The Beauceron, also known as the Bas Rouge, the Beauce Shepherd, the Berger de Beauce and the French Shorthaired Shepherd, is the largest of the French sheepherding dogs. It is closely related to the longhaired Briard (Berger de Brie) and has been controlling flocks of sheep and herds of cattle since at least the 16th century. The Beauceron is a muscular, deep-chested and imposing dog with a short coat and a long tail, somewhat resembling a cross between a Doberman Pinscher and a German Shepherd Dog. This is a potentially aggressive breed, always ready to attack if it deems it necessary to protect its people, property or livestock. However, if gently and consistently trained and socialized, thye Beauceron can make a loyal and trusted companion. One of the more unusual features of the breed is the required presence of double dewclaws on its rear legs. The Beauceron was only recently recognized by the American Kennel Club, becoming a member of the Herding Group in 2007.
The Beauceron is an entirely French dog. A written description of a dog closely resembling a Beauceron was found in a Renaissance manuscript dating back to 1587. In 1809, a priest named Abbe Rozier published an article on French herding breeds and was the first to describe the longhaired variety as the Berger de la Brie (the Briard) and the shorthaired variety as the Berger de la Beauce (the Beauceron) – both named after regions in France. Large sheep flocks and cattle herds were common in France in the early 19th century, and the Beauceron became indispensable to the men who tended them. This breed also was used to hunt wild boar early in its development. The breed was first identified as the "Beauceron" in or around 1888. The French Societe Central Canine was founded in 1882 and registered its first Berger de Beauce in 1893.
The Beauceron reportedly made its first appearance at a French dog show in 1900, although it had been shown as a "French sheepdog" since the mid-1800s. The first specialty breed club – the Club des Amis du Beauceron - was formed in the early 1900s, with the assistance of M. Paul Megnin, an acclaimed zoologist and devout fancier of the breed. A French breed standard was quickly written. At about the same time, French sheep production began a slow but steady decline and also began to be managed differently, making canine shepherds largely unnecessary and almost obsolete for their original function. As a result, the French breed club began promoting their dogs in areas other than herding, especially for use as personal guardians and protectors. Beaucerons were used extensively during both world wars to carry messages to the front lines, detect hidden mines and other explosives and carry replacement ammunition belts to troops. The breed's popularity spread to Holland, Belgium and Germany in the late 1900s, and to a lesser extent to the United States. The latest revisions to the French breed standard were made in 2001 – only the 6th modification made in 100 years.
Today, this lovely breed is still used as a herding dog, a personal protection dog and a police, military, tracking and search-and-rescue animal. They are increasingly popular with obedience and agility enthusiasts and also are used for handicapped assistance, skijoring and Schutzhund work. Beaucerons are exceptionally devoted to their family. They are instinctively protective and naturally distrusting of strangers. They are described in an American Kennel Club publication as being "like some people who don't talk much but have a strong presence. They have a dimension, a depth, rarely found in other dogs. This is the Beauceron, then and now."
The Beauceron's average lifespan is between 10 and 12 years, which is in line with the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years). They have relatively few health problems. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found in the Beauceron, but not necessarily found, are as follows:
Bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus)
Strong and confident, the Beauceron always appears to be in a serious mode of thinking. This is because he probably is. A vigilant breed, the Beauceron makes an excellent watchdog and companion for an active family or a farming family. This breed is independent, able to solve problems and highly intelligent – making them an ideal rancher's assistant. Though serious and tough-looking on the outside, Beaucerons are gentle giants with their families and adore playing with children.
The Beauceron is not an apartment dog, nor is the breed well-suited for a family who just wants an easy-going companion. They do make excellent family companions, and even act as "nannies" for children playing outdoors, keeping a watchful eye, they are not a standard family dog. Beaucerons were originally bred to assist farmers with herding and guarding flocks, and to this day they are their happiest when active. Strolling around a neighborhood won't satisfy this breed's daily activity requirement. They are, however; perfect for a true "outdoorsperson" who likes to walk, hike, bike and swim. Country and farm settings with lots of room to run and flocks of animals to tend to are the best environment for this breed.
Beaucerons are a challenge to train and are not for the timid trainer or first-time dog owner. Highly intelligent, with a yen for independent thinking, this breed will take a yard if given an inch. A consistent, confident air is needed when training a Beauceron, in order to establish who is in charge. Beaucerons assume they are in charge, until proven wrong.
Once a chain of command is established Beaucerons will excel in basic obedience, and should be "graduated" into advanced training in either tricks, tracking or agility. Just as this breed needs lots of physical activity, they also need mental stimulation in order to stave off boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors.
Protective by nature, Beaucerons can be wary of strangers. Early socialization can prevent this wariness from turning to aggression. Animal aggression, however; is another story. Beaucerons can be extremely aggressive with other dogs of the same sex. Unless your Beauceron is raised alongside other pets, it is best not to try and introduce another animal into the home.
Destructive behaviors are common in this breed, though not because of separation anxiety. This dog was bred to work alongside farmers and herd animals, and if their natural desire for constant activity and exercise is not met, they will quickly channel their energy into chewing and digging.
Their herding nature can make them chasers or nippers. Families with lots of children should supervise play with a Beauceron. They aren't likely to turn aggressive on children, especially children they know and love, but a nip on the heel from the strong jaw of a Beauceron could mean injury for a child. They will also chase after smaller animals, including smaller breeds of dogs, so families in a residential area should never allow their Beauceron off-leash unless in a securely fenced-in area.
The Beauceron is an old and distinct French breed of herding dog, developed solely in France with no foreign crosses. Dogs were bred and selected for their aptitude to herd and guard large flocks of sheep as well as for their structure and endurance. Beaucerons were used to move herds of 200 to 300 head traveling up to 50 miles per day without showing signs of exhaustion. The ideal Beauceron is a well balanced, solid dog of good height and well muscled without heaviness or coarseness. The whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness, exhibiting the strength, endurance and agility required of the herding dog. He is alert and energetic with a noble carriage. A formidable dog with a frank and unwavering expression, he always demands respect wherever he goes. Dogs are characteristically larger throughout with a larger frame and heavier bone than bitches. Bitches are distinctly feminine, but without weakness in substance or structure. The Beauceron should be discerning and confident. He is a dog with spirit and initiative, wise and fearless with no trace of timidity. Intelligent, easily trained, faithful, gentle and obedient. The Beauceron possesses an excellent memory and an ardent desire to please his master. He retains a high degree of his inherited instinct to guard home and master. Although he can be reserved with strangers, he is loving and loyal to those he knows. Some will display a certain independence. He should be easily approached without showing signs of fear.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size: males 25½ to 27½ inches; bitches 24 to 26½ inches at the withers. Disqualification: Height outside of maximum or minimum limits. Proportion: The Beauceron is medium in all its proportions, harmoniously built with none of its regions exaggerated in shortness or length. The length of body, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock, is slightly greater than the height at the withers. Bitches can be slightly longer than dogs. Correct proportion is of primary importance, as long as size is within the standard's range. Substance: Powerful, well built, well muscled, without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness. Dogs lacking substance should be severely penalized.
The head is long, well chiseled with harmonious lines without weakness. The head must be in proportion with the body, measured from the tip of the nose to the occiput it is about 40% of the height at the withers. The height and width of the head are each slightly less than half its total length. The skull and muzzle are of equal length. Expression: The gaze is frank, alert, and confident. Eyes: The eyes are horizontal and slightly oval in shape. The eyes must be dark brown, never lighter than dark hazel. For the Harlequin, walleye is acceptable. Disqualification: Yellow eyes. Walleye in the Black and Tan. Ears: The ears are set high, and may be cropped or natural. The cropped ear is carried upright and is neither convergent nor divergent, pointing slightly forward. The well-carried ear is one whose middle falls on an imaginary line in prolongation of the sides of the neck. The natural ears are half pricked or drop-ears, they stand off the cheeks. Natural ears are flat and rather short, their length is equal to half the length of the head. Disqualification: Natural ears carried upright and rigid. Skull: The skull is flat or slightly rounded near the sides of the head. The median groove is only slightly marked and the occipital protuberance can be seen on the summit of the skull. Stop: The stop is only slightly pronounced and equidistant from the occiput and the tip of the nose. Muzzle: The muzzle must not be narrow, pointed, or excessively broad in width. Planes: Seen in profile the top lines of the skull and muzzle are parallel, and the junction of the two forms a slightly pronounced stop midway between the occiput and the tip of the nose. Nose: The nose is proportionate to the muzzle, well developed and always black. In profile, the nose must be in line with the upper lip. Disqualification: Split nose, nose color other than black or with unpigmented areas. Lips: The lips are firm and always well pigmented. The upper lip overlaps the lower lip without any looseness. At their juncture, the lips form very slight but firm flews. Teeth: A full complement of strong white teeth, evenly set, and meeting in a scissors bite. Disqualification: Overshot or undershot with loss of contact; absence of three or more teeth (the first premolars not counting).
Neck, Topline and Body
Neck: The neck is muscular, of good length, united harmoniously with the shoulders, enabling the head to be carried proudly while standing in an alert posture. Topline: The back is straight and strong. The withers are well defined. The loin is broad, short and muscular. The croup is well muscled and slightly sloped in the direction of the attachment of the tail. Body: The length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock is slightly more than the height of the dog at the withers. Chest: The chest is wide, deep, long, and descends to the point of the elbow. The girth of the chest is greater than the height at the withers by more than 20%. Ribs: The ribcage extends well back with long, flexible, and moderately curved ribs. The abdomen is moderately drawn up but still presents good volume. Tail: The tail is strong at the base, carried down, descending at least to the point of the hock, forming into a slight J without deviating to the right or to the left. In action, the tail can be carried higher, becoming an extension of the topline. Disqualification: Docked tail, or tail carried over the back.
The construction of the forequarters is of the utmost importance, determining the dog's ability to work and his resistance to fatigue. The legs are vertical when viewed from the front or in profile. Shoulder: The shoulders are moderately long, muscular but not loaded, with good layback. Forearm: The forearms are muscular. Feet: The feet are large, round, and compact with black nails. The pads are firm yet supple.
The angulation of the hindquarters is balanced with the forequarters. The hindquarters are powerful, providing flexible, almost tireless movement. They are vertical when viewed from profile and from behind. Legs: The thighs are wide and muscled. Hock joint is substantial, not too close to the ground, the point situated roughly at ¼ the height at the withers, forming a well open angle with the second thigh. Metatarsals are upright, slightly further back than the point of the buttock. When viewed from behind, metatarsals are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. Feet: The feet are large, round, compact, and the rear toes turn out very slightly. Dewclaws: Double dewclaws form well separated "thumbs" with nails, placed rather close to the foot. Disqualification: Anything less than double dewclaws on each rear leg.
Outer coat is 1¼" to 1½", coarse, dense and lying close to the body. It is short and smooth on the head, ears and lower legs. The hair is somewhat longer around the neck. The tail and back of thighs are lightly fringed. The undercoat is short, fine, dense and downy, mouse gray in color and does not show through the outer coat. The Beauceron is exhibited in the natural condition with no trimming. Disqualification: Shaggy coat.
Black and Tan: The black is very pure; the tan markings are squirrel red; the markings are: dots above the eyes; on the sides of the muzzle, fading off on the cheeks, never reaching the underside of the ears; two spots on the chest are preferred to a breastplate; on the throat; under the tail; on the legs the markings extend from the feet to the pasterns, progressively lessening, though never covering more than 1/3 of the leg, rising slightly higher on the inside of the leg. Some white hairs on the chest are tolerated. Gray, Black and Tan (Harlequin): Black and Tan base color with a pattern of blue-gray patches distributed evenly over the body and balanced with the base color, sometimes with a predominance of black. Disqualification: Any color other than Black and Tan or Harlequin. Complete absence of markings. Well-defined, quite visible white spot on the chest 1" in diameter or larger. In the Harlequin: too much gray; black on one side of body and gray on the other; head entirely gray.
Movement is fluid and effortless, covering ground in long reaching strides (extended trot). Strong, supple movement is essential to the sheepdog. In movement the head is lowered approaching the level of the topline. Dogs with clumsy or inefficient gait must be penalized.
Frank approach and self-assured; never mean, timid, or worried. Although reserved with strangers, the character of the Beauceron should be gentle and fearless. Any display of fear or unjustifiable aggression is not to be tolerated.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.
Note: Males must have two normal testicles properly descended into the scrotum.
Height outside of maximum or minimum limits.
Split nose, nose color other than black or with unpigmented areas.
Overshot or undershot with loss of contact; absence of three or more teeth (first premolars not counting).
Yellow eyes. Walleye in the Black and Tan.
Natural ears carried upright and rigid.
Docked tail, or tail carried over the back.
Anything less than double dewclaws on each rear leg.
Any color other than Black and Tan or Harlequin.
Complete absence of markings.
Well-defined, quite visible white spot on the chest 1" in diameter or larger.
In the Harlequin: too much gray; black on one side of body and gray on the other; head entirely gray.
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Sources: American Kennel Club