The Griffon Blue de Gascogne
Of all the griffon breeds, the ‘Grifón Azul‘, as the Spanish call him, is perhaps the most recognizable one you will find in Spain because of the characteristic coat: white and grey hairs and dark markings on the body, with dark ears and red markings on the head and legs.
Outside of France and Spain, the Griffon Blue de Gascogne is considered a rare breed, but in the northwest of Spain they are quite numerous. They are used for hunting wild boar, but can also be used for other types of game, such as hares or deer. In Spain they are mainly used for wild boar. Although their hunting instinct is strong and they show little fear while hunting, they are considered as docile and trainable dogs, attached to their owner, and friendly with other dogs and children. Again, a great family pet that too often is not considered for adoption by French and Spanish families for all the wrong reasons.
The Griffon Bleu is a harmoniously built briquet, with a very recognizable and elegant coat. Their coat shows the same pattern as the other members of the Blue de Gascogne family: the Basset Blue de Gascogne, the Petit Bleu de Gascogne, and the Grand Bleu de Gascogne. At the same time the Griffon Bleu is the exception, because it is the only member of the family that has long hair.
The origins of the breed are not really clear. The only thing that is certain is that they have been created in the Gascogne region in France at the foothills of the Pyrenees by crossing the medium sized Bleu de Gascogne, with a griffon type dog. This may have been a Nivernais of a Briquet Vendéen, or perhaps both – but no reference to that is known. What is known, though, is that the breed was first described in 1920, when the breed standard in France was first laid down. In that breed standard, their size was somewhat smaller than the size they have nowadays. Originally defined at 42-53 cm, today their height at the withers is generally 50 to 57 cm – but it is not impossible to find exemplars that measure 60 cm or more, because hunters, especially in France, prefer the Bleu to be taller than the standard size. They wear their tail in a slightly curved up position.
The Griffon Blue de Gascogne is a great hunting dog. Versatile and fierce with rustic looks, they suited for the most difficult terrains, with a very fine nose and a good and loud voice. They are very sharp and know little fear. Hence, in Spain they are mainly used for hunting wild boar, while in France they are often used for hare hunting. They can hunt alone but they also hunt well in a pack.
When they are born, ‘Bleu’ puppies appear to be white with black spots and the red markings on their face and legs. But once the hairs start to grow longer, they will develop the typical slate coloured, blue mottled coat of the Griffon Blue de Gascogne. This happens because the tip of the hairs are white, but lower down they show a grey to black colour. In a few months time, once the hairs have reached their full length, the ‘Blue’ will show it’s true and stunning colours. The ears and the coat around the eyes should be black, and they should ideally have a white spot on the top of the head in between the eyes. There are tan markings around the muzzle, legs, under the tail and small red spots above the eyes, which in French are called ‘quatreoeuillé’, and in Spanishh ‘cuatro-ojos’ (four-eyed). The colourful speckled coat of a Bleu is definitely something that will make quite a few heads turn when you take them out for walkies!
Needless to say: you should never to cut or shave the coat of a Griffon Bleu! The individual hairs, with their tiered colour scheme, already show how a Bleu’s hair ‘mature’. If you cut or shave the hairs, it’s goodbye to the stunning colours the Bleu coat has on offer. This coat needs a good brush once or twice a week to avoid matting and to remove loose hairs and superfluous undercoat. Once the hairs are fully grown, they need to be stripped, plucked, to make space for the new hairs to grow. This needs to be done once or twice a year.
The Griffon Bleu de Gascogne is a smart, lively and they attach very much to their owner. They are sensitive hounds, with a somewhat melancholic character and initially they may appear a bit shy. On walks they will typically stop to have a better look at an approaching dog and observe and analyze – this is not about being shy so much, but rather the Bleu’s way to gauge another dog and decide what action can best be taken. Bleus are quite friendly with other dogs and are not aggressive: they will rather bark loudly ar someone they don’t like and their voice is impressive enough. Like all other griffons they are fond of human company and they do great living indoors, also with children and if duly introduced, they can live with cats too. They love to huddle with their human family members on the sofa and they love domestic life. Yet they need the outdoors, for long walks and to browse around in fields, bushes and the forest. They have great endurance and need long walks. Compared to the Vendée griffons, they are far more energetic, so they will greatly benefit from activities like running, playing fetch and swimming.
As they are sensitive dogs, they should be treated with kindness and respect. Shouting will make them shy away, so if you want to teach them anything, do it in a calm and friendly voice. As Bleus are smart and inquisitive dogs, they will benefit from training if you give them a chance to figure out what you want them to do. Praise them and celebrate with them once they get it! Nose work and trailing games are highly recommended activities that will also help to create an even better relation with your Griffon Bleu.