The Bouvier des Flandres is a dog breed originating in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium. They are used for general farm work including cattle droving, sheep herding, cart pulling, and as guard dogs, police dogs, and security dogs, as well as being kept as pets.
The name is translated from French to mean Herdsman of Flanders, however, this contradicts the Flemish origin of the dog. In Flemish, they are commonly called Koehond, which is cattle dog. The Bouvier des Flandres is also known by other names such as Toucheur de Boeuf (cattle driver) and Vuilbaard (dirty beard).
The Bouvier des Flandres is powerful, solid, short-coupled, and rough-coated, with a noticeable rugged appearance. He has great strength without any sign of weight or gaucheness. The Bouvier des Flandres is spirited and bold, yet serene and well behaved. It has a steady, resolute, and fearless character. Its gaze is alert and brilliant, depicting intelligence, vigor, and daringness.
President Ronald Reagan’s dog, Lucky, was a Bouvier des Flandres.
Males are 24½ to 27½ inches in height, measured from the withers. Females are 23½ to 26½ inches in height, also measured from the withers. Weight: Males weigh 75-90 pounds. Females weigh 60-80 pounds. The Bouvier des Flandres is powerfully built, strong boned, well muscled, without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness.
The head is large in scale, highlighted by a type of beard and mustache. It is in proportion to body and build. The expression of the gaze is bold and alert. Eyes are average and do not protrude or appear sunken. The eye shape is oval with the alignment horizontal, when viewed from the front. Their eye color is normally a dark brown. The nose is big, black, well-developed, round on the edges, and has flared nostrils.
The neck is muscular, gradually widening into the shoulders. The back is very short, broad, well muscled, with firm, level topline. The body of the dog is also short with much muscle. The abdomen is slightly tucked up. The tail is very small, and sometimes it is normal to see dogs of this breed born tailless.
The Bouvier des Flandres has a double coat capable of withstanding hard work in bad weather. The outer hairs are harsh and rough with a fine, soft undercoat. It is tousled but not curly. On the head, hair is short, and on the upper part of the back, it is close and rough. Ears are also rough. The undercoat is dense, but even thicker in winter to brave the cold. Together with the topcoat, the coat acts as a water-resistant covering. The Bouvier des Flandres has almost a mustache and beard. They are very thick, with shorter and rougher hair on the upper side of the muzzle. The upper lip with its heavy mustache and the chin with its heavy and rough beard gives a gruff expression. The eyebrows accentuate the shape of the eyes without ever veiling them. The coat’s color is anywhere from fawn to black, sometimes a salt and pepper look, and gray and brindle. There may be a small white star on the chest.
Former French club president Thorp said, “This breed rightly acquired a great reputation for calm and safety.” This strength of character has lasted through many generations. Stable and sociable, he has become an ideal family companion and pet. The Bouvier des Flandres is a loving friend to children. It is a very loyal dog. It is watchful of the house and property, and takes care of the family the best it can.
J Chastel wrote, “He does not show any unnecessary fear or aggression. He must be at the same moment wise and fearless.” This intelligent, renowned dog acts only after having deliberately analyzed the situation, almost as a human.
Bouvier des Flandres are used to living in harsh conditions so they are rarely ill or injured. However, some dogs may suffer from Hip Dysplasia and eye problems such as Cataracts. The Bouvier has a very high threshold of pain. This makes them a very bad patient for a Veterinarian, as they cannot tell where the dog is hurting by manipulating body parts.
The Bouvier des Flandres is an energetic and active dog that has an average demand for exercise. The dog requires all its energy to build a strong, healthy frame, and grow strong.
The shaggy coat requires a lot of attention. Brush regularly and bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. The Bouvier des Flandres should be trimmed around three times per year. The ears and the pads of the feet need trimmed more often and should be done in between the three yearly trimmings of their coat. Trim the feet so they seem round. A well-groomed Bouvier des Flandres sheds very little hair. Some Bouvier des Flandres owners have reported it to be good for allergy sufferers.
The region of Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, shared an artificial border between France and Belgium dating back to the treaty of Utrecht in 1715. It has preserved the characteristics common to this region. In the 19th century, in this region, the Bouvier des Flandres became an expert as a farm guard dog, and was bred to watch cattle in the fields. It was also a draft dog used to pull carts of milk or coal. The Bouvier des Flandres received their tracking ability from the dogs used by tobacco smugglers between Belgium and France. Many Bouviers also worked with customs officers of the same area.
During the 20th century, he was seen in canine exhibitions in the North of France and Belgium. In 1912, the Bouvier des Flandres was seen in a competition of “Dogs used in agriculture” with the agricultural committee of the North. This competition was the brainchild of the “Saint Hubert Club of North” (Fédération Cynologique Internationale, or FCI, Club).
During the war between the years of 1914-1918, the Bouvier des Flandres came close to the brink of extinction. The geographic zone where these dogs were used in the fields was the major battle zones. After the way, breeding kennels began to show up again with the unique Bouvier des Flandres. In 1928, Belgium accepted the official name “Bouvier des Flandres” was accepted in 1928 in Belgium and France followed in 1931. This brought about a common standard in 1938.
Beginning in 1946, the Bouvier des Flandres started exportation to other countries, such as England and America, where they have now become very popular. The Bouvier des Flandres is present in the all of Europe and in America. In 1965, The Belgian and French clubs, met in Lille, outside of the original hometown of the Bouvier des Flandres, and adopted one unique standard for this Franco-Belgian breed.