincts restored.  The new breed standard was fully recognized by the SCC and FCI in. 1991, the standard was then translated and published on the FCI website in 1998.  Today the breed’s pointing intensity, instinct to retrieve; its great intelligence, its trainability and its passionate love for his master have been underlying goal in the breed’s restoration.


Through the dedication of these early French breeders not only has the Bourbonnais survived extinction but is now firmly established in its native country and is present in the United States, Canada, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Italy,  and other countries.   Today the breed is in all sense of the word a continental breed, an “all purpose” gun dog not a specialist like the English Pointers and Setters.  Consequently, the Bourbonnais was developed to be a truly versatile breed, a breed with a keen nose and intense pointing instinct, an eagerness to retrieve from both land and water, and the energy and drive to track wounded game.  These characteristics have now been set while retaining the breed’s calm, gentle demeanor. These characteristics combined with their small size and short coat makes the Bourbonnais an ideal home companion and pet for the family that hunts.


Contemporary Bourbonnais breeders in France are committed to avoiding the mistakes of the past.  Today, French breeders strive to produce Bourbonnais that conforms to a breed standard but equally important, Bourbonnais must now be equally proficient in the field as pointers, retrievers and trackers.  Since the early 1970's Bourbonnais breeders have substantially and rapidly improved the breed’s confirmation and field performance.


Issy with Sage GrouseThe first Braque du Bourbonnais was not imported into this country until 1988.  In the 1980’s Bonnie Wilcox DVM and Chris Walkowicz were accumulating information and research for their future book entitled Atlas of Dog Breeds: Dogs for All Reasons.  This publication covered a number of fascinating breeds of dogs in danger of extinction from around the world.  During this process Wilcox and Waldowicz contacted François Sarret of France for information and background on Braque du Bourbonnais.  Ms Sarret has been breeding Braque du Bourbonnais since 1981.  This exchange of information led to an article by Wilcox and Walkowicz for Dog World magazine calledᅠRenaissance of  a French breed in America (April 1988 p.6).  This article provided Elk Run Kennels' starting point for our search  for this unique breed.  The goal of this article was to bring French breeders together with interested American homes with the hope of establishing the breed in this country to help avoid its extinction.  A meeting of interested American homes and French breeders on the East Coast resulted in a pair of Bourbonnais being imported to a home in Louisiana.  This pair produced the first litter of Braque du Bourbonnais in North America.  After this initial breeding no other breedings or the status of the offspring produced has not been recorded.


The following year, 1989, Beth Cepil of New Tripoli, PA imported three dogs, a bitch and two dogs from Jean Paul Buot's Beniguosse Kennels.  Beth produced her first litter of Bourbonnais in 1991; Elk Run Kennels purchased their first Bourbonnais, Bessie (Phantom’s Belle LaBette), from this litter, the second Bourbonnais litter produced in this country.  In subsequent years, Beth Cepil introduced a number of imported dogs into her kennel.  These dogs produced several litters before Beth dismantled her kennel later in the 1990’s.  Since Elk Run Kennels acquired its first Bourbonnais, we have selectively imported twelve dogs of which nine were added to our breeding program. Our goals at Elk Run Kennels are to build on the foundation created by Bonnie Wilcox, Chris Walkowicz, Francois Sarret and Beth Cepil.   Because of their efforts the Bourbonnais is now firmly established in the United States.

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