The Bouvier des Flandres was once a hard working dog that was bred to herd cattle and use his brute force around the farm. Originating in Belgium and Northern France, these thick coated, intelligent dogs were almost lost during World War I when much of their land was destroyed. After the war, they gained in numbers and popularity, earning a reputation as a beloved family dog. These loyal protectors excel at any job given them, and thrive with lots of human interaction and athletic exercise. Today, you can find Bouviers working as police, rescue, and guide dogs. Despite its energetic nature, the Bouvier is just as happy to relax with their loving family.
In Southwest Flanders and the northern French plain, 17th century farmers and cattlemen needed a dog who could work on various areas of the farms. They needed cattle herders, protectors for their stock, and even some brute muscle to pull carts, churn butter, and work the grist mill. The early days of Bouvier des Flandres breeding are often debated. Some believe it to be a cross between the mastiff, sheepdog, and even a spaniel breed. Others say it is a cross of the Beauceron and Griffon breeds. Back then, the men who bred them did so purely for function, and paid little attention to any kind of breed standard. This created a great variation in appearance. Regardless, they did exhibit enough characteristics in common to be considered the same breed. Originally, they were called by many names, including “koehond,” which translates as cow dog, “vuilbaard,” or dirty beard, or “toucheur de boeuf,” or cattle driver. The term “Bouvier” is a French word meaning oxherd or cowherd, and coupled with their region of origin, their modern name was born. Along the way, Adolphe Reul, a veterinarian at the Veterinary School of Brussels, pointed out the admirable qualities of the breed to the breeders of the area, though a standard was not adopted until 1912. During World War I, numbers of Bouviers dropped as their homelands were destroyed, but one who survived, named Nic de Sottegem, appeared in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. His descendants can be found in almost every modern bloodline. The Bouvier was recognized by the AKC in 1931, and began to be imported in the United States. Today, the Bouvier has traded in the hard farm work of its origins for jobs such as police, military, rescue, and guide dogs.
Brushing the long and dense coat of your Bouvier should be performed once or twice weekly with a slicker brush and comb to prevent matting and tangling. Without regular grooming, your Bouvier can develop hot spots, painful skin lesions that can lead to infections, especially in hot and humid climates. Clipping and shaping can be done three to four times yearly, being sure to snip excess hair between paw pads and inside the ears. The long beard can become messy from eating, and may need to be cleaned more often. This breed sheds little if properly groomed. Only bathe when necessary, using dry shampoo. The strong nails of Bouviers should be trimmed regularly, and the ears checked for wax and debris. This is a breed that benefits from daily exercise and human interaction, as well as a task. Provide vigorous play sessions, walks, and jogs, but be sure to moderate exercise during the puppy growth stage. The Bouvier can thrive in both the country or in an apartment. Due to a predisposition for digestive complaints, avoid table foods high in fats, sodium, or artificial additives. While your Bouvier is a puppy, be careful to not overfeed him, as it can contribute to various physical conditions.