Ariegeois

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Ariegeois
Bautt / Wikipedia.org

The Ariegeois is a dog that was developed in the French region of Ariège in around the year 1912. Their short coat is mostly white with black mottling and some tan patches on their face. They should be lean and tall and have characteristically long, skinny ears.

Traditionally used to hunt in packs, this breed is being seen more and more within the family home these days. This transition from working animal to much-loved pet has almost certainly come about thanks to their loving personalities. Owners should be aware though, that the Ariège dog has a very high demand for exercise and requires an experienced and patient trainer.

About & History

The name Ariegeois is a nod towards the region where the Ariegeois dog breed originated: Ariège, in the south-west of France. With just over 100 years of history under its belt, the Ariegeois is quite a new kid on the block, and as such, is relatively unknown outside of France. More recently, breed members have been exported to both Italy and Spain.

Bred for the purpose of hunting animals, such as hares and boar, the Ariegeois was developed from the Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the Grand Gascogn Saintongeois, as well as a number of other medium-sized French hounds. Scent hounds have always been in high demand within France, whose inhabitants, along with their canine companions, have enjoyed participating in hunting as a past-time for centuries.

A superb scent hound, the Ariegeois uses its heightened sense of smell to track down its prey, proceeding to chase it back to the waiting hunters. While they were regularly used for hunting up until the Second World War, during and after the war, the breed came perilously close to extinction. Despite their reduced population size, the breed was never outcrossed, and managed to increase its numbers by using only Ariegeois dogs – a feat that was not accomplished by many other breeds of dogs.

Currently recognised by the FCI and the UKC, the breed is most often used as a hunting dog, though can also be seen as a companion animal within France.

Appearance

Ariegeois Large Photo
Bautt / Wikipedia.org

A dog of medium stature, the Ariegeois typically weighs just under 30kg. The female of the breed stands at 50cm to 56cm, while the male will reach heights of 52cm to 58cm. They are elegantly built and more streamlined than the dogs from which they descend. It is also important to the hunter that the Ariegeois be well-muscled and robust.

With a wide forehead and doming to their skull, the Ariegeois has quite a unique head shape. The most prominent features of their head, and perhaps their whole body, are their impressively long ears that should be thin and curve inwards. As with many hounds, their upper lips are full and completely cover their mandible (lower jaw). They are a mesocephalic breed, meaning that their muzzle and skull are roughly the same length. Their brown eyes are endearing, always portraying a watchful expression. Their limbs should be straight and long – on top of which sits a body with a deep chest and flat back. Their slim tail tapers and should display a curve when the dog is in motion.

Their skin should not be wrinkled, nor should it be overly tight. They are a tri-colour breed, with white fur, black mottling and tan markings above their eyes and on their cheeks.

Character & Temperament

Despite their history of being kept almost exclusively as a working hound, the sweet and affectionate nature of the Ariegeois has meant that they are being used as companion animals more and more commonly nowadays. They are generally tolerant of children and loving with all of their family members. They are accepting of strangers, rarely displaying any signs of shyness or distrust. These traits make the Ariegeois a poor guard dog. Their deep bark and alert nature, however, make them a very suitable watch dog.

The Ariegeois is known to bond well with its owners, and relies heavily on them for direction, eager to meet their expectations and earn their respect. When it comes to other animals, they thrive in the company of dogs but cannot be trusted with any other species. Their high prey drive means that any cat or small animal in the presence of an Ariegeois is under real threat of being chased and harassed.

Trainability

While training an Ariegeois dog to be a hunter is a piece of cake, training them to do just about anything else can be a real challenge. They possess a stubborn streak, rarely following commands at the will of their trainer. Training efforts are also hampered by the overly-sensitive nose of the Ariegeois who gets easily distracted by any nearby smell.

The dedication that the Ariegeois has for tracking and hunting can be a real double-edged sword. While they are an undeniably talented hunting dog, their one-track mind can mean that convincing them to do anything else is difficult.

Health

The average Ariegeois will live to be between the ages of 10 and 12. A relatively new breed, there is limited information available regarding the overall health of the Ariegeois, however, anecdotally there are a number of conditions which this breed is thought to be predisposed to:

Ear Infections

Unsurprisingly, the impressively long ears of the Ariegeois tend to develop infections. With good preventative care, an owner can ensure that infections are kept to a minimum. It’s vital to keep the ears dry at all times, and if they do happen to get wet after a swim or a bath, they should be thoroughly dried out straight after. Weekly to fortnightly cleaning is also suggested, ensuring any wax or debris is removed regularly.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most frequently inherited conditions seen in general practice. Abnormal hip joints cause mobility issues and pain throughout the dog’s life. Several treatment options are available and will depend on the age of the dog and the severity of the disease.

Patellar Luxation

When a dog’s kneecap is not sitting in the correct area, it is said to be ‘luxated’. In most instances, the luxation will only last for a matter of seconds, and during this time, the dog may skip for a few steps. If severe enough, an orthopaedic surgery may be the dog’s best option at recovery.

Entropion

Entropion is the technical term for when a dog’s eyelid folds inwards. This misshapen eyelid will inevitably irritate the surface of the eye and may even lead to corneal ulceration in more severe cases. A corrective surgery is often advised to correct the abnormal positioning.

Ectropion

Ectropion can be thought of as the opposite of entropion – i.e. the eyelids fold too far outwards, failing to offer appropriate protection for the eyes. Many hound dog breeds are predisposed to this deformity. As with entropion, a corrective surgery is usually performed once the animal is old enough.

Bloat

Bloat is a medical emergency characterised by abdominal dilation. Some cases can be managed medically but if the dog’s stomach twists over, surgery will be required. It is thought that deep-chested dogs are more likely to develop this condition.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The hunting instincts of the Ariegeois mean that they are happy to pursue scents for hours on end and have very good stamina. This drive also means that the Ariegeois needs a very secure garden or pen, as they are known to be good escape artists when attempting to pursue prey. They can be lightening quick, and once an Ariegeois has broken free, you will probably only see them again once they have decided to return.

Attempting to house an Ariegeois within a small home or apartment is not a good idea, as they require ample space to roam in and will likely become frustrated within a confined space. Exercising them for an hour or more each day can help to reduce their frustration, but most dogs still require additional time outdoors and plenty of stimulation with games and activities to keep them entertained. A bored or under-exercised Ariegeois dog is almost certain to bark excessively, and while their melodic voice is a real plus when hunting, it can become incredibly tedious when trying to get to sleep at night!

Grooming

Minimal grooming is required when it comes to the short coat of the Ariegeois. Loose fur can be removed by performing a quick brush once weekly. This will also help to spread the dog’s natural oils along their coat.

Regular bathing should be avoided, as this will strip away the important natural oils. Baths are only required after a particularly muddy run or exposure to offensive material, such as fox poo.

Famous Ariegeois

There are no well-known Ariegeois dogs just yet. You can, however, check out some of the photos owners of the breed have shared on Instagram, which may give you an insight to the day in the life of an Ariegeois.

Cross-Breeds

There are no popular Ariegeois cross-breeds at this time.

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