The Bouvier originated in Belgium as a working dog, where it served farmers, butchers and cattle merchants. The dogs differed at that time in size, weight and color, so the breed was not uniform; but yet all possessed enough similar characteristics to be called a Bouvier. The name Bouvier des Flandres means “cowherd from Flanders”. Although there is no real consensus considering the origin of the breed, many believe this working dog descended from crossing the Griffon with the Beauceron, a French herding breed.
This powerfully built, compact, rough-coated dog features a square profile, a tapered muzzle, a beard, and bushy eyebrows. It also has a double, weather-resistant coat that often has a shaggy appearance. Coat color ranges from fawn to black as well as salt and pepper, gray and brindle. This is a breed that needs a lot of grooming! The long coat requires regular bushing as well as a bath or dry shampoo on occasion. The Bouvier should also be trimmed two to three times each year.
The Bouvier is considered a rugged, agile and even-tempered dog, making for a fine working breed. Its pleasant, gentle nature also makes it a great family pet. It is good with children and is an obedient, easy-to-train dog.
When not working a farm, the Bouvier des Flandres applies its skills and energies in American Kennel Club (AKC) events, such as herding, agility, tracking, obedience and conformation. Despite his compact, stocky body, this dog is quite agile. Country and suburban living suits this breed best. The Bouvier needs regular exercise, including long, brisk walks or even jogs through the neighborhood or hiking woodland trails – just remember to properly care for the dog’s coat upon return from the woods!
The Bouvier not only served as a farmer’s helper, but during World War I, the breed was also used as a messenger dog as well as a rescue dog. Similar duties are still performed by Bouviers today; some of these intelligent, spirited dogs serve in search and rescue and others serve as guide dogs for blind people. A few are also used as assistance dogs to the hearing impaired.
A Bouvier stands 22 to 28 inches (56 to 71 cm) tall and weighs 60 to 110 pounds (27 to 50 kg). The breed is prone to hip dysplasia and eye problems, such as cataracts. These dogs usually live 10 to 12 years.
The Bouvier des Flandres is very loyal to its owners and makes a great watchdog. The breed is considered steady, resolute and fearless. A Bouvier can try to dominate other dogs in the family. Therefore, early training is necessary. One is also wise to monitor other smaller animals, such as cats, around the Bouvier because of those herding and protection instincts.
The breed first came to North America during the early to mid 1900s. This intelligent, Belgium-bred dog continues its working heritage serving on farms and in families. The AKC recognized the Bouvier as part of the organization’s Herding Group in 1931 and by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1948.