When brawn meets intelligence, you get a large, untidy breed of dog known as, Bouvier des Flandres. A large and multi-purpose dog, known to some as the “dirty beard,” or “cowdog.”
While some may argue about the breed’s origins (France or Belgium), there is no need to argue that this dog can do a little bit of everything.
A Bouvier des Flandres can herd, track, compete, pull carts, act as a messenger and most importantly, love.
So what’s the story behind this canine and why should you own one someday?
Here is what you need to know about the Bouvier des Flandres.
What does the name Bouvier des Flandres mean? There is a rough translation of the name, and the meaning is “cowherd of Flanders,” which correlates how farmers and fanciers began using the dog.
At first, the breed was strictly bred for herding cattle. In fact, there is a legend that believes Bouvier des Flandres could intimidate cows and even avoid their hooves by jumping.
This breed is originally from the northern plains of France and southwest Flanders. Moreover, during the late 1800’s, fanciers began noticing a common breed in numbers. However, there were differences in each dog these farmers and fanciers found. This would be the breed’s biggest hold up in obtaining a true breed standard for many years.
Although most suspect the breed’s ancestry spans 1000’s of years ago, there is no proof of their existence during those times. Furthermore, most evidence hinges towards the late 19th century, where they were found in certain regions along the Kingdom of Belgium and northern France.
Uniquely, the Bouvier des Flandres wasn’t always just one breed. As a matter of fact, many accounts cite three types of this breed. Many thought this breed was similar to a sheepdog or a Briard.
First, there was the short tail and smaller version, the Bouvier d’Ardennes. Second, there was the larger version with a smooth coat, the Bouvier de Roulers. Finally, there was the Bouvier des Flandres, which seem to be most prevalent in the areas of Ypres and Warneton.
Around the turn of the 20th century, there still was no agreement for standard. Again, most of the Bouvier des Flandres found resembled sheepdogs. The breed’s appearance, temperament, and size would continue to be a debatable subject. Even if the dog was appearing at leading dog shows in Brussels around 1900.
Monsieur Paret is a key figure for the history of this breed. He began showing off two of his Bouvier des Flandres in 1910. Many believe he is the first to create a standard after a great deal of fanfare came from his showing at the Brussels dog show.
World War 1 and 2 was hard on many breeds. Some breeds nearly became extinct, while others saw their numbers diminishing. The Bouvier des Flandres was one of them. The lack of breed standard didn’t help either.
However, a breed standard was finally written in Ghent around 1922. A huge step in the right direction for the breed as a general consensus for the breed’s features and size was near.
Meanwhile, the breed began making appearances in the United States during the 1920’s. Not long after, in 1931, the American Kennel Club made it official with recognizing the breed.
Thankfully, the breed’s registration numbers would return to the rise after the World Wars with the help of working with police, military, farmers, fanciers, and appearances in competitions.
Today, the breed has quite the extensive resume. On top of the list above, they can also serve people with visual and hearing impairments as service dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Bouvier des Flandres is the 83rd most popular breed.
The Bouvier des Flandres is a large breed, which has different heights for male and female dogs. For instance, the American Kennel Club standard is 24.5 inches to 27.5 inches for a male. A female can range between 23.5 inches to 26.5 inches.
Both should weigh between 70 to 110 pounds.
Don’t let the imposing features fool you, the Bouvier des Flandres is a gentle giant. However, if they feel the need to step in and protect their family, this breed will have no problem doing so. Naturally, a very protective dog, that is faithful and very loving to their family. Many cite and credit this breed with being rationale and gentle, which makes them okay with children. The one thing to remember about smaller children and large breeds is the size. Size can do damage, if the dog doesn’t know it’s hurting someone. If you own this dog, it’s best to practice caution around the kiddos.
Bouviers do have a tons of courage and are brave. They shouldn’t be too timid, shy or aggressive. Around strangers, they may be a little standoffish, but with proper socialization, they tend to be fine, just a bit weary.
This is a dog that will sit around if you let it. However, if you expose them to what they are good at like agility, canine sports and etc, this is a very agile breed. This breed enjoys mental and physical exercise.
Fine with other dogs, but again, you’ll need to practice a bit of caution.
As a herding dog, the Bouvier des Flandres enjoys running and jumping. They may nibble and chew at times, but nothing a bit of training can’t overcome. If running and jumping is a problem, bring them outside and let them entertain themselves that way. This is a breed that shouldn’t bore but they do so easily. Again, giving them access to the outdoors will help you in the long run.
Sweet, loving, caring and affectionate, the Bouvier des Flandres has all of the traits for being a great family dog, that can protect and guard from intruders.
A Bouvier des Flandres is a relatively healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. How long your dog lives and at what quality of life they have hinges on a couple of things. First, when you buy this breed, make sure you get them from a reputable breeder, who can provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances. Second, you’ll want to schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to maintain good health.
Some of these health complications are minor and others are worth monitoring more closely. For example, Subaortic Stenosis or SAS, is a hereditary disorder, in which the aortic valves are narrowing and can cause issues in how the heart’s blood flows. This is an issue for other breeds like Mastiffs, Rottweilers and Black and Tan Coonhounds.
Large breeds or dogs that have deep chests seem to suffer from Gastric Torsion. You may know this as “Bloat,” when the dog’s stomach twists or rotates around its short axis. Also, when a dog has an excess of air or gas inside their stomach and cannot release it effectively. This can cause death, pain and discomfort. Other breeds that suffer from Bloat are Akitas and Basset Hounds.
Bouvier des Flandres may have issues dealing with Cataracts. Cataracts is cloudiness of the crystalline lens which results in opacity or complete blindness. This often affects Hybrid and mix breeds more often, but is found in this breed as well as the Toy Poodle, terriers, American Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, and Labs.
Another issue to look out for is Hypothyroidism. This is due to a lack of production or secretion in the thyroid hormones, which can affect how the organs and metabolic system operates. Signs like hair loss, weight gain, dry coat or lethargy are good indicators of Hypothyroidism.
Of course, there are issues like Hip and Elbow Dysplasia to watch out for, as well as ovarian cysts and cancer.
This isn’t a breed that enjoy boredom. They need to be busy with a job or task. Plenty of exercise is crucial in avoiding health issues and boredom. The suggestion of up to an hour seems to suffice most Bouvier des Flandres owners.
From the get go, you will need to socialize your dog as a puppy. This is very true to this breed. Early socialization will help create a much more friendly dog that is personable and likeable. Introducing them to strangers and fellow animals will help shape their social construct.
An experience owner is probably the best hand for this breed. They tend to need more space, as they are herding dogs. However, you don’t need a pastoral of land to own one. Apartments aren’t ideal for the Bouvier des Flandres.
The Bouvier des Flandres should eat a high quality dry food diet, if that’s the route you take it. Regardless, meat should be the first ingredient. Chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, eggs, veggies and healthy supplements are all vital to your dog’s well being.
Most owners report success feeding their Bouvier des Flandres twice a day. This helps reduce the chances of Bloat. You can feed them once in the morning and again in the evening.
If you have a working dog, then you will need to work at replenishing their calories. Also, you’ll want to be consistent about their protein intake and fat percentage. Most breeders seem to strive for a 30 to 40 percent protein value per day, and 12 to 18 percent fat pct.
Of course, you should always provide your Bouvier des Flandres with fresh drinking water.
If you’re looking for a breed of dog that is low maintenance, you may want to consider another breed. Most Bouvier des Flandres fanciers suggest daily brushing, but at the least you’ll want to brush about four times per week.
You can bathe them as necessary. This breed has a double coat. The top coat is rough and coarse, while the undercoat is close to the skin, soft and dense. The soft to the touch coat can withstand most weather conditions. The AKC says the coat should be at a length of no less than 2 1/2 inches.
According to the American Kennel Club: Black, brindle, fawn, gray and brindle, pepper and salt are suitable colors. The kennel club doesn’t allow for markings, although you may find certain dogs with black masks, and brindle markings.
The Bouvier des Flandres isn’t a household name with respects to the canine community. That said, it should be, considering how much this breed has been able to do in a short period of time. Which brings up the lengthy amount of time it has took getting this breed their own standard.
Yet, that hasn’t had much of an effect on how well this breed can do numerous tasks. They can pull carts, deliver messages for the military ambulance services, sniff out drugs and detect explosives, herd livestock, and assist those who can’t assist themselves.
At the end of the day, the Bouvier des Flandres is one heck of a multi dimensional dog that has one bright future ahead for them.