- Type: Pure Breed
- Talent: Hunting
- Size: Medium
- Weight: 50-55 lbs
- Ears: Flappy
- Fur type: Curly
- Fur Color: Black & Brown, Dark Brown / Chocolate, Gray / Salt & Pepper, Light Brown / Golden
- Life: 10-14 years
Once known simply as the Chien de Pays, the Local Dog, this ancient breed was used to hunt wolves and wild boar in the central region of Nivernais, south of Paris. It has been given the nickname of Barbouillard because of its unkempt appearance. It has also been recorded as the Nivernais Griffon, or the Grey St Luis Dog, although this last title is more correctly applied to its ancestral breed, the St Louis’ Grey Hound.
This is a big shaggy dog with a long, bearded head, a bushy face and a long-backed, heavy body built for stamina rather than speed. It is one of the great rustic dogs of Europe with a long and distinguished history. It can trace its ancestry back to the 13th century, when its forerunners were known as the Kings Grey Dogs, the Chiens Gris de St Louis, the favourite hounds of Louis IX. In this ancestral form it retained its royal support for several centuries and was favoured by Louis XIV in the 17th century. But then, in the 18th century, it fell victim, as did so many French breeds, to the upheavals of the French Revolution.
By the end of the 18th century, there were only stragglers left in the central highlands of France, and marauding packs of wolves were causing problems with domestic livestock. At the beginning of the 19th century, a group of 13 Grand Griffon Vendéen was brought in from the Vendée region to help. They were crossed with the surviving local dogs to create a
and defeated them. By the end of the 19th century, the predators had gone and the great dog had changed slightly, with the Vendéen element gradually reduced, so that the breed was now distinct enough to be known as the Griffon Nivernais. By 1925 the standard of this breed was officially recognized.
Although its original function of wolf control was gone, the great dog continued to enjoy a useful working life in pursuit of wild boar. It was renowned for its totally fearless determination on the hunt, contrasting with a calm reserve at other times. It pursued its quarry relentlessly at a steady pace over any kind of terrain, no matter how rough, and, when the moment came, was prepared to throw itself into attack without hesitation.
Its colour varies today, but it is still essentially a grey dog, as of old, and the favoured coat is dark grey to off-black, with tan extremities.