by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
A dog which has been gaining steadily in popularity in the United States, despite the setback brought about by World War II, is the Bouvier des Flandres, or Belgian cattle dog. The Bouvier des Flandres is a very ancient breed, having existed in several varieties for several hundred years. During this time he has been known under half a dozen names, most of which have referred to his remarkable ability as a cattle drover.
The term "Bouvier" has the meaning of cowherd, or ox driver. Another name once used for this dog was "Chien de Vacher," meaning "cowherd's dog." Still another referred to the harsh coat of one variety, being called "pikhaar," a Flemish term meaning "hair which pricks." This name was discarded because it caused people to connect the dog with a French breed of Picardy shepherd.
The Bouvier des Flandres first came to the attention of breeding experts and show fanciers in 1910. Immediate interest in the breed was aroused. It was then ascertained that at least four varieties of cattle dogs existed side by side. These were:
It was decided that the first type, the Bouvier des Flandres, was really the oldest of the four. And many experts were agreed that the Moerman was obtained by crossing the Bouvier des Flandres with a breed known as the Marin.
The breed caught the fancy of French and Dutch breeders as well. Moreover, the dogs began to perform well at trials, both for cattle driving, defense, and army work. Fanciers became entranced by the dogs, which were good looking, and yet could vie with all other breeds at the trials.
However, World War I nearly caused the extermination of the breed. After the war, breeders began to rebuild on the basis of the stock which had been saved. But for a long time there were at least four standards for the breed, and a dog which might win its championship in Belgium might find itself disqualified in France. This was partly caused by the efforts to bring the Bouvier and the Moerman into the same standard.
The Bouvier Des Flandres began to appear in the United States in the late nineteen thirties. As was stated earlier, progress in the United States was halted by World War II. The war cut off Belgian breeding stock, both by making it unavailable for export to the United States, and by reducing the number of dogs actually owned in Belgium. However, there is now sufficient breeding stock in the country to make possible a fair progress in the breed.
The breed was for many years an unrivaled aid to the shepherd and an excellent farm dog. Changes in customs as well as its instinctive qualities have made it appreciated by a great number of fanciers. They have made a watch and police dog of it, work in which it is able to employ all its intelligence and energy. Or it has been used as an ambulance dog and messenger, functions which several members of the breed filled with the greatest success during World War II.
The Bouvier Des Flandres is a dog of powerful build with an alertness, energy, spirit and courage. With his compact built body and rough coat, he is capable of withstanding the hardest work and most inclement weather.
The color of this breed may be from fawn to black, passing through pepper and salt or a grey and brindle. The coat is harsh, that is, rough, hard and wiry, neither silky nor long like that of the Briard. It is so thick that if it is separated with the hand the skin is hardly visible. At the base of the coat there is a finer coat of softer texture. The under coat which is thicker in winter as with furbearing animals.The male dog height is from 23-1/2 to 27-1/2 inches; while the female has a height from 22-3/4 inches to 26 inches at the shoulder.
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