Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Billy
W. E. Mason /

A lean and well-built scent hound, the Billy is an elegant dog that can cover a large area of land in a small amount of time. They have a slim face, with dark and alert eyes, as well as pendulous ears and a slim, long tail. Their coat is a bright white to an off-white colour and may contain yellow or orange markings.

Established within central France by a breeder called Monsieur Rivault, the Billy was originally bred to hunt large game, such as wild boar and deer. They have always been hunted within packs, and thanks to their endurance and speed, were initially a very popular choice of hunting dog. While their popularity has declined with time, there are still some hunters in France that employ Billy dogs today.

About & History

With a strange name like ‘Billy’, this is not a breed that you are soon to forget. The Billy dog is not named after a man named William as you may suspect, but actually after a location within its native France, named Chateau de Billy, where it is thought to have been developed by a breeder named Monsieur Rivault. Most of the Billy’s scent hound ancestors are now extinct but would have likely included older versions of the Poitevin, the Montemboeuf, Ceris and Layre. It is widely believed that all of the breeds from which the Billy descended were highly revered as hunters and used by French nobility at the time.

Initially, the Billy enjoyed popularity amongst the higher classes and was respected for its ability to hunt deer and boar, as well as its all-round athleticism and pleasing aesthetic characteristics. By 1886, the breed standard had been published and their working ability and good nature established them as firm favourites within France.

While the Billy was still a sought-after hunting companion in the early 1900s, their breed numbers took a dramatic hit during each of the World Wars. In fact, the breed was so terribly affected that there were only a handful of Billy dogs left at the end of the Second World War. Luckily, at this time, the son of the original Billy breeder – a man named Anthony Rivault – took it upon himself to revive the breed. To bolster breed numbers, he mixed in several similar scent hounds, including the Porcelaine and Poitevin.

Outside of France, the Billy is relatively unknown and, even within their homeland, they mainly exist as hunting companions rather than family pets. The UKC recognised the Billy within their Scent Hound group in 1996 and the breed has also been accepted by the FCI, again, within their Scent Hound group.


Billy Large Photo
W. E. Mason /

The large Billy dog should appear strong but elegant, with a lithe body allowing for fast movement when needed. Their head is medium-sized and fine-boned with a circular forehead and long muzzle. While their upper lips will cover their lower lips, they should not be pendulous or exaggerated. The overall shape of their muzzle is square, and while a scissors bite is preferred, the breed standard does actually accept dogs with a mild over-bite. Their large nose may be brown or black and their expressive eyes should be dark with black or brown rims.

The medium-sized ears of the Billy are set quite high and curl slightly inwards towards the tip. Their strong neck may or may not have a dewlap of skin and should flow nicely into their long and graceful shoulders. Their well-muscled limbs give an appearance of strength, and, along with their tight toes, allow for a quick pace. The Billy’s body possesses a deep chest, wide back and sloping croup with moderate tuck-up of the abdomen. Their long tail is so tapered and thin that it is almost whip-like in appearance.

The short, coarse coat of the Billy is white and may or may not have yellow or orange markings. Red or black hair is not permitted within the breed standard. Males stand at 60-72cm, while the slightly shorter females reach heights of 58-62cm. Most breed members will weigh between 23kg and 32kg.

Character & Temperament

A working dog by nature, the Billy has been bred for its stamina, speed and bravery. Often used to hunt in packs, they are always full of energy and eager to work. They can concentrate on the same scent for hours on end, pursuing it with pure determination. When working alongside a hunter, this breed can be relied upon to be even-tempered and pleasant. They are known for being vocal on the hunt, and their melodious bark may be a trait that puts some potential owners off.

When interacting with people, the Billy tends to form close bonds. They are known to be gentle with children and can make loving and affectionate pets in the right setting. Oddly enough, while they are used as a pack dog, they can find it hard to co-exist with other dogs. The main issue seen is male dog to male dog aggression, and once a hierarchy has been established, there should be few arguments between dogs. Any smaller pet will not be welcomed, as the Billy will see it as prey and will feel obliged to give chase. Additionally, this is not a breed that would be routinely chosen to act as a watch or guard dog, as they are not particularly wary and can be overly welcoming when new guests arrive.


Many describe the Billy as being intelligent, and this could be seen as a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. Their intelligence can lead to misbehaving and even to downright disobedience. However, when you can convince them that a training task is worth doing, they will have no trouble figuring out what you are asking them to do.

With the correct trainer, the Billy has the potential to be the star pupil in the training class. If they choose to, they can be highly responsive and will outshine many other scent hounds. Their ideal trainer would be both patient and consistent and would be willing to form a close, life-long bond with the Billy.


Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Hereditary orthopaedic conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, can dramatically affect a working dog’s abilities and should be screened for in breeding individuals before any mating takes place.

Ear Infections

As with many other hounds, the Billy’s drooping ears predispose it to ear infections during its lifetime. An astute owner may notice the early signs of an infection: a red ear canal, excess waxy build-up and a bad odour. They may also notice that their dog seems agitated by the ear and is rubbing it along the ground or is scratching at it excessively.

As well as cleaning the ear, the owner should bring the dog along to the vet who will be able to examine the ear canal and prescribe any medications that may be needed, such as antibiotics or pain relief.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Unsurprisingly, this smart dog needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep it happy. Given their size, they benefit from being kept in a large property and should have access to a secure and expansive back garden. As well as allowing them to have a substantial amount of outdoor access, they should be exercised for one to two hours every day. This exercise may consist of hunting, scenting games or jogs and hikes.

While keeping them active will go a long way towards keeping them happy, owners should not neglect their mental wellbeing. These dogs really enjoy being set tasks and puzzles to complete and feel a sense of achievement from performing well.


With such a short and close coat, the Billy hardly needs any help when it comes to the maintenance of their fur. A brush every week or so will aid in the removal of dead fur and dried mud. This is not a dog that requires regular trips to the puppy parlour, or even regular baths, as they keep themselves naturally very clean.

Owners should ensure they keep on top of the ear care of their Billy, as neglecting the ears can lead to chronic and painful infections that become difficult to resolve. By cleaning the wax out of the canals every one to two weeks, and checking them as often as possible, the majority of infections can be prevented.

Famous Billy Dogs

Mainly used as hunting hounds in France, there are no celebrity Billy dogs.


While there are no well-established Billy cross-breeds, they are thought to have been one of the major breeds that contributed to the genes of the Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Orange hunting dog.

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