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Bouvier des Flandres


The Bouvier des Flandres, also known as the Flanders Cattle Dog, the Belgian Cattle Dog, the Koehond ("cow dog"), the Toucheur de Boeuf ("cattle driver"), the Pic ("cattle drover"), the Vuilbaard ("dirty beard") or simply the Bouvier, is a large, rough-coated breed with its origins in Flanders, an area that covers parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and France claimed the breed as their own, causing the European Federation Cynologique Internationale to dub it the "Franco-Belgian" dog. Bouviers were owned by farmers, butchers and cattle merchants who prized the breed not for its formidable appearance but instead for its unique aptitude for driving cattle. The word "bouvier" translates literally as "bovine herder." Today, this remains an extremely versatile, protective and powerful breed with great stamina, strength of body and character. It needs to be kept active and given defined responsibilities to thrive in an urban environment. Bouviers can excel in obedience, agility, tracking, herding, search-and-rescue, police and military service, carting, therapy, guiding, personal assistance, guarding and protection. They also can compete successfully in the conformation ring. Not a breed for everyone given its size, willfulness and commanding presence, the Bouvier can be a loyal and affectionate companion to those who lead firmly and fairly. It can be aggressive toward strangers. The Bouvier des Flandres was approved by the American Kennel Club in 1929 as a member of the Herding Group.
Male Bouviers should be between 24½ and 27½ inches in height, while females should be between 23½ and 26½ inches at the withers. They weigh on average between 65 and 110 pounds (the females are usually slightly smaller than the males). Bouviers have a recognizable beard, impressive eyebrows and an exaggerated mustache; their tousled double coat can withstand the harshest of weather conditions. Bouviers can be almost any color from fawn to black, including salt-and-pepper, gray and brindle. Parti-colored, chocolate or white are not desired. Their dense coat requires regular grooming.

History & Health


The Bouvier des Flandres originated in the Flemish region of Belgium and in northern France, where it was bred as a working farm dog to herd, manage and protect livestock and other farm inhabitants. It is thought that the breed may have developed from crossing local farm dogs with imported Irish Wolfhounds, Tibetan Mastiffs, Brabanters, Schnauzers, Griffons and/or Beaucerons. In 1910, the first two Bouviers appeared at the international dog show in Brussels, catching the attention of the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert. A standard for the breed was adopted in 1912, with the assistance of a Frenchman, M. Fontaine, who was vice-president of the Club Saint-Hubert du Nord. In August of 1912, a group of Bouvier breeders gathered to create a more refined "Standard of Perfection," which became the first official standard recognized by the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert, and the breed's popularity grew.
The battles of the First World War nearly decimated the Bouvier des Flanders in Europe. Thankfully, a few breeders somehow retained their dogs, some of whom worked as messengers, pack dogs and ambulance dogs during the war. The most influential of these dogs was a Bouvier named Ch. Nic de Sottegem, that lived with his owner, a Belgian army veterinarian named Captain Barbry, who did what he could to preserve the breed. Captain Barbry showed Nic at the Olympic show in Antwerp in 1920, where he was recognized by the judge as an ideal representative of the breed. Although Nic died in 1926, he stamped himself on the breed. His many descendants became foundation stock, appearing in almost every modern Bouvier pedigree. The Belgian breed club was founded in 1922. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Bouvier des Flandres in 1929 and admitted the breed into its Stud Book in 1931. However, very few Bouviers were imported to the United States before World War II, and they remained nearly extinct in Europe during that time. After the war, a small handful of Western European expatriates brought a few well-bred Bouviers to America, bringing along their valuable historical knowledge of the breed.
The Bouvier des Flanders flourished in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. The fact that the maiden name of President Kennedy's popular wife was Jacqueline Bouvier may have given the breed a boost in this country. The American Bouvier des Flandres Club was founded in 1963 and became a member of the American Kennel Club in 1971. It remains the breed's AKC parent club. One of the more famous Bouviers in America was a dog named "Lucky," who was President Ronald Reagan's trusted companion.
This is the last of the Belgian bouviers to exist in measurable numbers. The other breeds, including the Bouvier de Roulers, the Bouvier de Moerman and the Bouvier de Paret, are already extinct. The only other survivor is the Bouvier des Ardennes, which may soon vanish as well.


The average life expectancy of the Bouvier des Flandres is 10 to 12 years. As with many other large breeds, they are predisposed to hip dysplasia, especially as they age. Bouviers are highly resistant to pain. Because of their high pain threshold, they can be injured or ailing without showing recognizable clinical signs, a fact of which their owners should be aware. Breed health concerns may include esophageal/pharyngeal muscle degeneration and dysphagia, entropion, primary glaucoma, cataracts, subaortic stenosis, thyroid problems and laryngeal paralysis.

Temperament & Personality


Serious and thoughtful, The Bouvier Des Flanders is a dignified family companion who is built for athletics, but would much rather nap indoors by the fireplace. Rowdy and rambunctious as puppies, as adults Bouviers mellow into dignified and sober housemates. They love to be with people and are happiest when completely surrounded by their "flock" of humans. Their protective nature makes them excellent watchdogs, and they are patient with children.

Activity Requirements

This gentle giant requires a lot of vigorous activity throughout the day. As Bouviers move from adolescence to adulthood, they will become a bit lethargic and will often need to be told when it's time to exercise, but keeping their activity levels high is very important to their health and mental well being, even if they need to be coaxed into it.
This breed, despite their large size, is well-suited for an apartment or condominium, so long as they are exercised daily. If Bouvier Des Flandres aren't exercised enough they can become destructive, and an apartment would be mincemeat in the mouth of a bored Bouvier. A house with a large fenced-in yard for running is great, but as the Bouvier gets older, he may appreciate long walks more so than romping in the grass.


Training a Bouvier requires a strong, confident, consistent leader, and are generally not suited for the first time or passive dog owner.. This breed likes to be in charge, and will quickly take over a household if there is not a clear chain of command. Training requires lots of positive reinforcement and treat rewards; harsh discipline can lead to stubbornness and avoidance behaviors.
With proper leadership, Bouviers will excel in basic obedience. They are highly intelligent dogs and to keep their minds active should move on to advanced obedience, tricks or agility training.

Behavioral Traits

When Bouviers are young, they can be quite a handful. They grow quickly and are prone to lots of jumping and running. As they get older, they usually grow out of this. They become less overtly affectionate the older they get, but they show their affinity for their people in other ways, like curling around a loved one's feet when it's time to relax for the evening.
The modern Bouvier can revert to its herding roots and try to herd children, bicycles and cars. They are prone to chasing, so they should always be kept on a leash, or in a fenced yard. This herding nature also makes them protective of their family and territory, and this can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviors toward new people and animals. Early socialization can teach a Bouvier that house guests mean no harm.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Bouvier des Flandres is a powerfully built, compact, short-coupled, rough-coated dog of notably rugged appearance. He gives the impression of great strength without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness in his overall makeup. He is agile, spirited and bold, yet his serene, well behaved disposition denotes his steady, resolute and fearless character. His gaze is alert and brilliant, depicting his intelligence, vigor and daring. By nature he is an equable dog. His origin is that of a cattle herder and general farmer's helper, including cart pulling. He is an ideal farm dog. His harsh double coat protects him in all weather, enabling him to perform the most arduous tasks. He has been used as an ambulance and messenger dog. Modern times find him as a watch and guard dog as well as a family friend, guardian and protector. His physical and mental characteristics and deportment, coupled with his olfactory abilities, his intelligence and initiative enable him to also perform as a tracking dog and a guide dog for the blind. The following description is that of the ideal Bouvier des Flandres. Any deviation from this is to be penalized to the extent of the deviation.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--The height as measured at the withers: Dogs, from 24½ to 27½ inches; bitches, from 23½ to 26½ inches. In each sex, the ideal height is the median of the two limits, i.e., 26 inches for a dog and 25 inches for a bitch. Any dog or bitch deviating from the minimum or maximum limits mentioned shall be severely penalized. Proportion--The length from the point of the shoulder to the tip of the buttocks is equal to the height from the ground to the highest point of the withers. A long-bodied dog should be seriously faulted. Substance--Powerfully built, strong boned, well muscled, without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness.

The head is impressive in scale, accentuated by beard and mustache. It is in proportion to body and build. The expression is bold and alert. Eyes neither protrude nor are sunken in the sockets. Their shape is oval with the axis on the horizontal plane, when viewed from the front. Their color is a dark brown. The eye rims are black without lack of pigment and the haw is barely visible. Yellow or light eyes are to be strongly penalized, along with a walleyed or staring expression. Ears placed high and alert. If cropped, they are to be a triangular contour and in proportion to the size of the head. The inner corner of the ear should be in line with the outer corner of the eye. Ears that are too low or too closely set are serious faults. Skull well developed and flat, slightly less wide than long. When viewed from the side, the top lines of the skull and the muzzle are parallel. It is wide between the ears, with the frontal groove barely marked. The stop is more apparent than real, due to upstanding eyebrows. The proportions of length of skull to length of muzzle are 3 to 2. Muzzle broad, strong, well filled out, tapering gradually toward the nose without ever becoming snipy or pointed. A narrow, snipy muzzle is faulty. Nose large, black, well developed, round at the edges, with flared nostrils. A brown, pink or spotted nose is a serious fault. The cheeks are flat and lean, with the lips being dry and tight fitting. The jaws are powerful and of equal length. The teeth are strong, white and healthy, with the incisors meeting in a scissors bite. Overshot or undershot bites are to be severely penalized.

Neck, Topline, and Body
The neck is strong and muscular, widening gradually into the shoulders. When viewed from the side, it is gracefully arched with proud carriage. A short, squatty neck is faulty. No dewlap. Back short, broad, well muscled with firm level topline. It is supple and flexible with no sign of weakness. Body or trunk powerful, broad and short. The chest is broad, with the brisket extending to the elbow in depth. The ribs are deep and well sprung. The first ribs are slightly curved, the others well sprung and very well sloped nearing the rear, giving proper depth to the chest. Flat ribs or slabsidedness is to be strongly penalized. Flanks and loins short, wide and well muscled, without weakness. The abdomen is only slightly tucked up. The horizontal line of the back should mold unnoticeably into the curve of the rump, which is characteristically wide. A sunken or slanted croup is a serious fault. Tail is to be docked, leaving 2 or 3 vertebrae. It must be set high and align normally with the spinal column. Preferably carried upright in motion. Dogs born tailless should not be penalized.

Strong boned, well muscled and straight. The shoulders are relatively long, muscular but not loaded, with good layback. The shoulder blade and humerus are approximately the same length, forming an angle slightly greater than 90 degrees when standing. Steep shoulders are faulty. Elbows close to the body and parallel. Elbows which are too far out or in are faults. Forearms viewed either in profile or from the front are perfectly straight, parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. They are well muscled and strong boned. Carpus exactly in line with the forearms. Strong boned. Pasterns quite short, slightly sloped. Dewclaws may be removed. Both forefeet and hind feet are rounded and compact turning neither in nor out; the toes close and well arched; strong black nails; thick tough pads.

Firm, well muscled with large, powerful hams. They should be parallel with the front legs when viewed from either front or rear. Legs moderately long, well muscled, neither too straight nor too inclined. Thighs wide and muscular. The upper thigh must be neither too straight nor too sloping. There is moderate angulation at the stifle. Hocks strong, rather close to the ground. When standing and seen from the rear, they will be straight and perfectly parallel to each other. In motion, they must turn neither in nor out. There is a slight angulation at the hock joint. Sickle or cow-hocks are serious faults. Metatarsi hardy and lean, rather cylindrical and perpendicular to the ground when standing. If born with dewclaws, they are to be removed.Feet as in front.

A tousled, double coat capable of withstanding the hardest work in the most inclement weather. The outer hairs are rough and harsh, with the undercoat being fine, soft and dense. The coat may be trimmed slightly only to accent the body line. Overtrimming which alters the natural rugged appearance is to be avoided. Topcoat must be harsh to the touch, dry, trimmed, if necessary, to a length of approximately 2½ inches. A coat too long or too short is a fault, as is a silky or woolly coat. It is tousled without being curly. On the skull, it is short, and on the upper part of the back, it is particularly close and harsh always, however, remaining rough. Ears are rough-coated. Undercoat a dense mass of fine, close hair, thicker in winter. Together with the topcoat, it will form a water-resistant covering. A flat coat, denoting lack of undercoat is a serious fault. Mustache and beard very thick, with the hair being shorter and rougher on the upper side of the muzzle. The upper lip with its heavy mustache and the chin with its heavy and rough beard gives that gruff expression so characteristic of the breed. Eyebrows, erect hairs accentuating the shape of the eyes without ever veiling them.

From fawn to black, passing through salt and pepper, gray and brindle. A small white star on the chest is allowed. Other than chocolate brown, white, or parti-color, which are to be severely penalized, no one color is to be favored.

The whole of the Bouvier des Flandres must be harmoniously proportioned to allow for a free, bold and proud gait. The reach of the forequarters must compensate for and be in balance with the driving power of the hindquarters. The back, while moving in a trot, will remain firm and flat. In general, the gait is the logical demonstration of the structure and build of the dog. It is to be noted that while moving at a fast trot, the properly built Bouvier will tend to single-track.

The Bouvier is an equable dog, steady, resolute and fearless. Viciousness or shyness is undesirable.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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