About the Bouvier

Until the beginning of this century Bouviers were mainly farm dogs seen in the area of Flandres,kept purely for their working abilities.They were used primarily as cattle dogs but were also used for guarding purposes and cart pulling and any job that they were suitable for with their great strength. People were not at this point interested in their looks.

In the early years of Bouvier breeding there were great variations in types and construction,but because of the Bouvier temperament and character they became increasingly popular. Small groups of people interested in the Bouvier throughout Flandres started to breed their dogs with ‘looks’ in mind. Of course everybody had their own ideas as to how the breed should look and at this time there were no guidelines or even a breed standard.The geographical situation of Flandres meant that the Bouvier had also caused interest in Holland and France,so they too had what they thought to be the correct Bouvier

Breed History

Breed History

Many dog breeds have a history that, in many cases, spans hundreds if not thousands of years, but this is not the case with the Bouvier des Flandres. Its antecedents may stretch back this far, but it was not until the end of the 19th Century in a particular area of Belgium and France, that it was noticed by veterinary surgeons visiting local farms that certain dogs were beginning to look very similar.

The typical animal was an upstanding, fearless working farm dog; it was intelligent and had the strength to turn the milk churn, or to pull small carts for the bakers or milkmen. **PICTURE BOUVIER AND MILK CART**

Originally, there were three kinds of Bouviers;

The Bouvier d’Ardennes, **PICTURE BOUVIER DES ARDENNES 1913**
were smaller, with prick ears and a short tail, known for a while as ‘bergeots’ by the Walloons of the Wallonie district. These dogs were the smallest Bouvier.

The Bouvier de Roulers,**PICTURE BOUVUER DES ROULERS**
at the same period there was a large Bouvier, which took its name from the area around the French town. In fact, it had more in common with a Matin **PICTURE MATIN**, which was a large, smooth-coated dog.

A dog called the Bouvier des Flandres **BOUVIER 1924**
found in the North of France near Ypres and Warneton. It had a harsh coat and was used by shepherds.

In this area there was also a breed of dog call a Berger Picard,**PICTURE BERGER PICARD 1** probably resulting from a Matin-cross.

The early Bouvier des Flandres had a maximum height of twenty five and a half inches, and the Berger Picard had a maximum height of twenty three and half inches, it is assumed that the mating of the Berger Picard with the Matin produced the Bouvier des Flandres.

The make-up of a modern Bouvier des Flandres is thought to be a combination of, firstly, a harsh-coated sheepdog who measured twenty one and half inches to twenty three and a half inches, then the Bouvier des Flandres at twenty three and a half inches to twenty five and a half inches, and then largest of them all, the Bouvier de Roulers at twenty five and a half inches to twenty seven and a half inches.

The turn of the century was not a good time for the development of the sheep and cattle dogs, as the town people were following the fashion for large dogs following a revival in dogs being used for police work, and so the large Bouvier de Roulers was more in demand. But there were fanciers who appreciated the all-round working ability of the Bouvier des Flandres.
Professor Reul of the Curegheun Veterinary College wrote of their speed and courage and described how they would jump high in the air on all four legs to avoid the hooves of cattle. Cows who showed aggressions towards other dogs would be wary of the Bouvier des Flandres and were frightened to confront it. Professor Reul thought it would be well worth encouraging the development of the type of dog.

Messieurs Moermans and Paret, dog fanciers of that era, were said to be the first serious breeders of the Bouvier, but even they were not in agreement over type, and so there were continual arguments as to what should go into the Breed Standard.

At the first show in Hasselt in July 1900, four so-called ‘Bouviers’ appeared, but they differed in type and looked more like sheepdogs, although they did work cattle. The following year three ‘Bouviers’ were shown in Brussels, but they resembled Briards, and no doubt there had been matings between the sheepdogs of Northern France, the Picard and the Belgian dogs. These dogs were not heavy enough, but at a show in 1903 Professor Reul saw a dog named Tom, and after much thought, he drew up a provisional Breed Standard.

In 1910 at an International Show in Brussels the breed was represented by two dogs, Rex (RSH 1766) and Nelly (RSH 1892) belonging to Monsieur Paret, the Bouvier fancier of Ghent, who is considered to have established the foundation bloodlines of the Bouviers as we see them today. The judge of this show expressed his opinion that the Bouviers should not be shown as they should look gruff and rustic, rather than be paraded as elegant show dogs, but eventually the efforts of Monsieur Paret bore fruit and fanciers began to take the breed seriously. At this time, a few Bouviers were being shown in Holland, but they were known as Vlaamse Koehond, and their colour was black, grey or blonde.

The First World War created problems for the breed, as their territory became a battlefield. The number of cattle dogs was reduced almost to extinction, and just a few survived as stretcher-bearers, messengers and gun carriage bearers to the Front Line.**PICTURES MILITARTY 1 & 2, Bouvier with soldier**

After the war, the Bouvier moved from its original home territory, first to Antwerp and Eastern Flandres, then to the Hainault country, France and the Netherlands. During this period there was a real aim to be selective in breeding, and to produce dogs with a distinct type in mind that conformed to the Breed Standard drawn up by the Club National Belge du Bouvier des Flandres in Ghent on 15th January 1922. It took a long time for the results of the selective breeding to become apparent, and this was because of all the differing types which had contributed to the Bouvier. One type would predominate for a time and then another. Type was the most important factor; it was wisely agreed that the coat colours were a secondary consideration.

Gradually the breed improved, and it became evident a very satisfactory type was developing. This was a square-built dog with a massive chest, a well-chiseled head, enhanced by eyebrows and beard, carried proudly on a strong neck. The tail was high-placed and carried gaily to emphasize a bold temperament. The dog stood four-square on well-boned legs, but was without heaviness in movement.

In 1919 the first Belgian Bouvier was imported into Holland and in 1923 the Dutch Bouvier Club was founded. There was a small band of Bouvier enthusiasts in Holland, but the Bouvier was far more popular in Belgium at this time. One of the reasons for this was that the Bouvier was used by Customs Officers and by smugglers, as it was dark in colour, very intelligent, and was able to cross the frontier without being seen. Poachers also used them because they were very fast-moving.

Bouviers have a good nose for tracking and this made them useful as police dogs; they were courageous guards in the Army and could be trained to carry messages, moving at night without being seen. During the Second World War they were used by the Resistance movement in Holland, and they proved to be so useful that sometimes a whole street would contribute scraps of valuable food for their upkeep, so that they continue their war effort. PICTURES GENT POLICE DOGS & GENT POLICE DOGS CIRCA 1900, BOUVIER AND SOLDIER,

There were breeders in France, Belgium and Holland who knew how they wished the Bouvier to evolve, but inevitably there were disagreements, which were to the detriment of the breed. The breed also enjoyed its fair share of luck. In 1924 there was a boy called Justin Chastel, **PICTURE Justin Chastel** who lived in the French-speaking part of Belgium, and he had his own ideas about the Bouvier. He had a Bouvier female and had seen a lovely male that lived only a few streets away. He came from a poor family so a stud fee was out of the question. One dark night when he was exercising his female, the male Bouvier appeared on the scene, and nature took its course. When the puppies were born, Justin’s mother made him pay the stud fee of 50 Francs – and this was the start of the famous De La Thudinie kennel.

Over the years dedicated breeders have tried to develop and improve the Bouvier, encountering the usual setbacks that arise when a breed is being established.

It is only hoped that as this breed continues to grow in popularity that breeders will work to retain the true type and character that make the Bouvier des Flandres a unique breed.


The Bouvier des Flandres first became established in Great Britain in 1972, although in 1924 a female and two puppies were registered at the Kennel Club by a Captain H. P. Dick, and in 1948 a male named Jeep was also registered. Obviously, some Bouviers may have been brought in without the owners bothering to register them, and others may have passed through in transit to other countries.

The first positive step towards importing with a view to getting the breed established were taken in 1973 when Mrs. Pauline Brigden (Qassaba) imported Tarina de la Thuninie of Qassaba from the world famous Belgian kennel of Justin Castel. Mrs. Brigden was helped in this endeavour by Mrs. Leonard, an American living in Britain, who had already imported a male, Sibeau de la Thudinie, from the same kennel. It was hoped that Tarina would arrive in whelp, but unfortunately this was discovered not to be the case. However, she was such an excellent specimen of the breed that Mrs. Brigden retained her and imported a second female, who was carrying pups. Her name was Una de la Thudinie of Qassaba, and in March 1973 she whelped nine puppies in quarantine, by the sire Uran de la Thudinie.

This litter was to be the start of the breed becoming established in Great Britain.

In 1973, two litters were bred and Bouviers appeared in the show ring for the first time. There were only four or five dogs at first, and exhibitors had to contend with the fact that very few English judges actually recognised the breed.

Those that did had heard of their reputation on the Continent, and were reluctant to even approach!

You could not conclude your breeds history without highlighting some esteemed Bouvier links such as presidential ownership or guarding the Princess of Wales.


In 1975 Jango, handled by P.C. Edgar Dyson, became the first operational UK Bouvier police dog. At his ‘passing out’ he beat twenty two German Shepherd Dogs and one Weimaraner to become the top police dog. He became well known around the streets of London where he patrolled, and on occasions he guarded the Princess of Wales.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Ms Miranda Lucas (SACUL) who has given us permission to use articles and information from her own published book ‘Book of the Breed The Bouvier des Flandres’.

Miranda and her mother were at the forefront of the Bouvier when it first came into the UK having pick of litter from the puppies welped from Una de la Thudinie of Qassaba. So they, along with a number of other breeders in later years, can be thanked for establishing such a wonderful breed in the UK.

Breed Standards



Compact body, short-coupled, powerfully built, well boned, strongly muscled limbs, giving impression of great power but without clumsiness in general deportment.


Lively appearance revealing intelligence, energy and audacity. Its harsh beard is very characteristic giving forbidding expression.


Calm and sensible.


In proportion to build and stature general impression is of strength, accentuated by beard and moustache. Head clean cut. Skull well developed, flat, somewhat longer than wide. Proportions of skull to muzzle are 3:2. Stop shallow, but appears deep due to upstanding eyebrows. Muzzle broad, powerful, well boned, straight in upperline, sloping slightly toward nose which should never become pointed.

Circumference measured just in front of eyes approximately equal to length of head. Nose should be very well developed, thus extending the foreface in a slightly convex line towards its tip, rounded at edges, always black. Nostrils wide. Cheeks flat and clean.


Alert in expression. Neither protruding nor sunken. Slightly oval in shape and horizontally placed but not too close together. As dark as possible in relation to coat colour. Light or wild-looking eyes highly undesirable. Eyerims always black, lack of pigmentation undesirable. Haw never visible.


Set on high, very flexible, triangular and in proportion to head.


Jaws strong. Teeth strong and white with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.


Strong, well muscled and thickening slightly towards shoulders. A little shorter than length of head, nape strong and slightly arched. Without dewlap.


Forelegs very strong and absolutely straight. Shoulders relatively long, muscular without heaviness, obliquely placed. Shoulder blade and upper arm of equal length. Elbows well set into body and parallel, turning neither in or out. Forearms, seen from front or side, straight, parallel to each other, perpendicular to ground, Well muscled, heavy boned. Pasterns strong, fairly short, sloping very slightly.


Short, strong, deep, broad, compact with very little tuck up. Length from point of shoulder to point of buttock about equal to height at withers. Chest descends to level of elbows and is not cylindrical, although ribs well sprung. Croup extends horizontal line of back, blends imperceptibly with curve of rump; broad but not excessively so in dogs, broader in bitches. A rising croup, or one which falls away, very definitely undesirable.


Moderate angulation, firm and well muscled, with large, powerful thighs. Legs strong and sturdy with hocks well let down and perfectly perpendicular when viewed from rear.


Short, round and compact. Toes tight and well arched. Nails black and strong. Pads thick and hard.


Previously customarily docked or may be born tailless. Docked: Docked to 2-3 vertebrae. Undocked: Continuing normal line of vertebral column. Carried gaily when moving. In overall balance with the rest of the dog.


Powerful, driving, free and easy; ambling permitted but not desirable.


Abundant, so thick that when separated by hand skin barely visible. Hair coarse to touch, dry and matt. Neither too long nor too short, (about 6cms (2½ins)). Unkempt-looking but never woolly or curly, gradually becoming shorter as it comes down the legs, always harsh. Flat coat denoting lack of undercoat highly undesirable. Undercoat dense and close grained. On head shorter, outside of ears very short. Upper lip well moustached, lower carrying a full harsh beard giving forbidding expression so characteristic of breed. Eyebrows formed of backward-sweeping hairs accentuating shape of eyebrows but never veiling eyes.


From fawn to black including brindle. White star on chest permissible. White predominating or chocolate brown highly undesirable. Light washed-out shades undesirable.


Height: dogs: 62-68cms (24½-27ins); bitches: 59-65cms (23-25½ ins).


Approx: dogs: 35-40kgs (77-88lbs); bitches 27-35kgs (59-77lbs).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

© By kind permission of The Kennel Club

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