Getting To Know The Bouvier Des Flandres

A very special pup is taking center stage this month: the fluffy and lovable Bouvier des Flandres got his special day due to his good behavior. Fido’s official day was January 16th, but we’re happy to keep him in the spotlight for a few more weeks. Here’s an article from a local London, ON vet about this adorable pooch.


Breed Basics: Bouvier Des Flandres


Originally a Belgian herding dog, the Bouviers des Flandres has a big heart and a body to match. Males typically weigh between 75 and 120 pounds and grow between 24 and 27 inches tall, while females usually weigh 60 to 80 pounds and grow 23 to 26 inches tall. On average, they live between 10 and 12 years.


At one time, there were three variants of the breed: the Paret, the Moerman, the Roeselare, and the Briard. In 1936, a French-Belgian committee settled the matter after a lack of consensus among breeders about the official standards.


Bouviers are known for their ability to be great guard dogs. They’re also quite versatile working dogs, who excel at many dog sports. Some of the things they do well at include agility, carting, obedience, tracking, and herding. Of course, they also make great pets! 


A Pup By Any Other Name


Fido’s name literally means Cow Herder of Flanders. This points to the breed’s origins in Flanders, Belgium, back in the 1600s. Of course, the name Bouvier des Flandres can be a bit of a mouthful in English. Many just call these guys Bouviers or Bouvier Dogs. However, Fido goes by many other names, including Toucheur de Boeuf (cattle driver), Vlaamse Koehond (Flemish cow dog), and Vuilbaard (dirty beard). 


Is A Bouvier Dog A Good Pet?


This isn’t a yes or no question. Fido may be the perfect pup for one household, and a complete mismatch for another. Bouviers are great dogs, but they require a lot of care. As we mentioned earlier, these guys are quite large, and need room to run. Therefore, they probably aren’t a good match for apartment dwellers. 


Before adopting any dog, do plenty of research and ask your London, ON vet for care tips. 


Do Bouviers Have Any Health Concerns?


As with all purebreds, the Bouvier is prone to developing certain issues. The breed standard recommends screening for hip dysplasia and other specific issues. These guys also tend to develop eye problems, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and entropion. Make sure Fido gets regular veterinary care, and follow your London, ON veterinarian’s recommendations for exams and screenings.


Are There Any Famous Bouviers?


A few of these Very Good Boys have made it into the spotlight. At the head of that short but adorable line, 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 him.) Then there was Gretel, Dr. Romano’s faithful dog companion. The manga/anime Strike Match also stars A Bouvier.


A Long Tail: History Of The Bouvier Des Flandres Breed


As mentioned above, Fido was born in Flanders. He is a descendant of pups bred by the monks at Ter Duinen monastery, who crossed 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, way back in the 11th century. 


Some of Fido’s original duties included herding sheep, pulling cards, and driving cattle. Over time, breeders in the area focused on refining the desired characteristics. This led to the development of a robust dog with a strong work ethic and an eagerness to please his owners. The Bouvier quickly gained popularity for a variety of reasons. Not only were these intelligent dogs skilled at both guarding and herding livestock, they also possessed the strength to pull carts to and from the market. Additionally, their thick coats provided them with insulation from the harsh Belgian winters. However, with the advent of cars, Fido’s job options began to decline.


Bouvier’s Close Call


The Bouvier had a few brushes with extinction in the early 1900’s. In fact, without a few fortunate turns of events, the Bouvier may not have survived the transition into the twenty-first century. In World War I, they became popular trench dogs. Trench dogs played crucial roles during the war, performing important tasks such as transporting supply carts and weapons through trenches, delivering messages, and aiding injured soldiers. They often performed under fire. One remarkable canine named Nic became a highly regarded show dog after the war. He ultimately became the progenitor of the Bouviers we recognize today.


The story doesn’t quite end there, though. Due to their superior trench performance during World War I, the Bouviers became very sought after during World War II. Fido was once again enlisted as a courier, this time for the Allies. It has been said that one of the pups bit Adolf Hitler, who then tried to destroy the breed. German soldiers were known to often shoot the Bouviers on sight. As a result, the breed, which had just begun to recover from its losses during World War I, was again threatened with extinction. Fortunately, the Bouviers had made their way over to the United States by that time. A small group of dedicated breeders worked diligently to save the line. 


What Do Bouvier Dogs Look Like?


The Bouviers’ most notable feature is his thick, shaggy double coat. The Bouvier can wear several different colors, including fawn, black, gray, brindle, and salt-and-pepper. He has pointy ears, and chin fur that resembles a beard … hence the name.


What Is The Temperament Of A Bouvier Dog?


Smart, steadfast, loving, and loyal, Bouviers are truly exceptional canine companions. They are highly affectionate and make wonderful additions to any family. (Note: Although they do well in the presence of children, it’s important to take precautions due to their large size.) Fido is known to be a gentle giant and typically gets along well with other animals. He does best with ones he has been raised with, though: due to his protective nature, he may not always welcome unfamiliar dogs. Natural guardians, Bouviers have a tendency to position themselves in a way that allows them to oversee their entire family. That may sound intimidating, but these guys typically only resort to biting if provoked.


Training is key. As with any big dog, it’s very important to teach this pup proper manners. However, Fido is a quick learner. (Tip: Bouvier dogs love snacks, and are quite food-motivated when it comes to learning.)


What Famous People Have Owned Bouvier des Flandres Dogs?


Although not the most popular dog, Fido has a dedicated following and has caught the attention of several influential individuals. For instance, Joan Baez, who penned the song “Old Blue” in honor of loyal companions, is a fan. She adopted a one-eyed Bouvier named Ginger. Similarly, Merv Griffin also owned a Bouvier named Keesh. Fido’s biggest turn in the spotlight was during the 1980’s, when he was the First Dog to President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy. Lucky, as that pup was known, resided at the White House for a year before relocating to the Reagans’ California ranch.


Is your dog due for veterinary care? Contact us, your London, ON pet hospital, if you have any questions about the Bouvier!


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