The Briard is a herding and guard dog that originated in medieval France. The breed gained new responsibilities during times of war, when it helped to locate wounded soldiers, hunted, tracked, and worked as pack animals, and became the French army’s official dog. These days, he is content to play and guard his family. Being both independent and loyal, he excels at keeping children safe, protecting the home, herding, agility trials, and even flyball competitions. With consistent grooming, the black, gray or tawny coat of this shaggy dog can remain clean and tangle free. Be sure to give the Briard lots of exercise, as this dog has high energy demands that need more than a daily walk.
The Briard has been traced back to the 8th century, when the breed was depicted in tapestries, and was mentioned in writings as far back as the 12th century. Originally thought to be descended from rough-coated sheepdogs, the Briard is an old French working dog. In France, the breed is often called the Berger de Brie. This name may have come from "chien berger de Brie", which means “shepherd dog of Brie,” and led to the belief that the breed originated in the province of Brie. Others believe that the name started as "chien d'Aubry," a reference to a famous owner of the breed, Aubry de Montdidier, whose dog avenged his death. The modern name of Briard came about in 1809. Back then, the Briard was used primarily to herd sheep, and protect their flocks from wolves and poachers. As the French Revolution stirred up the country, the lands were divided into smaller sections. Briards became focused on herding the sheep within their smaller boundaries, as well as becoming guardians of the entire property. The breed was also used as tracking, hunting, pack, and war dogs, and even to help find the wounded left on the battlefield. Some believe that the Marquis de Lafayette first brought the Briard over the ocean to the United States. Others give the credit to Thomas Jefferson who first became interested in Briards during his time in France serving as minister. In 1909, Les Amis du Briard was founded, a French society that drew up the breed standard by 1925. The first litter of Briards was registered in 1922 to the AKC, and by 1928, was officially recognized by the organization. Briards are mildly popular in the United States, but still enjoy the designation of the most popular sheep herder in its homeland of France.
The Briard is an impressive and unusual dog. The powerful, burly square body moves with a smooth and gliding gait. Long, sloping shoulders meet muscled front legs and a strong neck. Flexible hindquarters provide tireless movement. Some of the Briard’s most distinguished features include the peek-a-boo hair that is parted down the middle on the top of the head, large eyebrows that often cover dark eyes, and a luxurious mustache and beard that adorn a wide muzzle. Teeth meet in a scissor bite, and the large ears covered with hair can be cropped. Another defining characteristic is the tail, which is long, well-feathered, and ends in a J shaped curve called a crochet. Oval feet feature well-arched toes, thick pads, and hard nails. On the hind legs, there are double dewclaws. The Briard boasts a shaggy and long double coat. The outer coat is made of long, wavy, coarse hair, while the undercoat is fine and tight. The hair on the shoulders is generally around six inches or longer. The Briard has a solid colored coat that can be found in a variety of colors, most commonly black, gray, or tawny, but never white. The coat can change color as the dog ages or sheds.
The shaggy coat of the Briard needs regular grooming, or else it can become matted. If left unkempt, the tangles can lead to painful skin infections called hot spots on the dog’s skin. Plan to brush your Briard every other day to weekly to keep the hair free of mats. Due to the coarse nature of the hair, dirt and water do not cling to it, and consistent grooming can ensure a clean coat. If groomed regularly, the Briard sheds very little. It can shed seasonally, often in the spring or fall, after which time the hair may grow in a different color. Bathe the Briard only when dirty, which may only be every month or two. The beard may soak up food and water, and may need to be washed more often. The hair between the pads of the feet should be trimmed, as should any excess hair within the ears. Ears should also be cleaned regularly. This breed has lots of energy that was once needed for herding, and is not content lying around the house. Keep your Briard busy with walks, runs, and swims, except during extremely hot weather. Be sure to leash or fence in this dog when outdoors, as it has a high prey drive. This breed can live comfortably in the country or city, provided it has a fenced in yard to run in. This large dog does not do well in cramped environments, and should never be kenneled. The diet should be appropriate for its size, and may need to be adjusted with dietary supplements to deter rapid growth, or if affected by seasonal alopecia.