The Picardy Spaniel (Epagneul Picard) has been around for about 250 years and is thought to be one of the oldest continental breeds. It was a popular breed with French nobility in the mid-to late 1700’s, and became more prominent after the French Revolution (early 1800’s). Unlike many of the Spaniel breeds most Americans are familiar with, the Picardy Spaniel is a pointing versatile hunting dog. The Picardy Spaniel has been bred to hunt both feather and fur, and in Europe the breed is used to hunt wild boar, deer, hare, fox, upland birds and waterfowl. They have a phenomenal nose and are also used as avalanche rescue dogs, blood trackers and there is one Picardy Spaniel in the US who is a certified cadaver dog.
In the mid-1800’s there was a “British invasion” of dog breeds into France and with that influx came some interbreeding with the Picardy Spaniel. Both the French Spaniel and Blue Picardy Spaniel breeds originated with the Picardy Spaniel, with the infusion of blue belt English Setter blood likely responsible for the creation of the Blue Picardy. The appearance of Picardy Spaniels today stems from additional 19th century outcrosses with Brittany Spaniels, orange belt English Setters, etc. So, what was once a gray dog with brown spots became the contemporary Picardy Spaniel, which is primarily brown with gray/white ticking.
Located just north of Paris, the Picardy region of France, which is just slightly larger than the State of Connecticut, saw some of the most horrific fighting, destruction and devastation of both World Wars. The Picardy Spaniel survived, but barely. A small group of breeders kept the breed from extinction. Rumor suggests that there were only a handful of Picardy Spaniels remaining after WWII, and that Gordon Setters were bred into the line in order to have enough genetic diversity to keep the breed viable. Why pick a black dog as an outcross? ~100 years ago the Gordons had various coat colors, including liver. Presumably one or more liver Gordons, such as the one below, were used for these outcrosses.
The first recorded arrival of Picardy Spaniels in the USA was in 2004. Jonathan Ragstare brought in a breeding pair (Volcan and Vitesse) from France, and that pair produced a litter of 8 puppies in 2006. Puppy placements went poorly as no one knew what a Picardy Spaniel was at that time, and that was the end of that. The second attempt to establish the Picardy in North America started in 2014, and that effort is still going strong thanks to European and UK breeders who have entrusted their bloodlines to North American breeders. Today there are ~2,300 Picardy Spaniels worldwide, of which ~280 reside in North America.
Unfortunately, ~60% of the Picardy Spaniels in North America are very closely related. Further genetic diversity is needed to help establish the Picardy Spaniel as a viable, self-sustaining population in North America. The US Picardy Spaniel Alliance and North American Picardy Spaniel Alliance breeders continue to work with their European counterparts in order to expand the genetic pool. If you’re interested in joining the USPSA and NAPSA groups in order to help as either a breeder, or as the owner of a stud with genetics needed to continue to grow the breed, please email email@example.com for more information.