The Griffon Nivernais is one of the most widely used French griffon breeds in hunting. They also make excellent family pets.
The modern Griffon Nivernais is a recreation of the original breed that was the typical hound that was used in the Nièvre region in France and regarded as descendents of the chien gris de Saint-Louis. These were the dogs that came to France after the 8th Crusade in the 13th Century. They were also said to be descendents of the hounds of the Celtic Segusii tribe. Because they used to be the hound of choice of the French nobility, the Nivernais breed already disappeared after the French revolution. They were mainly used for hunting wild boar and wolves.
Only in 1925 a group of hunters in Morvan, in the French Bourgogne region, decided to recreate the Nivernais Hound. They used the land breed hunting dogs of the region that still contained features of the original Nivernais, and they also used the Griffon Vendéen and supposedly also the English Foxhound and Otterhound (which has a very similar look).
The result was a medium sized hound, with a rustic and rugged look and dry build. They are a bit more slender than the Vendéen types, and therefore they can run faster, so they are also used for other types of game like hares or stags. They can hunt on their own and do well in packs. As a pack hunter they do better than the Vendéens that are rather solitary hunters. They are courageous, swift, obedient but can also be stubborn and independent. Their character is balanced, friendly, also toward other dogs, and they are not aggressive. If you come across a Nivernais that is shy, the poor thing must have been through some really bad experiences with humans. Nivernais are best trained from a very young age and they need a strict hand, but one that is friendly, calm and playful.
Although they are hounds that use their nose for hunting and trailing, they also can react on sight. Some are known to run after rabbits or cats. They will bark very load while at it…
The Nivernais has an ‘agouti’ coat, which means that the hairs have a different colours at the tip than the root. coat is grizzled, mainly grey in a wide variety of shades that also include blue and black. You also will find white hairs scattered through the coat. They often have fawn or sable markings on the legs and head. A small white mark on the breast is allowed. The coat needs a regular brushing to avoid matting and it needs to be hand stripped a few times a year.
As a pet they are wonderful, they do very well in a family, are friendly to kids and generally can live well with other animals, such as cats. They need long walks and daily exercise, but as they are stubborn and have noses, they often cannot go off leash. Running, cycling and ball play are good ways to burn off energy, but also nose work will gratify your Nivernais a lot.