History of the Bouvier des Flandres Breed
A doctor at the Veterinary School of Brussels, Adolphe Reul, can be credited with recognizing the good qualities of the Bouvier des Flandres breed. This breed was originally found on the French northern plain in Southwest Flanders, and it was often kept by cattlemen. The name is therefore likely derived from "Bouvier" which is French for "oxherd" or "cowherd," and the location at which the breed originated. These cattle merchants were more interested in developing a hard-working cattle driver than in pedigreed dogs, so the early Bouvier wasn't consistent in its appearance. While the derivation of the Bouvier is not well documented, some believe that its ancestors may have included the sheepdog, the mastiff, and perhaps some spaniel. Others claim that the dog may be a cross of the Beauceron and the Griffon. This breed was known by many different names at first, including: "koehond" meaning cow dog, "vuilbaard" meaning dirty beard, and "toucheur de boeuf" meaning cattle driver. While a standard for the breed was not adopted until 1912, it is documented that the Société Royale St. Hubert recognized the Bouvier des Flandres when it appeared in May of 1910 at the Brussels International Dog Show. Unfortunately, the breed underwent a dramatic drop in numbers during World War I because the areas in which the dog was primarily found were destroyed. Many of the dogs that survived were taken by the Germans, but a few others successfully survived the war with their owners. Credit for the revitalization of the breed can be given to a Bouvier that lived with the Belgian army. Named Ch. Nic de Sottegem, this dog was entered into the Olympic show in Antwerp in 1920. Nic died in 1926, but he left several descendants, many of which appear named in almost every modern pedigree. Recognized by the AKC in 1929, the Bouvier was then admitted to the Stud Book in 1931. The breed was imported into the United States from Europe by American fanciers until World War II; and in 1963, the American Bouvier des Flandres Club was established. While the Bouvier has not enjoyed much popularity in this country, it is well-known at dog shows, and it has been known for its use in search and rescue efforts and as a guide for the blind.
Size and Appearance of the Bouvier des Flandres Breed
The Bouvier des Flandres is a square-proportioned dog. The straight front legs have strong bones and defined muscles. The firm hindquarters offer back legs of moderate length and wide muscular thighs. Both the front feet and hind feet are rounded with well-arched toes, thick pads, and strong nails. Impressive in size, the head of this breed features a unique beard and mustache. The oval, dark brown eyes offer an alert and bold expression. The alert ears are placed high on the head and may be cropped or left natural. If the ears are cropped, they usually have a triangular contour, and they are shaped in proportion to the size of the head. The strong, broad muzzle on this breed tapers gently, and the large black nose often has flared nostrils. The powerful jaws have strong, white teeth that meet in a scissors bite. Strong and muscular, the neck arches gracefully into the short, yet broad, well-muscled back. The tail is normally docked, and it is usually carried upright when the dog is in motion. The gait of the Bouvier is best described as bold, free, and proud. The tousled, double coat of this breed allows the dog to withstand the most inclement weather. The outer coat consists of rough, harsh hairs, while the fine undercoat is softer and denser. The undercoat becomes thicker during the winter. The mustache and beard on the Bouvier are very thick, and the eyebrows accentuate the shape of the dog's eyes. The coat is found in colors that range from fawn to black, including salt and pepper, and gray and brindle.
Bouvier des Flandres Temperament
Loyal and devoted, the Bouvier is a fearless, protective family companion. While it is an independent breed, it is also willing to please. This dog is often reserved with strangers, and it can, at times, be aggressive with strange dogs. This breed is generally good with children, but it may have a tendency to nip at their heels when playing. The Bouvier is very intelligent and loves to learn, but it does not mature until it is two or three years old. Consistent training and early socialization are keys to a happy, well-adjusted Bouvier.
It will generally get along nicely with other pets, including cats, if socialized with them from the start. The Bouvier is well known for its loyalty and devotion, making it a wonderful family pet.
Bouvier des Flandres Recommended Maintenance
The harsh coat of the Bouvier should be combed or brushed at least once or twice a week. Shaping and scissoring is also suggested three to four times a year to keep it looking its best. The dog can be bathed using dry shampoo, but only do so when necessary. Be sure to clip any excess hair growing between the pads of the feet and inside the ears. If properly groomed, this breed should shed little. Check the teeth and nails on a regular basis. The Bouvier is a breed that needs a lot of human interaction. Daily exercise should include long walks, vigorous play, or jogging. A large fenced-in yard in the suburbs or country is ideal, but this breed will do fine in an apartment as long as enough exercise is provided. Take care to regulate this breed's exercise carefully during its growing stage; the muscles and joints of the Bouvier should not be subjected to overly strenuous activity.
Bouvier des Flandres Health
Life span: 10 - 12 years
Major concerns: CHD
Minor concerns: gastric torsion
Occasionally seen: entropion
Suggested tests: hip