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Breed of the Week: The Boulet Griffon

Craig Koshyk

If one of the main functions of kennel clubs or registries is to preserve breeds of dogs, it is sadly ironic that the only thing left of the Boulet Griffon are the dusty remains of Marco, the first dog ever entered into the French stud book. His taxidermied body is stored, half-forgotten, at the Municipal Museum of Natural History in Elbeuf, France.
Marco, the first dog entered into the L.O.F (French Stud book)
Born into a wealthy family in 1840, Emmanuel Boulet founded a weaving business in Normandy. Like his contemporary, Eduard Korthals, Boulet had an enormous passion for outdoor sports and the breeding of gundogs. Unlike Korthals, he did not set out to create a new breed. Boulet wanted to save and improve upon an old breed that had almost disappeared, the Griffon d’arrêt Français à poil long (French Longhaired Pointing Griffon).

He started with several dogs purchased from a Mr. Govellain, who had kept a line of them for over 60 years. After a somewhat rocky start, Boulet eventually achieved a level of consistency in his dogs that was almost unheard of in the French pointing breeds. In terms of looks:

The Boulet Griffon has many of the same characteristics as the Korthals Griffon, the chief difference being that his coat is much longer and not so hard in texture. The coat is fairly long and semi-silky, without being glossy, flat rather than wavy, and never curly. Its color is that of a dead chestnut leaf or a dark coffee brown, with or without white; never black or yellow. (from The New Book of the Dog by Robert Leighton)

Illustration of Marco in better days
Boulet selected his dogs to be naturally close-working, but with excellent noses and a firm point. With help from his friend and professional trainer, Léon Verrier, his dogs became very successful in field trials and won countless awards in shows. The sporting press from the 1880s and ’90s, is filled with articles on the Boulet Griffon; lauding the master breeder’s genius and casting him as the saviour of the Continental pointing breeds. The publicity soon attracted the attention of some of the most powerful people in the world, including Nicholas, the Tsarevich (Grand Duke) of Russia, who traveled to Elbeuf while on a state visit to France just to meet Mr. Boulet and see his griffons. Even the president of France paid homage to the great breeder, presenting him with a national medal of honor for his work. Legend has it that in return, Boulet offered the president a sweater knit from the wool of his griffons.


Yet, despite the popularity of the Boulet Griffon and the fame and fortune of its founder, only a few short decades after Emmanuel Boulet died, the breed faded into oblivion. It is tempting to conclude that it was the founder’s death that led to the breed’s demise, but the truth of the matter is that Boulet himself abandoned it in 1890. In a letter published in the sporting press, Prince Albrecht of Solms-Braunfels tells us why.
It was also Mr. Boulet, who ranked as the top griffon breeder in France, who recently picked out three young dogs...in the Ipenwoud (Korthals’) Kennels. This gentleman stated to me that he now wanted to breed this line pure and not cross it with his line...because his dogs are too long- and soft-haired as a result of crossbreeding and he wants only prickly-haired dogs.
After Boulet’s death in 1897, a few breeders attempted to continue his work but were unable to prevent the Boulet Griffon from eventually disappearing just after the Second World War. For many years the FCI continued to publish its standard, but in 1984 the breed was finally removed from the list of recognized breeds and its standard dropped. Several years later, a Frenchman by the name of Philippe Seguela began a breeding program aimed at recreating the Boulet Griffon. He managed to produce dogs that were apparently quite close to the original in terms of looks and performance. Unfortunately, he abandoned the project in the early 1990s.

For more information on Emmanuel Boulet and his dogs see Ria Hörther's excellent article (in Dutch) from her website.

UPDATE HERE: http://pointingdogblog.blogspot.ca/2011/06/more-on-boulet-griffon_29.html

Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm