Bouvier des Flandres Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Bouvier des Flandres Dog

The Bouvier des Flandres, also known as the Flanders Cattle Dog, the Belgian Cattle Dog, the Koehond (“cow dog”), the Toucheur de Boeuf (“cattle driver”), the Pic (“cattle drover”), the Vuilbaard (“dirty beard”) or simply the Bouvier, is a large, rough-coated breed with its origins in Flanders, an area that covers parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and France claimed the breed as their own, causing the European Federation Cynologique Internationale to dub it the “Franco-Belgian” dog. Bouviers were owned by farmers, butchers and cattle merchants who prized the breed not for its formidable appearance but instead for its unique aptitude for driving cattle. The word “bouvier” translates literally as “bovine herder.” Today, this remains an extremely versatile, protective and powerful breed with great stamina, strength of body and character. It needs to be kept active and given defined responsibilities to thrive in an urban environment. Bouviers can excel in obedience, agility, tracking, herding, search-and-rescue, police and military service, carting, therapy, guiding, personal assistance, guarding and protection. They also can compete successfully in the conformation ring. Not a breed for everyone given its size, willfulness and commanding presence, the Bouvier can be a loyal and affectionate companion to those who lead firmly and fairly. It can be aggressive toward strangers. The Bouvier des Flandres was approved by the American Kennel Club in 1929 as a member of the Herding Group.

Male Bouviers should be between 24½ and 27½ inches in height, while females should be between 23½ and 26½ inches at the withers. They weigh on average between 65 and 110 pounds (the females are usually slightly smaller than the males). Bouviers have a recognizable beard, impressive eyebrows and an exaggerated mustache; their tousled double coat can withstand the harshest of weather conditions. Bouviers can be almost any color from fawn to black, including salt-and-pepper, gray and brindle. Parti-colored, chocolate or white are not desired. Their dense coat requires regular grooming.

Bouvier des Flandres Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly3/5
Barking Tendencies3/5
Cat Friendly3/5
Child Friendly4/5
Dog Friendly3/5
Exercise Need4/5
Grooming Needs5/5
Health Issues2/5

Bouvier des Flandres – Appearance & Grooming


According to the AKC standard, “The Bouvier des Flandres is a powerfully built, compact, short-coupled, rough-coated dog of notably rugged appearance. He gives the impression of great strength without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness in his overall makeup.” Bouviers are powerful dogs with large heads, sturdy bodies and square proportions. They have thick beards and shaggy eyebrows which are hallmark traits of the breed. Their eyes are oval and should always be dark in color and their ears should be set high atop the head. Bouviers’ water-resist double coats are thick and coarse to the touch and comes in colors of fawn, black, salt and pepper, or brindle.

Size and Weight

Bouviers stand between 23.5 and 27.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. The ideal height by breed standards for males is 25 inches and for females, 26.

Coat and Color

Bouvier des Flanders have thick, high-maintenance, water-resistant double coats. The undercoat is dense yet fine and the topcoat is long, tousled and coarse. Bouviers come in several colors: fawn, black, salt and pepper, or brindle, and many sport a white star on the chest.

Grooming Needs

Bouviers are high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. They require a bath and a trim every six to eight weeks, and in between their coats require a lot of upkeep. The thick coat of the Bouvier des Flandres needs to be brushed several times per week to keep shedding to a minimum, keep tangles and mats from forming, and to look for burrs, ticks or other items that may have gotten caught in the coat. Bouviers are hard to keep clean – especially their beards, feet, and rear ends. Their beards will hold water and food from their dishes, their rears can trap feces, and their feet will pick up mud, grass, dirt, sticks and other various outdoor items.

The ears and teeth of a Bouvier should be cleaned on a weekly basis so that harmful bacteria do not have the opportunity to flourish. Additionally, if your Bouvier does not wear his nails down naturally, monthly clippings will be in order.

Bouvier des Flandres – History and Health


The Bouvier des Flandres originated in the Flemish region of Belgium and in northern France, where it was bred as a working farm dog to herd, manage and protect livestock and other farm inhabitants. It is thought that the breed may have developed from crossing local farm dogs with imported Irish Wolfhounds, Tibetan Mastiffs, Brabanters, Schnauzers, Griffons and/or Beaucerons. In 1910, the first two Bouviers appeared at the international dog show in Brussels, catching the attention of the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert. A standard for the breed was adopted in 1912, with the assistance of a Frenchman, M. Fontaine, who was vice-president of the Club Saint-Hubert du Nord. In August of 1912, a group of Bouvier breeders gathered to create a more refined “Standard of Perfection,” which became the first official standard recognized by the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert, and the breed’s popularity grew.

The battles of the First World War nearly decimated the Bouvier des Flanders in Europe. Thankfully, a few breeders somehow retained their dogs, some of whom worked as messengers, pack dogs and ambulance dogs during the war. The most influential of these dogs was a Bouvier named Ch. Nic de Sottegem, that lived with his owner, a Belgian army veterinarian named Captain Barbry, who did what he could to preserve the breed. Captain Barbry showed Nic at the Olympic show in Antwerp in 1920, where he was recognized by the judge as an ideal representative of the breed. Although Nic died in 1926, he stamped himself on the breed. His many descendants became foundation stock, appearing in almost every modern Bouvier pedigree. The Belgian breed club was founded in 1922. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Bouvier des Flandres in 1929 and admitted the breed into its Stud Book in 1931. However, very few Bouviers were imported to the United States before World War II, and they remained nearly extinct in Europe during that time. After the war, a small handful of Western European expatriates brought a few well-bred Bouviers to America, bringing along their valuable historical knowledge of the breed.

The Bouvier des Flanders flourished in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. The fact that the maiden name of President Kennedy’s popular wife was Jacqueline Bouvier may have given the breed a boost in this country. The American Bouvier des Flandres Club was founded in 1963 and became a member of the American Kennel Club in 1971. It remains the breed’s AKC parent club. One of the more famous Bouviers in America was a dog named “Lucky,” who was President Ronald Reagan’s trusted companion.

This is the last of the Belgian bouviers to exist in measurable numbers. The other breeds, including the Bouvier de Roulers, the Bouvier de Moerman and the Bouvier de Paret, are already extinct. The only other survivor is the Bouvier des Ardennes, which may soon vanish as well.


The average life expectancy of the Bouvier des Flandres is 10 to 12 years. As with many other large breeds, they are predisposed to hip dysplasia, especially as they age. Bouviers are highly resistant to pain. Because of their high pain threshold, they can be injured or ailing without showing recognizable clinical signs, a fact of which their owners should be aware. Breed health concerns may include esophageal/pharyngeal muscle degeneration and dysphagia, entropion, primary glaucoma, cataracts, subaortic stenosis, thyroid problems and laryngeal paralysis.

Bouvier des Flandres – Temperament & Personality


Serious and thoughtful, The Bouvier Des Flanders is a dignified family companion who is built for athletics, but would much rather nap indoors by the fireplace. Rowdy and rambunctious as puppies, as adults Bouviers mellow into dignified and sober housemates. They love to be with people and are happiest when completely surrounded by their “flock” of humans. Their protective nature makes them excellent watchdogs, and they are patient with children.

Activity Requirements

This gentle giant requires a lot of vigorous activity throughout the day. As Bouviers move from adolescence to adulthood, they will become a bit lethargic and will often need to be told when it’s time to exercise, but keeping their activity levels high is very important to their health and mental well being, even if they need to be coaxed into it.

This breed, despite their large size, is well-suited for an apartment or condominium, so long as they are exercised daily. If Bouvier Des Flandres aren’t exercised enough they can become destructive, and an apartment would be mincemeat in the mouth of a bored Bouvier. A house with a large fenced-in yard for running is great, but as the Bouvier gets older, he may appreciate long walks more so than romping in the grass.


Training a Bouvier requires a strong, confident, consistent leader, and are generally not suited for the first time or passive dog owner.. This breed likes to be in charge, and will quickly take over a household if there is not a clear chain of command. Training requires lots of positive reinforcement and treat rewards; harsh discipline can lead to stubbornness and avoidance behaviors.

With proper leadership, Bouviers will excel in basic obedience. They are highly intelligent dogs and to keep their minds active should move on to advanced obedience, tricks or agility training.

Behavioral Traits

When Bouviers are young, they can be quite a handful. They grow quickly and are prone to lots of jumping and running. As they get older, they usually grow out of this. They become less overtly affectionate the older they get, but they show their affinity for their people in other ways, like curling around a loved one’s feet when it’s time to relax for the evening.

The modern Bouvier can revert to its herding roots and try to herd children, bicycles and cars. They are prone to chasing, so they should always be kept on a leash, or in a fenced yard. This herding nature also makes them protective of their family and territory, and this can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviors toward new people and animals. Early socialization can teach a Bouvier that house guests mean no harm.

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