Let's talk Billy Dogs

Named after the breeder’s magnificent home, the Château de Billy in Poitou, France, rather than the ubiquitous bookshelf range, the Billy dog is an extraordinary scent hound initially bred for hunting purposes and still admired for their innate sense of smell and extraordinary speed. While rare even in their native country, these elegant, large dogs – they are really tall -  are devoted to their human owners and known for their smarts, obedient disposition and open demeanour. As long as they don’t catch a whiff of something more interesting off in the distance. 

Official name: Billy

Origins: France

Black and white side view image of a Billy dog
 Drooling tendencies


Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level Low
Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Energy level * Moderate Family pet? *
 Compatibility with other pets High
Can stay alone? * Very low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Billy dog
60 - 70 cm Height
24 - 32 kg Weight
58 - 62 cm Height
24 - 32 kg Weight


 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age  15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 to 8 years
 Senior age  From 8 years

A Billy dog trotting over grass with nose and tail pointing up


Get to know the Billy

All you need to know about the breed

Lean, large and very, very fast, Billy dogs are a rare breed, both in terms of numbers and their devoted, obedient character.

Pack animals by nature and so both comfortable with other animals and their humans, the Billy breed is, quand même, a dog with a job to do, a trait they exhibit even when not on the scent of their quarry. As such, they have a strong prey instinct and are not recommended for households with smaller animals, cats included. And, while the Billy hound is known for their gentle, kind disposition, they can sometimes assert themselves with their packmates and other animals if given the chance. Known to do well with children, their size still necessitates supervision – a Billy could knock over small ones by accident.

Very clever, which can make the Billy breed challenging to train, repetition, clear boundaries (and treats) will be your best friends. This would not be a great canine choice for a first-time or non-experienced owner, and is not suited to apartment living at all. Lots of space, please.

While those striking off-white coats look soft to the touch, they are, in fact, coarse, well adapted to the outdoors where these active dogs would spend most of their time given the opportunity. Billy dogs need a decent amount of exercise each day and will positively thrive with an owner who loves to run as much as they do.

A Billy stood alert on grass in front of some trees


2 facts about Billy Dogs

1. And then there were two

Beloved in their native France since they first came on the scene, the Billy dogs’s numbers were decimated by the end of the second World War. By all accounts there were either ten dogs left – or, from many sources, two. Thankfully, the original breeder’s son stepped in and revived the bloodline. While the Billy hound is still rare outside of France, this gentle yet astute hunter isn’t going anywhere.

2. En garde?

The Billy dog breed has many talents. Tall and muscular, they are exceedingly fast runners. Their scenting acuity is astounding. They can change the volume and timber of their bark according to the quarry found. However, this gentle giant, even if at first wary of strangers, is definitely not a guard dog. The Billy will be far too curious about any new humans to do what might need to be done. Their size, however, might well be enough to discourage unknowns.


History of the breed

With a standard for the breed first established in 1885, this stalwart of the French hunting set has been around a long time. The Billy was created by one Monsieur Gaston Hublot de Rivault, who named the breed after the Chateau de Billy, his home in Poitou, France. His goal was clear: get the best qualities from established purebred French scent hounds to create the ultimate hunting dog.

To do so, he took from the Montembœuf, the Ceris and the Larye, breeds which, while now extinct, had not been tampered with and gave the Billy an exceptional bloodline. The Billy was a success, able to hunt in packs comfortably and even change the volume of their howl or bark depending on the prey found.

Sadly, two world wars wreaked havoc with the Billy’s numbers. Records show there were either ten dogs left or two, depending on sources. Had Rivault's son, Anthony, not bred the hounds that remained, the Billy would only exist in history books. He brought in Poitevin, Porcelaine – the resemblance is striking - and Harrier dogs to help the breed along without muddying its bloodlines. The Billy’s numbers are now stabilised.

While rare outside of France, these stunning, even-tempered, low-maintenance hunters were recognised by the FCI in 1973 and by the UKC in 1996.

Close-up black and white portrait of a Billy puppy


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Billy Dogs

1. Eyes

Alert eyes, very open and dark, eye rims black or brown.

2. Tail

Long, strong tail, sometimes slightly feathered.

3. Body

Strong, yet light body; forequarters more powerful than hindquarters.

Close-up side view of a Billy dog's face


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Billy
A Billy dog laying on the grass


Caring for your Billy

Grooming, training and exercise tips

While the Billy’s coat looks soft and high-maintenance, it is actually coarse and fine, and easy to keep looking good with a weekly brush-through. The Billy dog can also be wiped clean with a wet cloth as needed to remove dirt and debris from the coat and body. A twice-yearly professional grooming should be enough as long as you are clipping nails, checking and cleaning their long drop ears to prevent infection, and cleaning eyes regularly, as well as brushing teeth daily. Bathing should occur only as necessary, roughly once a month. High-energy Billy dogs require plenty of exercise – long walks, play sessions, proper runs. Just remember: this is a scent hound. Make sure they’re in a safe enclosed space if they’re off the lead as they are programmed to follow their noses and might display selective deafness to their owners’ calls. Training the Billy dog is pretty straightforward, although, as with all intelligent breeds, they can be somewhat stubborn. You’ll need to be patient, and make sure training is fun and not too repetitive. Take any food rewards out of your dog’s daily food rations to keep them trim.


All about Billy Dogs

No, they do not. However, as a hunting, tracking observant scent hound, they do make terrific watch dogs. So while they might be too excited to see new people to be your bodyguard, they will have long given their human family a vociferous warning that someone is approaching. Given the Billy breed’s loud bark – more of a howl - and impressive size, that might well do the trick.

The Billy dog is indeed rare, especially out of their native France. While they do make great pets with their gentle, obedient natures, this is a breed created to hunt in a pack where they are most often found, even today.

Other breeds that might interest you.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/