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Meet The Bouvier Des Flandres

January 15 2024

As you may know, we like to celebrate all sorts of animal awareness days and events here at Westwood Veterinary Hospital. January marked special days for several dogs, including the fluffy and lovable Bouvier des Flandres. A local Ardmore, OK  vet discusses the Bouvier des Flandres—or Bouvier dog—in this article.

The Bouvier Des Flandres: Breed Origins

The Bouvier dog breed originated in Flanders, Belgium, as farm dogs back in the 1600’s. In fact, the name ‘Bouvier des Flandres’ literally translates to ‘Cow Herder of Flanders’. Cow herding wasn’t the Bouvier’s only skill, though. Some of the other chores Fido helped with included herding sheep, pulling carts, and protecting cattle.

A Pup By Any Other Name

The Bouvier des Flandres is a bit of a mouthful, so it’s no wonder that many people just call them Bouvier dogs. However, Fido also goes by Vlaamse Koehond (Flemish cow dog), Toucheur de Boeuf (cattle driver), and Vuilbaard (dirty beard).

What Is The Bouvier Des Flandres Known For?

Bouviers may be best known for being hard workers. They can often be found working in search and rescue, or as police dogs or guard dogs. These guys also excel at many dog sports. Some of the things Fido is  good at include agility, carting, obedience, tracking, and herding. 

What Does The Bouvier Dog Look Like?

Fido’s most notable feature is his shaggy fur. The Bouvier wears a double coat, which helps protect him from weather. These guys can sport several different colors, including fawn, black, gray, brindle, and salt-and-pepper. Bouvier dogs have pointy ears. They also have thick chin fur that resembles a beard.

What Kind Of Temperament Does The Bouvier Have?

Bouviers are truly great dogs. Smart, sturdy, loving, and loyal, they are quite affectionate, and make great family pets. They do well with kids, though you will need to take some precautions because of their size. 

In general, Fido tends to be a gentle giant. He usually gets along well with animals he’s grown up with, but is not always friendly towards strange dogs. A natural guard dog, the Bouvier will often position himself in a spot where he can watch the whole family. 

Proper training is a must for all dogs, but it is especially critical for these guys because of their size and intelligence. Fido tends to be a quick learner … especially once he realizes that he’ll get a treat for performing well. 

What Are The Bouvier Dog’s Care Needs? 

In general, the Bouvier dog needs the same things as any other pup: good nutrition, regular veterinary care, and proper exercise. That said, it’s important for potential owners to understand that these guys are not low-maintenance dogs. They need a lot of room, a lot of exercise, a lot of training, and a lot of love. 

Which Celebrities Have Had Bouvier des Flandres Dogs?

The Bouvier des Flandres isn’t the most popular dog, but  he has made some devoted fans. These include Joan Baez, who has a one-eyed Bouvier, Ginger. Merv Griffin also had a Bouvier dog, Keesh. However, 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 his wife Nancy. That pooch, who was appropriately named Lucky, lived at the White House for a year before moving to the Reagans’ California ranch.

How Do I Know If A Bouvier Dog Is Right For Me? 

There are a lot of things to consider before buying any dog. The Bouvier is a great pooch, but he does have some specific care needs. As mentioned earlier, he needs a fair amount of grooming. Fido will also need lots of room to run: these guys aren’t a good match for apartment dwellers. Before adopting any dog, do plenty of research and ask your Ardmore, OK veterinary clinic for care tips.

What Health Concerns Do Bouvier Dogs Have? 

Most purebreds are at elevated risk of developing some specific issues. That is true for the Bouvier as well. The breed standard recommends screening for some specific issues, such as hip dysplasia. These guys can be prone to bloat, and are also susceptible to developing eye issues, such as glaucoma and cataracts. Keep up with Fido’s veterinary care, keep an eye out for warning signs, and follow your Ardmore, OK veterinarian’s advice.

Bouvier Des Flandres Breed History

As mentioned above, Fido originated in Flanders. In the 1600s, monks bred local farm dogs with other pups, including Irish wolfhounds and Scottish deerhounds. Some of the other dogs in the Bouvier’s family tree were descended from gray hounds that were brought over to the Abbey of Duynen, a Flemish monastery, in the 11th century.

As years passed, local breeders found themselves with a strong, sturdy dog that worked hard and aimed to please. Not only were these smart pups great at both guarding and herding sheep and cattle, they were also strong enough to pull carts. They also donned thick coats that helped them deal with the region’s cold winters. However, once the car came along, Fido found his employment opportunities dwindling.

Why Did Bouvier Dogs Almost Go Extinct?

During World War I, many Bouviers served as trench dogs. Trench dogs served crucial roles during the conflict. They hauled supply carts, carried machine guns and other goods up and down trenches, delivered messages, and helped wounded soldiers. One of these pooches, Nic, proved to be a truly exceptional dog. After the war, Nic became a top show dog … and the father of the Bouviers we know today. (Side note: there were originally three variants of the breed: the Paret, Moerman, which was also known as the Roeselare, and the Briard. Breeders only finally agreed on the official standards in 1936.)

Fido’s story doesn’t quite end there, though. The Bouviers became very sought after during World War II, because they had proven so useful as trench dogs in the prior conflict. Fido was again enlisted as a courier, this time for the resistance. Legend has it that a Bouvier bit Adolf Hitler, who of course then decided to destroy the breed. Reports mention that German soldiers often shot the dogs on sight. The Bouvier breed, which had just begun to recover from losses in World War I, was again driven to the brink of extinction. 

By then, the Bouviers had made their way over to the States. After the war, a small group of devoted breeders turned their efforts to saving this Very Good Boy. Fortunately, their efforts were successful. The rest, as they say, is history.

Are There Any Other Famous Bouviers? 

A few Bouvier dogs have made it into the spotlight. There’s Patrasche, the charming 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.) We can’t forget Gretel, the faithful canine companion of ER’s Dr. Romano. A Bouvier also ‘stars’ in the manga/anime series Strike Match. We’re hoping that more of these wonderful canines will find their time to shine soon!

Do you have questions about the Bouvier des Flandres? Please feel free to contact us, your Ardmore, OK pet hospital, today! We are dedicated to providing top-notch veterinary care!  

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