The Bouvier des Flandres, one of the two sole survivors of the once wide variety of Belgian cattle-droving (bouvier) dogs, is an excellent companion and guard dog The other Belgian bouvier is the Bouvier des Ardennes.
Originally used as a cattle drover and guard dog, the Bouvier now also serves as police dog and protection dog.
Bouvier des Flandres
Photo: Callalloo Alexis
Bouvier could be translated as 'bovine herder'. Etymologically the word bouvier comes from the French word boeuf (oxen). The word bouvier itself means 'cattleman' and thus the breed's name means cattleman's dog, not cow dog. However, when translated from the Flemish koehond, the literal translation is 'cow dog'.
Both Belgium and France have a region called Flandres and both countries have claimed the breed, and the FCI has dubbed it "Franco-Belgian" as a result.
Bouviers were prized as drovers and guardians, but many types, such as the Bouvier de Moerman and the Bouvier de Roulers were lost alltogether. One man can be credited by saving the Bouvier the Flandres from extinction, namely the Belgian Army veterinarian Captain Darby.
In the 1800's each region of Flanders had its own type of Bouvier:
- the Bouvier de Roulers or Roeselaerse koehond from West flanders, originally known as Moerman type or Koehond Pikhaar (literally 'stinging hair cow dog'). The Bouvier de Roulers had a deep black coat of tick, coarse hair (hence the name 'piekhaar', and was the largest and longest of the three. Due to the name pikhaar (or piekhaar) the breed was sometimes confused with the Picard, another type of Bouvier. It was also often referred to as Vuilbaard (literally 'dirty beard') because of its long beard that was often dirty after work.
- the Paret type or Vlaamse koehond ('Flemish cow dog'), named after the breeder who first showed this type of dogs. The Paret type dogs had a grey or brindle coarse coat. The Vlaamse koehond is compacter in built as compared to the Bouvier de Roulers with a shorter and broader head.
- the Briard type, from the French part of Flanders, which was lighter in structure and with a longer muzzle. It was referred to as Briard-type because it was very similar to the Briard or Bouvier de Brie and probably shared a common ancestry with that breed.
In the 1920's the Roulers or Moerman type was choosen as the unique standard for the Bouvier des Flandres, with the exception that all colors would be allowed. At first the breed's name was Bouvier Belge des Flandres as at that time there was still a Bouvier Français des Flandres on the other side of the border (in France). With the time the two types were merged into what is now the modern Bouvier des Flandres.
Note that the Bouvier des Ardennes did not originate in Flanders but is native to the region between Liège and Lille, in Northern France. However, it probably contributed to the Bouvier's gene pool, as did the Belgian cart dogs, the 'Brabantse Bullenbijters' (Bullbiters of Brabant) and the 'mâtins' (molossers) or 'rekels', dogs used form the hunting of big game. Another possible ancestor is the 'Laekense Herder' (Belgian Laekenois), which shows the same tick and coarse coat.
Some cynologists do not exclude a Southern-European influence as Flanders was long occupied by the Spaniards.
The Bouvier des Flandres is an excellent guard dog, which possesses an incredible scent. Despite its bold and determined temperament, it is very obedient and loyal.
Dogs with similar characteristics to the Bouvier des Flandres are the Bouvier des Ardennes or the Giant Schnauzer. With a longer coat, there is also the Bouvier de Brie (or Briard).
The Bouvier most characteristic feature is its impressive head with a heavy beard and mustache. Traditionally, the ears and tail of the Bouvier were cropped.
Bouviers des Flandres come in salt/pepper, black and fawn.
One of the particularities of the Bouvier's coat is that it should never be trimmed. Only a bath once in a while is recommended.
Bouvier des Flandres
(Belgian Cattle Dog, Flanders Cattle Dog)
Original idea, design and development by C. Marien-de Luca. Photos of the Dog Breeds of the World sphere of flags by Mark Stay.
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Photo: Waldemar Dabrowski
Bouvier des Flandres (Comprehensive Owners Guide)
by Robert Pollet (Author),
Carol Ann Johnson (Photographer)