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Meet The Bouvier Des Flandres

January 15, 2024

A very special pup is bounding into the spotlight this month. The fluffy and lovable Bouvier des Flandres has been such a good boy that he got his own special day this month. January 16th is Fido’s official celebration, but we’re happy to keep this pooch in the spotlight for a few more weeks. A local vet goes over some of the basics of this cute pooch in this article from All About Animals, your Carrollton, GA veterinarian, serving the Villa Rica area.

Bouvier Des Flandres: Breed Basics

Originally a Belgian herding dog, the Bouviers des Flandres is a big dog with a big heart. These shaggy pups can weigh up to 120 pounds. To be more specific, the males usually weigh between about 75 and 120 pounds and grow between 24 and 27 inches high, while females weigh between 60 and 80, and are usually between 23 and 26 inches. They live about 10 to 12  years, on average.

Fido’s origins are clear from his name: the breed originated in Flanders, Belgium, as farm dogs back in the 1600’s. Some of the chores Fido helped with included herding sheep, pulling cards, and cattle droving. In fact, his name literally translates to Cow Herder of Flanders.

A Pup By Any Other Name

The Bouvier des Flandres can be a bit of a mouthful in English. Many people just refer to them as Bouvier dogs. However, that isn’t Fido’s only name. He also goes by Toucheur de Boeuf (cattle driver), Vlaamse Koehond (Flemish cow dog), and Vuilbaard (dirty beard).

What Is The Bouvier Des Flandres Known For?

Today, the Bouviers are best known for being great guard dogs. They can often be found working as police dogs or guard dogs, and also excel at many dog sports. Some of the things they excel at include agility, carting, obedience, tracking, and herding. Of course, they also make absolutely wonderful pets.

Bouvier Des Flandres Breed History

As mentioned above, Fido originated in Flanders. His history begins with the monks who lived at the Ter Duinen monastery, who bred local farm dogs with Irish wolfhounds and Scottish deerhounds. In fact, some of the dogs in the Bouvier’s family tree include hounds that were brought over to the Abbey of Duynen, a Flemish monastery, in the 11th century.

As years passed, local breeders continued to hone in on the desired traits. The result was a strong, sturdy dog that worked hard and aimed to please. The Bouvier was extremely popular in the region, for several reasons. Not only were these smart pups great at both guarding and herding sheep and cattle, they were also strong enough to pull carts to the market and back. Plus. Their thick coats helped them deal with the region’s cold winters. Once the car came along, Fido found his employment opportunities dwindling.

The Bouvier’s Close Call

But for a few lucky twists of fate, the Bouvier may not have made it into the twenty-first century. In fact, the breed almost went extinct after World War 1. One exceptional pooch, Nic, lived during this period. Nic was trained as a trench dog. Trench dogs served crucial roles during the conflict. They often hauled supply carts, carrying machine guns and other goods up and down trenches. They also delivered messages, often while under fire. They also helped wounded soldiers. Nic proved to be a truly exceptional dog. After the war, he became a top show dog … and the father of the Bouviers we know today.

The AKC welcomed Fido into his ranks back in 1929. This may have happened earlier, but for disagreements about different lines of the breed. There were three variants at the time: the Paret, Moerman, which was also known as the Roeselare, and the Briard. Breeders did not come to agree on the official standards until 1936, at which point a French-Belgian committee settled the matter.

The story doesn’t quite end there, though. The Bouviers became very sought after during World War II, because they had proven to be such excellent trench dogs in the prior conflict. Fido was again enlisted as a courier, this time for the Allies and various resistance movements. Legend has it that one of the pups bit Adolf Hitler, who then decided to destroy the breed. While there is no official confirmation of this, reports mention that German soldiers would often shoot the Bouviers on site. 

The breed, which had just begun to recover from losses in World War I, was again driven to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, by then, the Bouviers had made their way over to the States. 

What Do Bouvier Dogs Look Like?

The Bouviers’ most notable feature is his thick, shaggy coat. The Bouvier has a double coat. Fido can sport several different colors, including fawn, black, gray, brindle, and salt-and-pepper. He has pointy ears, and chin fur that resembles a beard, though it’s not as defined as the Scottish Terrier’s.

What Kind Of Temperament Does The Bouvier Have?

Smart, steadfast, loving, and loyal, Bouviers are truly great dogs. They are quite affectionate, and can make great family pets. They do well with children, though you will need to take some precautions because of their size. Fido tends to be a gentle giant. He usually gets along well with animals he’s grown up with, though he is not always friendly towards strange dogs. The Bouvier is a natural guard dog, and will often position himself in a spot where he can keep an eye on his whole family. However, they usually won’t bite unless provoked. 

Proper training is a must, of course, but this intelligent pup tends to be a quick learner. (Tip: These guys really, really love snacks, and are quite food-motivated when it comes to learning.) 

How Do I Care For A Bouvier?

As far as basics go, Fido needs the same things as any other dog: good food, regular veterinary care, and proper exercise. That said, these are not low-maintenance dogs. You’ll need to brush your fluffy buddy several times a week. You’ll also need to keep him active. (This can get challenging, as the Bouvier tends to get a bit lazy.) Ask your Carrollton, GA vet for specific care tips.

What Celebrities Have Owned Bouvier des Flandres?

Fido isn’t the most popular dog: he typically ranks in the 80’s or 90’s as far as breed popularity. That said, he has made some devoted fans. These include Joan Baez, who wrote the song Old Blue about Man’s Best Friend. Baez has a one-eyed Bouvier, Ginger. Merv Griffin has a Bouvier named Keesh. Fido’s most recent turn in the spotlight probably happened back in the 1980’s, when he became a First Dog to President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. That pup, Lucky, spent a year at the White House before moving to the Reagans’ California ranch.

Is A Bouvier Dog Right For Me? 

The Bouvier is a great dog, but he does have some specific care needs. As mentioned earlier, he needs a lot of grooming. These guys also need room to run: they aren’t a good match for apartment dwellers. Before adopting any dog, do plenty of research and ask your Carrollton, GA veterinarian for care advice.

What Health Concerns Do Bouvier Dogs Have? 

Most purebreds are prone to developing some specific issues. The Bouvier is no different. The breed standard recommends screening for some specific issues, such as hip dysplasia. They can be prone to bloat, and also tend to develop eye issues, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and entropion (inward-turning eyelids). Keep up with Fido’s veterinary care, and follow your Carrollton, GA recommendations for exams and screenings. 

Are There Any Other Famous Bouviers? 

A few of these Very Good Boys have made it into the spotlight. There’s Patrasche, the fictional pup from the classic children’s book A Dog of Flanders. (Note: if you ever visit Antwerp, you can find statues of the pooch.) Then there was Gretel, the faithful canine companion of ER’s Dr. Romano. A Bouvier also ‘stars’ in the manga/anime series Strike Match. 

Do you have questions about the Bouvier? Contact us at All About Animals, your Carrollton, GA veterinarian, serving the the Villa Rica area.

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