The changing status of dogs through history is exemplified by a small toy breed called the Bichon Frisé (pronounced Beeshon Freezay). Its precise origins are unclear, but there is no doubting that it has a long history. The breed evolved in the Mediterranean region, and subsequently became very popular in Italy during the 1300s, as well as in France and Spain.

Such dogs were kept and pampered by wealthy owners at this stage, often being royal favourites. Five hundred years later however, the Bichon Frisé was often to be seen on the streets, working for its keep in the company of organ-grinders and sometimes performing in circuses.

Back in favour
In recent years however, the breed has been seen more frequently in the show ring, and has also become a very popular choice as a household companion once again. These small dogs, with their lively, playful natures, are highly adaptable by nature, delighting in human company as their history suggests.

The Bichon Frisé has also contributed to the ancestry of a variety of other breeds, all of which appear similar in colour, as well as appearance. Their descendents today include breeds like the Havanese, developed in Cuba, and the Coton de Tulear, (shown above), which originates from the island of Réunion, lying in the Indian Ocean off the south-east coast of Africa, east of Madagascar.