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The fluffy and lovable Bouvier des Flandres has been such a good boy that he got his own special day this month. Actually, quite a few dogs have special celebratory days this month, including the Boxer, the French Bulldog, and the beloved Lab Retriever. However, we’re putting this shaggy, hard-working herding dog in our spotlight for this blog. A local vet goes over some of the basics of this hard-working, sturdy pooch in this article from Hambright Animal Hospital, your Huntersville, NC animal clinic.
The Bouviers des Flandres is a big dog with a big heart. These shaggy pups can weigh as much as 120 pounds. Males usually weigh between about 75 and 120 pounds, and grow between 24 and 27 inches high. 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 carts, and cattle droving. In fact, the name Bouvier des Flandres literally translates to Cow Herder of Flanders.
That isn’t Fido’s only nickname, though. The name Bouvier des Flandres can be a bit of a mouthful in English. Many people just refer to these guys as Bouviers or Bouvier dogs. They’re also known as the Toucheur de Boeuf (cattle driver), Vlaamse Koehond (Flemish cow dog), and Vuilbaard (dirty beard).
The Bouvier dog’s history begins with the monks who lived at the Ter Duinen monastery. The monks bred local farm dogs with Irish wolfhounds and Scottish deerhounds. They ended up with a strong, sturdy dog that worked hard and aimed to please.
Fido soon became extremely popular in the region, for several reasons. Not only were these intelligent pooches great at guarding and herding sheep and cattle, they were also strong enough to pull carts. Plus, their thick fur helped them deal with the region’s cold winters.
An interesting note: by the twentieth century, breeders had developed three different lines of the breed: the Paret, the 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 finally settled the matter.
The Bouvier almost went extinct after World War I. Many of them were used as trench dogs. These amazing canines 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, even under fire, and helped wounded soldiers. One of these exceptional pooches, a dog named Nic, became a top show dog after the war. Nic’s pups were progenitors of the breed we know today.
Fido became very sought after during World War II. Because they had made such excellent trench dogs in the prior conflict, the Bouvier was again enlisted as a courier. According to legend, a Bouvier dog bit Adolf Hitler, who then attempted to destroy the breed. 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. Luckily, Bouvier dogs had made it to the States by then. After the war, a handful of very devoted breeders saved the pups.
Bouviers are quite affectionate, and can make great family pets. Fido tends to be a gentle giant in this role. These dogs usually do well with children, though you will need to take some precautions because of their size. They usually get along well with animals that they have grown up with, though they can be hostile towards strange dogs.
A natural guard dog, the Bouvier will often position himself in a spot where he can watch his whole family. However, they usually won’t bite unless provoked.
As far as training, 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.)
In general, Fido needs the same things as any other dog: good food, regular veterinary care, and proper exercise. Those thick coats do need a lot of maintenance, though: you’ll need to brush your canine buddy several times a week.
Exercise is also crucial. Like many working dogs, the Bouvier is quite active, especially when young. These are not low-maintenance dogs. They also need room to run, so they are not a good match for apartment dwellers. (Anyone who is renting may want to reconsider getting a large dog, because so many landlords don’t allow them. However, that’s another topic.) These guys have rather long puppyhoods, but do get a bit lazy as they age.
Before adopting a Bouvier dog, or any other pet, do plenty of research and ask your vet for care tips. Like any other breed, the Bouvier has certain characteristics. They can be the perfect dog for one household, and a complete mismatch for another.
The Bouviers’ des Flandres’ most notable feature is his heavy fur, which he styles as a double coat. Bouvier dogs can be several different colors, including fawn, black, gray, brindle, and salt-and-pepper. They have pointy ears and long chin fur that resembles a beard.
Some of the chores Fido helped with included herding sheep, pulling cards, and cattle droving. Today, Bouviers are great guard dogs. Many work as police dogs or in search and rescue. They also excel at many dog sports, such as agility, carting, obedience, tracking, and herding. Of course, they also make absolutely wonderful pets.
Fido isn’t the most popular dog on the AKC register. He typically ranks in the 80’s or 90’s as far as breed popularity. Regardless, he has made some devoted fans. These include Joan Baez, who has a one-eyed Bouvier, Ginger. Talk show host Merv Griffin also had a Bouvier named Keesh. Back in the 1980’s, Fido got national attention when he became a First Dog to President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. Their pup, Lucky, spent a year at the White House before moving to the Reagans’ ranch in California. Talk about riding off into the sunset!
Most purebred dogs are prone to developing some specific issues, due to their limited gene pools. The Bouvier is no different. The breed standard recommends having Bouvier pups screened for some specific issues, such as hip dysplasia.
Owners should also be aware of the fact that the Bouvier dog can be prone to bloat, a gastrointestinal issue that can be fatal. They 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 Huntersville, NC veterinarian’s recommendations for exams and screenings.
A few Bouviers have made it into the spotlight. At the top of that short but adorable list we have 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 that beloved 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. That pup is animated, but still counts in our book.
Do you have questions about the Bouvier? Have you recently adopted one of these dogs? Contact us, your Huntersville, NC pet hospital, today! We are dedicated to offering top notch care.