For one to understand the history of a Tervuren, you must dig into the past of the Belgium Sheepdog. It goes without saying, that the Belgian Tervuren owes much of its current status to the flock of Shepherds. Actually, until 1959, the Tervs weren’t separated from the other three sheepdogs; Malinois, Laekenois, Groenendael.
In fact, different countries and clubs recognize these breeds as a whole or singular like the AKC. The only exception, in the case of the American Kennel Club, is that the Laekenois isn’t an official breed.
The Belgian Tervuren owes its name to the village they come from, Tervuren. In Belgium, the breed is known as the Chien de Berger Belge.
During the late 1800’s in Belgium, breeders and fanciers sought out to prove if there was a distinct sheepdog. This led to the start of Belgium’s Club du Chein de Berger Belge in 1891. In fact, the club’s purpose was to develop a national breed representative to the country.
Outside of Brussels, a man by the name of Adolphe Reul along with fanciers met in 1891-1892 to discuss the differences of the sheepdogs. To begin with, the locals in Belgium knew full well that the sheepdogs were distinct by coat variety. Not to mention, each of these varieties had different personalities. There were many breeds throughout Belgium like Collies, Beaucerons and German Shepherds.
Quickly, a standard was written describing these breeds but they would be lump into one group, the Belgium Sheepdog. In 1892, thanks to the work of Reul and other breeders, there were now three varieties based on coat types: long, short and rough coats.
In that time, the major kennel club similar to the AKC was Societe Royale Saint-Hubert, which would officially recognize the breed in 1901.
Without delay, the American Kennel Club made the decision to recognize each variety as the Belgium Sheepdog in 1912.
Up until then, the Belgium Sheepdog won favor with enthusiasts all over as a sheep herding and guard dog. It wouldn’t take long for the breed to find new jobs in society.
In fact, during the Great Wars, the Belgium Sheepdog served as a messenger in the military. In addition, the breed grew popular with law enforcement helping track down fugitives in Amsterdam. The first Terv to register in the U.S. was in 1918. However, the variety of Sheepdog wouldn’t last long in America, especially during the Great Depression. Furthermore, the most popular varieties in that time were the Malinois and Groenendael.
Despite the Terv lacking as a part of American Culture, the other two varieties representing the Belgium Sheepdog took the breed’s popularity into the top 5 during the 1920’s.
After World War 2, the AKC created two types; Groenendael and Malinois. The Belgium Tervuren was non existent in the U.S. during that time. The idea didn’t sit well with some fanciers of the breed.
Many Terv enthusiasts felt the breed was much more of a talent in obedience and conformation. Rudy Robinson was one of them. Robinson began breeding the Tervs and led an effort to distinguish the breed separately from the Belgium Sheepdog. The Belgium Sheepdog in the 30’s and 40’s found itself in the Miscellaneous class due to their reducing popularity.
There was a small group of advocates protesting the Sheepdog as one breed. Moreover, the AKC sent out questionnaires asking for input. An overwhelming response to separate the Sheepdog into separate breeds drove the movement to recognize each variety as their own breed. in 1959, the Belgian Tervuren was recognized.
The Tervs are much more popular with law enforcement and the military than they are with the general public. Some Belgian Tervurens are service dogs. Today, the breed is the 107th most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club rankings.