This shaggy dog was first bred by a group of monks in Flanders, which today is the Dutch-speaking upper region of Belgium. The monks bred a formidable farm dog who possibly has her roots in the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound, and a host of working farm dogs found in Flanders. The result down through the centuries has been the Bouvier des Flanders, a large, tireless, rough-coated breed able to deftly perform nearly any task on a farm: cattle droving, sheep herding, cart pulling, and guarding the family. They are also well suited to police work.
The Bouvier des Flandres is a herding dog that needs defined responsibilities and vigorous exercise to be happy. That’s good, because Flanders boasts a fertile agriculture where there’s always something for a dog to do.
Initially both Belgium and France claimed the breed as their own; Belgium somehow won out. Belgian merchants and farmers prized the breed for his ability to drive cattle over long distances. In fact, the French word bouvier means “bovine herder.”
The first two show Bouviers appeared at an international event in 1910; a breed standard was established in 1912. That standard was revised over the years, and the breed’s popularity grew. World War II was hard on the breed, with many working as messengers, pack dogs and ambulance dogs; it was fortunate that a few breeders kept their dogs at home, or the breed might have faced extinction. A Bouvier belonging to a Belgian army veterinarian was shown in 1920, was deemed an ideal example of the breed, and along with his descendents became the prime breeding stock for Bouviers.
The AKC first recognized the Bouvier des Flandres in 1929; however, by that time, the breed was still close to extinction. A few Americans brought Bouviers back when they returned, having acquired the Europeans’ knowledge of the breed.
Bouviers did much better in the 1950s and 1960s; it is hypothesized that the First Lady’s maiden name, Jacqueline Bouvier, might have enhanced the breed’s cachet, even though the Kennedy family did not own one. Years later, a Bouvier named Lucky would become a companion to President Ronald Reagan.
Bouviers des Flanders are expected to stand between 23.5 and 27.5 (ideally, 25 inches for males and females alike). Weight should fall between 80 and 200 pounds.
The Bouvier’s undercoat is dense yet fine; and the topcoat is long, tousled and coarse. Bouviers come in several colors: fawn, black, salt and pepper, or brindle, and many sport a white star on the chest.
The Bouvier’s gentleness and loyalty make her an ideal farm dog and family dog alike. The dogs need to be trained as puppies to avoid suspiciousness and fear of strangers. They do not need to be taught to protect the family, as this comes naturally. A Bouvier’s love of the family children comes naturally.
Once mature in both body and mind, the Bouvier can undergo individual, basic obedience training; however, the Bouvier is considered an adolescent until age two or three.
Health issues that have the potential to affect this breed are hypothyroidism and major issues like elbow dysplasia, canine hip dysplasia, sub-aortic stenosis, and glaucoma. Talk to your vet about how to watch for and possibly prevent these maladies.
Compared to other breeds, Bouviers might be considered high maintenance. They need to be brushed several times each week to prevent tangles, matting and too-rapid loss of the topcoat.
In years past, dogs’ tails and ears were cropped to prevent them from getting in the way on on a cattle drive; at present, however, AKC and other governing bodies discourage these practices as cruel and unnecessary.
The Bouvier undercoat is dense yet fine and the topcoat is long, tousled and coarse. Bouviers come in several colors: fawn, black, salt and pepper, or brindle, and many sport a white star on the chest.
When looking for a dog, please consider rescuing. Here is a link to the Bouvier rescue: http://www.abrl.org/