The history of the scent hound type has been recorded since the middle ages, when the monks of St Hubert monastery, Belgium, developed dogs from Gaul (now France) to be superb hounds, slow but deliberate hunters, capable scent trackers with bellowing voices and an impressive appearance. Thought to be one of the most elegant of all the French dog breeds, the Billy breed, also called the Chien de France-Comte, is the last dog breed to descend from a large scent hound that was fashionable with the French royalty from the reign of King Francois I to the time of King Louis XIV’s rule.
The King’s White Dog, the Chien Blanc du Roy was the ancestor to the Billy and the breeds that make up its early lineage. The King’s White Dogs were used as pack hunters by the French royalty for centuries. During the French Revolution, in the 1700’s, the royal packs were disbanded and the King’s White Dog would eventually disappear as a breed, but it passed its genes on to other scent hounds that were to later develop into outstanding hunting dogs in their own rite.
The Billy breed’s earliest history can be traced back to the 19th century in central western France. The King’s White Dog was being bred with smaller Swiss hounds at that time to produce a new type of dog, the Ceris. With the genes of this magnificent hunter, combined with the genes of the Montembeouf and Layre breeds, Gaston Hublot du Rivault created the first Billy dog at Chateau du Billy in Poitou, France. The new breed was so named for its place of origin. The early lineage of the Billy fashioned in this new breed, a dog that possessed speed and excellent scenting abilities, as well as an incredible resilience and fortitude of spirit. The Billy was used, as its successors had been in previous centuries, in packs for the purpose of hunting Roe Deer and Wild Boar.
These scent hounds specifically used in the development of the Billy breed were so used for their talents in specific hunting areas. The Montembeouf was known for its skill at hunting Wild Boar and for its large but elegant physique; it possessed strong bones, muscular limbs, and a strikingly beautiful off white coat that was often littered with orange patches. The Ceris was used in the making of the Billy breed because of its its outstanding ability to hunt Hare and Wolf, and the Larye was important for the development of the Billy due to its keen nose. From these elder dog breeds, the Billy would see its genesis. The early hounds used in the creation of the Billy were of pure French blood, making the Billy breed an aristocratic and true scent hound without the outside genetic influences of other hound types.
Since its conception, the Billy has successfully accompanied hunters for decades throughout the French countryside. So well established was this new breed in the 19th century, that by 1886 the first breed standard for the Billy had been written. The Billy grew into a beautiful and talented dog, and became quite popular in France not only for its hunting skills, but because of its breathtaking appearance and pleasing temperament.
Sadly, in the early 20th century the World Wars would produce devastation and destruction throughout Europe. Many dog breeds did not survive these wars, and many that did were nearly extinct by the end of the second war.The Billy was no exception to this sorry fate. During the wars, the Billy’s numbers had decreased dramatically, and by the end of World War II, there were just ten members of the Billy breed left. The Billy breed was revived in the later 20th century by the son of the breed’s original founder, du Rivault; through the breeding of those last remaining specimens. It is thought that Harrier and Poitevin Hounds may have also been used in the revival of the Billy breed at this time.
Thankfully, through the efforts of dedicated breed enthusiasts in the past few decades, the Billy population has increased enough in numbers to no longer be in danger of extinction. The breed is still very rare outside of their native France, however in their homeland the Billy is still highly valued and used for its original purpose as a pack hunter even in the present day. The Billy breed was recognized as its own unique and separate breed by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1973, and later by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1996.
Although by no means a “popular” dog breed, the Billy is still considered to be an excellent and priceless hunter, who is often seen along the French countryside in pursuit of deer and Wild Boar to this day. The breed’s ability to successfully hunt in packs and its tempered personality make the Billy a fantastic hunting partner and a pleasant companion dog.
A stylish and noble hunter of aristocratic blood; the Billy is beautiful, powerful, and well built. Large in size, but lean and light-weight. The Billy is solidly built, with strong bones and well developed muscles. The breed possesses an elegant but athletic appearance. The Billy is of typical hound appearance; floppy ears, an alert expression, and sleek fur; however the Billy’s most outstanding feature is its stunning off-white coat. The Billy breed can be as tall as 23 to 27 inches at the withers, and weigh between 52 to 70 lbs.
The head of the Billy dog is of medium length with a faintly domed forehead and a well defined stop. The Billy’s eyes are alert and open, the eyes are dark with dark rims giving the Billy an observant expression. The bridge of the Billy’s nose is wide; the nose is well developed and is black or reddish brown in color. The breed possesses a square muzzle, moderate in length and straight. The Billy’s upper lip covers the lower one but does not hang excessively. The ears are set high and of medium size, flat and slightly inward facing.
The Billy has a neck that is moderately long, powerful, and sometimes possessing a slight dewlap. The neck leads into long shoulders that lie close to the body and strong forelegs. The Billy’s as a back that is broad and faintly arched, with a slender but deep chest and flat ribs. The Billy’s loin is broad and arched, leading into well developed hindquarters, with thighs that are solidly muscled and hocks that are slightly bent but strong, and broad. The round feet are tight and well-developed. The tail of a Billy is powerful and long, some feathering in the fur that covers the tail may be seen.
The Billy possesses a short coat with the skin visible underneath. The skin is supple and often all white, but may display spots that are dark brown or black in color. The short coat is constituted of coarse hair that may feel harsh when touched but the appearance of the fur is glossy. The colors of the Billy dog breed’s coat is pure white, milk-coffee white, and off white; also a white base with light orange or lemon colored spots, patches, or mantle can be displayed. The structure of the Billy’s muscular but lean body, as well as the color and length of the coat make the Billy appear elegant and sleek, a truly beautiful breed of dog.
The Billy is an outstanding hunter, bred in the 19th century to hunt big games in large packs along the French countryside. As such, the Billy has a well developed voice, almost a musical and harmonious call that increases in volume and frequency to identify the type of prey it has located. The breed has been described as intelligent and cunning. They are still used in present day France as large game pack hunters; therefore they possess an inherent hunting instinct and a keen and sensitive nose. Because the Billy breed has been raised as a hunting companion for the past few centuries, the breed bonds strongly to their human masters and will grow and develop through this companionship. The Billy dog will become more aware of itself and its duties as a hunter and companion, through the relationship it enjoys with its owners.
The Billy is a loyal and trusting breed, gentle and kind by nature. A well mannered housemate to humans, the Billy makes a good companion to children and is an obedient member of the house; brave, social, and good natured. They are friendly dogs, even with strangers, therefore making poor guard dogs but excellent hunters and companions. The Billy is generally well-behaved with other dogs, but can have some contention with other same sex dogs as it was raised as a pack hunter and will attempt to establish its dominance within the pack. Because it is a hunter through development, the breed has a well-developed prey drive and can be dangerous to smaller animals, so this should always be kept in mind when walking a Billy or including them in a multiple pet household.
Training for a Billy should be begun early in the dog’s life. The Billy is an intelligent and trainable breed, and if given the proper lessons and attention, the Billy will excel as a hunter and a family companion. The breed is a scent hound and a pack hunter; therefore some patience will be required during the training of a Billy. Scent hounds are known to be stubborn, challenging to train, and get distracted by scents easily, so some allowance for their instinctual behavior should be made, however, gently coaxing them back to their lessons will reestablish their attention and keep them focused. A strong and patient trainer will be most successful with the Billy breed. Firm training and clearly defined rules and conduct requirements will assist the Billy in understanding what behavior is desired of it and how to be a well-behaved member of the family unit. The Billy breed can excel in obedience training and hunting competitions as it is a versatile and independent dog.
As a hound, the Billy is accustomed to hunting and being outdoors for long periods of time. Therefore, the breed requires lots of exercise to keep it happy and healthy. The breed is difficult to control when off its leash, full of energy and built for speed. The Billy is considered to be an active dog, therefore requiring between 45 minutes and 60 minutes of activity and exercise daily to maintain their health. Replication of the vigorous hunting and outdoor activity that the breed is used to should occur if the dog will not actually be included in a hunting pack.
The Billy breed’s exercise requirement makes it less than suitable for apartment living. The ideal home for a Billy would be large and spacious, with a fenced yard and plenty of room for the dog to run and play. Urban, city living is ok for a Billy provided there is access to an outdoor area. The Billy breed is truly happiest when allowed to live outdoors with other dogs. The Billy will not do well if left in small or confined spaces.
Overall, the Billy is an elegant and aristocratic breed; beautiful and well behaved. The Billy is a socialite who loves the companionship of people and other dogs, is gentle with children, and possesses a pleasant personality.
The Billy requires little grooming and maintenance, therefore making it an ideal pet for someone who does not have the extra time or the desire to spend hours grooming their dog. The Billy’s coarse, short coat requires little brushing, once a week to discard the dead hairs should suffice, brushing also assists in distributing the natural oils in the dog’s fur, keeping the coat glossy and attractive. The Billy can be wiped clean with a wet cloth as needed to remove dirt and debris from the coat and body. Bathing should occur only as necessary, roughly once during the month.
As with all dog breeds, special attention should be paid to the maintenance of the more sensitive areas of the dog’s body. The Billy possesses drooping hound ears, and therefore should have its ears cleaned and checked regularly to prevent infection. Also, the eyes, nose, teeth, and nails of the dog should be cleaned and checked regularly to prevent any health concerns from arising in these areas. Nails should be trimmed as needed.
The life expectancy of the Billy breed is 10 to 14 years. They are a healthy and hearty breed. The only real health concern for the breed is colds and Bronchitis as the coat is short and fine, offering little protection against harsh weather conditions; therefore, the Billy should be kept indoors during chilly seasons. Also, ear infections can be a concern for the breed as they sport the signature hound drop ears that hang and can collect dirt. If these considerations are taken seriously and the dog is prevented from being exposed to cold weather and its ears are regularly checked, the Billy should live a long and healthy life.