This rather mythological-looking dog is, in a sense, just that: Having become extinct around the time of the French Revolution, the creature was rebuilt from a number of other hounds regional to the Nivernais area one hundred years later. Thankfully they made him a little smaller than his conceptual ancestors, since they were reputed to be enormous. He’s a country fellow through and through, from his attitudes and preferred living arrangements, and will not take to city life. But he’s strong, brave, and (for the most part) stoic, making for a sturdy companion for the rural lady, gent, or rascal.
Key facts about the Griffon Nivernais
Life expectancy :
Origins and history
His ‘ancestors’ ran with the Gauls, or came over with the Crusades, or both, depending on who you believe, mixing with grey Saint Louis dogs to create monstrous and hard-working dogs of almost mythological stature. But their numbers dwindled during the reign of Francis I, who preferred a white dog, and the Nivernais’ lineage was preserved only by the efforts of certain noblemen. When they lost their heads in the 18th century, the Nivernais’ breath was also cut. Later enthusiasts rebuilt the breed from scratch, using genetic elements of the Grand Griffon Vendéen, the Otterhound, and the Foxhound, although it is whispered that a soupcon of the original Nivernais made its way in, too, through the seed of a rare survivor of that ancient breed.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 6 - Scent hounds and related breeds
Section 2 : Leash (scent) Hounds
Physical characteristics of the Griffon Nivernais
Female : Between 21 and 24 in
Male : Between 22 and 24 in
Female : Between 51 and 60 lb
Male : Between 51 and 60 lb
Fawn, darkening to bluish black at the tips, sometimes inter-sprouted with white, giving an overall appearance of grey; or fawn overlaid with black or blue. A white patch on the chest will not weaken the individual’s claim to the standard.
Type of coat
Shaggy and rough; what the French call Barbouillaud.
With his monsterish stature, variable bi-colour appearance, and unruly hair, you will never see two Griffon Nivernais that look quite the same. Brooding, indeed often occupying the same spectrum as a storm, this ersatz ancient creature is all the same adorable for his soulful eyes, perky eyebrows, swinging ears, and tousle-ability. His beard adds a certain affability to his otherwise moody countenance, while fringes to his tail add levity. His body is compact and powerful, arching appealingly about the spine.
Good to know
This dog’s most notable presence is in his native land of France; elsewhere, he may be considered rarer and more valuable.
Although he is independent and quite stubborn, he is still a very good family dog. He is pleasant to live with, and can adapt to various lifestyles.
He likes to be occupied but is more inclined to work and adventure than to parlour tricks.
This generally level-headed dog may err towards agitation if left alone in a constrained space.
This is a fairly intelligent dog who knows how to take initiative.
Bred for hunting, he has a keen nose and favours stamina over speed.
Fearful / wary of strangers
He is usually good with all sorts of people if socialised during his youth.
The Griffon Nivernais can be independent bordering on obstinate.
Behaviour of the Griffon Nivernais
Despite his apparent stand-offish sensibility, the Griffon Nivernais may tend towards acts of mischievousness and destruction if left under-stimulated for too long.
Easy to train / obedience
The Griffon Nivernais is not difficult, but requires firm, consistent training to flourish.
He has a soulful and melodic voice, however he may over-use it if under-exercised.
Tendency to run away
He certainly has the capacity to hatch an escape plan and dig to freedom if left alone for long periods.