When you speak of the breed of dogs known as “Bichon”, this would encompass the specific breed of small or toy canines characterized by double layered coats that shed minimally and curly tails. Included in the Bichon breed is the most popular Bichon Frise. The Bichon Frise in particular is descended from the Water Spaniel and the Standard Poodle (from which it has inherited its curly white outercoat).
The origins of the Bichon breed have been traced to the region of the Mediterranean, specifically in the Canary Islands, in the 15th century. The three primary breeds in this group consist of the Bichon Tenerife, the Bichon Matlais (also known as the Maltese), and the Bichon Bolognese. The Bichon Frise is a descendant of the Tenerife, which is now extinct. There has been considerable debate on which of the Bichon dogs is considered the oldest in the breed. At first, battling for contention were the Tenerife and the Matlais, however, because the Tenerife is already considered an extinct breed, the honor for the oldest Bichon canine has been given to the Matlais.
The Members of the Bichon Group
As a dog breed, the Bichon group consists of the Maltese, the Bolognese, the Havanese, the Lowchen, and the most popular of them all the Frise.
The oldest breed in the Bichon Group, the Maltese was said to have originated from Malta. These beautiful dogs are characterized by long silky white coats. Fluffy bundles of energy, Malteses are very intelligent dogs, making them a breeze to train. They also get attached very easily to their owner and home, which makes them perfect guard dogs, despite their small size. Although considered fearless, they are cheerful and gentle in demeanor.
One could easily make the mistake of thinking that the Bolognese is a crossbreed between a Bichon Frise and an Old English Sheepdog because of its small stature and very hairy coat. Like the Maltese, the Bolognese is a very intelligent dog and very easy to train. It also bonds easily with its owner and the home, and are ideal pets for children and companions for other dogs. However, the Bolognese has an instinctive distrust for strangers.
Next, the Havanese is another small dog, but a bit on the chubby side. Their thick coats come in three varieties – long and silky, wavy, or short and curly – and need to be brushed regularly to prevent mats and tangles. Since they are minimal shedders, they are hypoallergenic and are thus ideal pets for individuals with perennial allergies and hay fever. Much like its Bichon cousins, the Havanese is a cheerful and energetic pet, and is comfortable around children, other dogs, and even strangers. Being a natural show dog, the Havanese loves to do pet tricks, making them quite a joy to train.
Perhaps the rarest among the Bichons, as well as in the world, is the Lowchen. The Lowchen resembles a lion because of the style and cut of its long coat. Like its Bichon cousins, the Lowchen is an energetic and charming pet for children.
In recent years, breeders have come up with designer Bichons. Some of the most popular hybrids include the Bichon Shih Tzu (Bichon Frise and Shih Tzu cross) , the Maltichon (Maltese and Bichon Frise cross), and the Borkie (Bichon Frise and Yorkshire terrier cross). You can learn about these designer Bichons from websites dedicated to special dog hybrids.