Bit of Bouvier History
Much of what we know today about the origin of the Bouvier is due to the research of Louis Huyghebaert, a major canine authority of the late 1940's. He claims that the Flemish monasteries of the Middle Ages played a major roll in the evolution of working dogs of their region. They imported Scottish Deerhounds and other rough-coated sighthounds to be bred to the existing regional farm dogs. It is thought the possibly dogs similar to the Irish Wolfhounds were also included. They created, through selective breeding, a large rough-coated guard and chase dog. The Bouvier continued to evolve in what are now the modern Belgian provinces of West and East Flanders. In the late 1800's sufficient dogs of similar characteristics existed on Flemish farms to give rise to the Bouvier as a breed. However, they were not uniform in size, weight, in texture and color of coat, nor in the shape of the head. There were basically two types. The Bouvier des Roulers, a large, wiry black dog with a deep chest, ranged in height to 27-1/2 inches with coats of black, brindle, or dark gray. The Paret style was not quite as tall, ranging from 22-1/2 to 24-1/2 inches, with colors ranging from true fawn to sorrel, charcoal gray, and brindle. They were more barrel-chested with a coat which was not quite as wiry. These two types eventually developed into the Bouvier Belge des Flandres, recognized in 1910 by the Societe Royale St. Hubert, Belgium's national kennel club. It was not until 1933, that registrations were made under the current name, Bouvier des Flanders. Today, it would be hard to recognize the smaller Paret type, as the Roulers type evolved in most dominant breeding programs. These early Bouviers were used on farms to herd cattle. They worked, not by chasing, but by blocking and moving lead cows. Utilizing the strength and endurance of these animals to an even greater degree, the Bouvier became a draft animal, pulling milk and cheese carts, as well as turning millstones. In order to accommodate the harnesses worn by the dogs and to prevent injury to tails, the farmers docked the dog's tails shortly after whelping. Because pet dogs were at that time were taxed, the Bouviers ears were cropped to show they were a working animal, not a pet. During World War I, the breed was nearly destroyed. Flanders was devastated and breeding activity came to a stand still. Most animals were abandoned and died, and others were acquired by the Germans. World War II brought further hardship to the breed where those breeding programs in France were similarly destroyed. Bouviers were so valued by the Allies in both wars, who used them for pulling ambulance and supply carts, scenting the living wounded from the battlefield and sounding alarms, that the Axis shot Bouviers upon sight. Because of the efforts of a few dedicated people, well-hidden dogs saved the Bouvier as a breed from extinction. The Bouvier today is found world-wide and continues to evolve as a versatile, intelligent breed which adapts easily to a variety of work situations and lifestyles.