14 French Dog Breeds That Turn Heads

All these breeds have a certain je ne sais quoi

Frenc Bulldog standing with front feet on a log

Kurt Pas / Getty Images

When you think of French dog breeds, the first thing that probably pops into mind is the French poodle. It is France's national dog; however, the poodle did not originate in France. The breed was standardized in France, where it became the trend. It's originally from Germany, where it was raised as a water dog. The word “poodle” derives from the German word for “puddle." The barbet is a dog from France that looks very similar to a poodle; it's a medium-sized water dog. Take a look at other dogs that are native or were developed in France, like French bulldogs, papillons, and Briards.


If you narrow down your decision to one, two, or three breeds, and you are stumped and can't decide on the breed, visit the home of someone who has one. Find a local dog club near you that features your favorite breed, ask to attend a meetup or, better yet, check out a local dog show.

Breed Characteristics

French dogs come in all shapes, sizes, coat types, and specialized skills. The French used dogs to hunt, protect their livestock and homes, herd, and as companions. Though no common thread really ties these different breeds together, one thing is clear, French people love dogs. Nearly 50 percent of all households in France include a pet. Dogs continuously rank as the preferred pet.

These 14 dogs are some of the most popular breeds native to France.

  • 01 of 14

    Basset Hound

    Basset Hound standing on a porch

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    These popular hound dogs were developed in France and Belgium to create a close-to-the-ground scent hound. The word "basset" in French means low. Because of their excellent and persistent scenting talents, basset hounds became popular with the French hunting aristocracy. They are amiable, loyal, and low-energy dogs that are a popular choice as a family pet. Bassets can be stubborn, though, and a little extra patience may be required when it comes to training. Known for being food-driven, ensure they get the right amount of food and exercise to prevent obesity. Their long, pendulous ears are prone to developing ear infections; regular ear cleanings are recommended.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 15 inches

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat that comes in combinations of black/mahogany, white, brown/tan, red, and lemon

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

  • 02 of 14

    Berger Picard

    Berger Picard standing with side profile on grass

    Cufleadh / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


    The berger Picard was named after the Picardy region in northern France, where the breed has been around for hundreds of years. The word "berger" means shepherd in French. These herding sheepdogs were prized for their stamina, independent thinking, and drive. They share strong links with two other french herders—the Briard and the Beauceron. Their numbers were decimated when their fields were ravaged during World War II. They remain a relatively rare breed to this day. If you're looking for a loyal, intelligent, and adventurous dog that thrives on daily hikes and getting involved in dog sports, the berger Picard is a good choice. They can have an independent streak and be wary of strangers. This breed will require ongoing socialization to prevent them from becoming overly nervous or reactive.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 21.5 to 25.5 inches

    Weight: 50 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Shaggy and rough outer coat with a soft, short, and dense undercoat; comes in fawn (tan) or brindle (light or dark base coat color with contrasting stripes)

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

  • 03 of 14


    Beauceron head shot against blurred shrub background

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    Beaucerons get their name from the region surrounding Paris that they originated in—La Beauce. A very old breed, there's evidence of dogs resembling the Beauceron going as far back as the 16th century in France. These large dogs were traditionally used for livestock herding. Their strength, size, intelligence, and bravery meant they were drafted into the World War efforts. They're still being used by the police for search and rescue. Rare outside their native country, Beaucerons are a great companion for the right home. They're eager to please, loyal, and calm. They require a lot of exercise and enrichment to prevent problem behaviors from developing as a result of boredom.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 24 to 27.5 inches

    Weight: 70 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short and dense coat; comes in black and tan and harlequin (a mix of gray, black, and tan)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 14


    Briard headshot with tongue hanging out on blurred field background

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    Briards are an ancient breed still in existence, possibly dating to the 8th century. These dogs worked on the dairy farms in the Brie region of France and were known for their versatility. They're skilled herders, but they also protected the flocks from predators. These dogs also put their stamina, courage, and intelligence to use during the war efforts, and they were named the official dog of the French Army during World War I. Despite their working background and independent nature, Briards are known for having a gentle disposition, eagerness to please, and full of love. They get along well with respectful children.

    Briards aren't for every household. They need a lot of exercise, they don't always get on well with other dogs, and their long coat needs a fair amount of grooming.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 22 to 27 inches

    Weight: 55 to 100 pounds

    Coat and Color: Coarse, dry, flat, long and wavy topcoat with a fine undercoat; long hair on their head that comes over their eyes; comes in black, gray or tawny;

    Life Expectancy: 12 years

    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14


    Brittany Spaniel running shot

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    The Brittany comes from the northwest region of France with the same name. Although they're often referred to as spaniels, the Brittany is an unpretentious pointing breed that poachers and peasants favored from the 17th century. They were regarded as versatile and all-around hunting dogs, meaning owners didn't need to have multiple breeds for hunting expeditions.

    Brittanys are popular in their native country and North America. They tend to be intelligent, playful, and affectionate. They excel in dog sports and are very energetic. They would suit an active home. They develop strong bonds with their owners and are prone to separation anxiety, so they are best suited for homes where they'll have company for most of the day. Their hunting instincts and tendency to roam when off the leash means you might have to put in some extra work on recall training.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 17.5 to 20.5 inches

    Weight: 30 to 40 pounds

    Coat and Color: Flat or wavy, dense coat that comes in orange and white or liver and white markings and sometimes with roan patterns

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 06 of 14

    Dogue De Bordeaux

    Dogue De Bordeaux standing in a grassy field

    Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

    The dogue de Bordeaux, sometimes called the French mastiff, is another ancient dog breed. The breed was introduced to France by the Romans, who used these powerful dogs to fight in battles and gladiator rings. Although they were traditionally prized for their fighting prowess, by the 17th century, they worked on the grand estates of French nobles. They were primarily used as guard dogs and would also hunt and herd.

    The breed is known for being unfailingly loyal, protective, and affectionate with its family. Dogues aren't suited for novice dog owners. They're powerful, their protective instincts can become excessive without the proper training, and they don't always get along well with other dogs. Be prepared for a lot of slobber too.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 27 inches

    Weight: 100 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat comes in various shades of fawn, ranging from light to dark red

    Life Expectancy: 5 to 8 years

  • 07 of 14

    French Bulldog

    French Bulldog walking through grass

    Kurt Pas / Getty Images

    Frenchies have soared in popularity in recent years and are now one of the most sought-after breeds in the United States. These dogs were developed in France after lace makers from the UK brought toy bulldogs to northern France. They were crossed with other breeds there and soon became fashionable with the affluent ladies of Paris. Known for their fun-loving, affectionate nature, Frenchies make popular family pets. They can be prone to respiratory issues and can overheat more easily due to their flattened faces.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 11 to 13 inches

    Weight: 19 to 28 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat in brindle, fawn, white, or combination of brindle and white or fawn and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 08 of 14

    Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

    Grand Basset Griffon Vendeens standing in snow

    Eelco Roes / Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License


    The grand basset griffon Vendéen, also called the GBGV for short, was developed in the Vendée region of France in the 16th century as a hardy, determined hunter capable of bringing down large game. By the early 20th century, breeders developed two varieties, the larger GBGV and the smaller petit basset griffon Vendéen. These days, outside of their native France, the GBGV is still rare. They're known for being loyal and affectionate, but they can also be stubborn, have a high prey drive, and need a lot of exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 15.5 to 18 inches

    Weight: 40 to 45 pounds

    Coat and Color: Rough, scruffy, double coat that comes in various colors including tri-color, yellow, orange, black, and sable; has a distinctive longer beard and eyebrows

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Great Pyrenees

    Great Pyrenees

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    As their name suggests, Great Pyrenees were bred hundreds of years ago to guard livestock against wolves in the snowy Pyrenees Mountain region between France and Spain. It's fair to say that their patience and courage are legendary. Their majestic appearance and calm nature became popular with French nobility by the 17th century.

    The breed still works with the shepherds in these mountainous areas, and, despite their size and power, the Pyr is a popular companion dog. Pyrs are known for being incredibly calm, loyal, and affectionate. They're usually gentle with children and other dogs. Their thick coat sheds a lot, and they're big, strong, energetic, and are prolific alert barkers.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 32 inches

    Weight: 100 to 150 pounds (males); 85 to 110 pounds (females)

    Coat and Color: Large, powerful dog with a thick double coat in white (may have markings of gray, tan, badger, or reddish-brown)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 10 of 14


    Papillon lying on a beige sofa

    FaST_9 / Getty Images

    Unlike the working dogs on this list, the little papillon was developed during the Renaissance period in France as a companion dog for noble ladies. Their ancestors were referred to as dwarf spaniels, and this heritage means that papillons aren't simply lapdogs. These happy, playful little dogs have lots of energy, are highly trainable, and often do very well in dog sports and competitive obedience. They can be rather spunky, though, sometimes a little needy, and they're known for being vocal.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 8 to 11 inches

    Weight: 6 to 10 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, silky single coat; ears are feathered, tail abundantly plumed; white with markings and a mask of color—usually red, sable, black, or lemon

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 16 years

  • 11 of 14


    Barbet in Snow
    sbrogan / Getty Images

    The barbet, a medium-sized water dog, is known for its keen ability to retrieve waterfowl in the water and skills as a water rescue dog. They have a muscular build with long fur, woolly and curly, similar to a poodle. They also have a thick, dense undercoat, which protects them in cold water temperatures. They are one of the oldest European dog breeds, if not the oldest.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 24.5 inches

    Weight: 35 to 65 pounds

    Coat and Color: Dense curly coat; comes in black, gray, brown, or fawn, sometimes with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 12 of 14

    Grand Bleu de Gascogne

    Grand Bleu de Gascogne

    RanchoRosco / Wikimedia Commons / CC By 3,0

    Originally from the French region of Gascony, the grand bleu is one of France's most popular hunting dogs. They are a large, strong scenthound with long, muscular legs, droopy ears, and a powerful bark. Their melodious howls would often be heard as they chased deer and other large game through the countryside. It traveled in a pack and has a strong sense of family and loyalty. They have developed into well-loved companion dogs. This dog will need training and socialization to prevent compulsive barking and other undesirable behaviors. They are not recommended for people who have not had previous dog-owning experience.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 24 to 28 inches

    Weight: 80 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat; mottled with black and white, giving it the appearance of having a blueish coat; some have black patches around the ears and cheeks; some have tan markings on the eyes, cheeks, ears, legs, and tail

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    Pyrenean Shepherd

    Pyrenean Shepherd
    Iztok Noc / Getty Images

    The Pyrenean shepherd is a high-energy, brilliant dog that dates back to medieval times. They’re one of the oldest and most beloved dogs in French history. They worked alongside the bigger Great Pyrenees to mind flocks of sheep. Pyr sheps love to work, whether it's herding sheep or running agility courses. Pyr sheps are fiercely loyal but require an expert dog owner who can tame their penchant for mischief.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 15 to 18.5 inches

    Weight: 15 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: Rough or smooth coat; rough has long or medium-length hair that's flat or slightly wavy, with a harsh texture; smooth has a face covered with short, fine hairs. On the sides of the head, the hair is somewhat longer, creating a modest ruff; comes in tan-copper fawn, with or without a mixture of black hairs; various shades of gray; blue merle; brindle; black; and black with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 15 to 17 years

  • 14 of 14

    Griffon Nivernais

    slowmotiongli / Getty Images

    Originally bred in France as a scenthound, the griffon Nivernais is a friendly, active, and brilliant dog breed. Its playfulness and friendliness make it an excellent family dog for families with children. Their high energy makes them more suited for active families with a yard or space to run.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Scenthound (UKC)

    Height: 20.5 to 24.5 inches

    Weight: 50 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, shaggy, rough coat; comes in gray grizzle, wolf gray, blue gray

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Breeds to Avoid

If you have your heart set on a French dog, consider lifestyle factors like activity level, allergies to dogs, or space in your home. Some dogs like Briards, griffon Nivernais, Brittanys, GBVGs, and Pyrenean sheepdogs will need tons of exercise and space to run, so if you don't have time to devote a couple of hours of activity per day or have yards or fields for open running, keep looking at other breeds. If you have allergies, some dogs to cross off your list would be basset hounds, Great Pyrenees, Frenchies, and dogues de Bordeaux; they each have a higher likelihood of triggering allergies.