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History of BSD

The history of the Belgian Shepherd Dog
by Erna Bossi, The Belgian Shepherd Dog and Its History


When the inhabitants of Europe began to breed sheep and wandered through the wide open spaces with their great flocks, they had a true and hard-working friend by their sides to help them keep the flocks together and protect them, the Shepherd Dog. Depending on the region this dog was larger or smaller. So in regions where wolves or even bears had to be borne in mind as enemies of the sheep the dog was big and strong so that he could do battle against these sheepstealers. Mostly, however, he was of medium size with shaggy hair to protect him against harm from the weather.

Towards the end of the 19th century there lived in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Hungary, etc. huge flocks of sheep, cared for by shepherds with their dogs. This was the era in which little by little the customary breeds of shepherd´s and herdsmand´s dogs as we know them today became crystallised. In Germany the German Shepherd Dog, in France the Briard, Picard, Beauceron and in those southerly regions by the Spanish frontier the Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, in Italy the Maremma, in Hungary the Puli, the Kuvasz, etc. 

The shepherds in Belgian countries kept at that time a rather smaller shepherd dog about 50 to 55 cm high which ate little and did not weigh 20 Kg. These dogs were very high spirited and circled their flocks unceasingly with tireless movement, always ready to defend their trust against all and sundry. They were devoted to the shepherds but suspicious of strangers and held back from them. 

The head of this shepherd dog was rather similar to that of the wild dog or wolf, only the fangs were less strong and somewhat more pointed. The ears were small and triangular, set high and often carried slightly forward. The eyes were dark, slightly almond shaped, the expression lively, intelligent and very attentive. The body was squarish and the bone structure light. Its gait was dancing and its movement regular. A lively fellow, happy, persevering and economical. 

Professor Reul of the Veterinary Institute in Cureghem occupied himself a great deal with this Shepherd Dog type and on the 15th November 1891 called together the herdsmen and owners of such dogs in order to express and opinion on the dogs. Over 100 dogs were then brought before him. The colours of these dogs were very varied, from black to grey or brown in all shades and the coats were just as varied. There were long-haired, rough-haired and short-haired. Nevertheless the long-haired were mostly black, seldom brown or of odd colour, the rough-haired were mostly greyish and the short-haired were for the most part brown or beige, maily with a dark mask. Professor Reul told these owners what he proposed as the ideal type and recommended them only to mate those of the same coat type together, without regard to the colour. Thus amateurs and herdsmen bred for eight years according to his advice and also according to their judgement. Then the Club for Belgian Shepherd Dogs was formed and the shepherd dog of that time chosen as the National Dog. However, the newly drawn up standard, against the wish of Professor Reul, only allowed further breeding with long-haired blacks, short-haired red-browns and rough-haired greys. But the owners of brown or grey long-haired, brown rough-haired or black and grey short-haired were not agreeable that they suddenly might not breed from their dogs and founded a dissident club which was very active and productive. This Club was affiliated to the Belgian Kennel Club, forerunner of the Societe Royale St.Hubert. Each Club ran its own breed register. However, after a couple of years all breeders combined again and it was decided that breeding should take place in the following breed types:
- BLACK, long-haired with the name GROENENDAEL
- RED-BROWN, long-haired with dark overlay with the name TERVUEREN
- RED-BROWN, short-haired with the name MALINOIS
- GREY or RED-BROWN, rought-haired with the name LAEKEN 

The different varieties were named after the villages round Brussel as most of the breeders lived there at that time. 

Then came the Great War of 1914*1918. Belgium was occupied by the Germans and under those deadful conditions it was hardly possible any longer for breeders to keep several dogs and the work of past years was lost. Many good breed dogs disappeared and only in secret did one or two breeders succeed in keeping and feeding one or perhaps two dogs. When the horrors and wretchedness of the was were over, it required several years again to breed good offspring from the dogs which had survived the war. In the thirties one frist saw again larger numbers, chiefly Groenendaels, at the shows. They were of good quality and showed an excellent type though somewhat larger and heavier-boned that the pre-war dogs but in general of elegant appearance. 

On the 8th February 1920 the breeders met under the patronage of the Societe Royale St.Hubert. It was considered necessary to ease the breeding regulations in order to broaden the basis of the breed, as the was had left big gaps in the breeding stock. Thus the following points were fixed.
1. The Retention of the Four Varieties:
     GROENENDAEL - black, long haired
     TERVUEREN - red-brown, long haired
     MALINOIS - red-brown, short haired
     LAEKEN - grey, rough haired
2. The recognition of Belgian Shepherd Dogs which were neither black nor red-brown but which conformed excellently to the Standard.
3. The recognition of inter-breeding of different colours but similar coat.
4. The recognition of inter-breeding of short and rough-haired. 

On the 22nd October 1929 the black short-haired were also recognised, as also the interbreeding between the black and brown Malinois. In the red.brown and grey dogs a dark mask was desired. The dogs were bred somewhat larger as after the war there was no longer difficulty in feeding and the dollowing measurements were valid: 55-65 cm for dogs, 52-60 cm for bitches. The C.A.C.I.B. was awarded singly in each colour at Shows. 

From 1939 to 1945 a world war again raged over Eutope and once again valuable breeding stock was destroyed, for Belgium was occupied anew by the Germans and only with craft and difficulty could food enough for a couple of dogs be obtained. Nevertheless hardly had the war ended when the breeders combined to take the necessary measures to continue breeding. 

The standard laid down on the 21st October 1945 was adapted from that of February 1920, the colour divisions and interbreeding between the various colour and coat types were also allowed. Only the height measurement was altered: size for dogs 62 cm, for bitches 58 cm, with a tolerance of 2 cm minus and 4 cm plus. 

From the 1st January 1966 the F.C.I. (Federation Cynologique Internationale) allowed only 4 C.A.C.I.B.s (qualifying for the International Beauty Champion´s title) for the Belgian Shepherd Dogs, for which reason they were divided at shows into the following types:
- GROENENDAEL - black, long haired, 1 C.A.C.I.B.
- OTHER COLOURS - red-brown, beige, grey, mixed colours, long haired, 1 C.A.C.I.B.
- MALINOIS - red-brown, grey, black, short haired, 1 C.A.C.I.B.
- LAEKEN - red-brown, grey, rough haired, 1 C.A.C.I.B. 

At the begining of 1973 Belgium as a country of origin of the breed again issued new rules, which read as follows:
1. Cross-breeding between the different varieties is no longer allowed
2. Cross-breeding between the different varieties may possible be allowed in exceptional circumstances with the permission of the breed council of the country of origin. The products of such cross breeding shall only be entered in the appendix of the breed register.
3. The off-spring of cross-breeding before December 1972 will be provisionally entered in the breed register. In general, however, it is advisable to refrain from cross-breeding between the various coat and colour type. 

Should such cross-breeding be made with the permission of the Breed Council in order to improve the breed, the offspring will be registered in the appendix of the Breed Register until the outcome in colour and coat is seen in the third generation. Request for crossing must be submitted to the relevant Breed Council three months beforehand and the motive must, at the same time, be given. Further, photocopies of the pedigrees of the parent animals must be included. The offspring of such crossing will be subjected to an official examination which will decide whether they should be used for further breeding. All breeders in other countries must also accept the decision from Belgium if they wish to undertake cross-breeding, as the Belgian Breed Council is the only authority for all countries. In this connection it is to be observed that France now, as before, does not care about these decrees, undertakes cross-breeding between the various colours with the greatest success and furthermore shows the finest Belgian Shepherd Dogs. With this new ruling from Belgium one is back to the old breed rule again, for once again only four varieties will be recognised.
- GROENENDAEL - black, long haired
- TERVUEREN - red-brown with overlay and dark mask, long haired
- MALINOIS - red-brown with dark mask, short haired
- LAEKEN - red-brown, rough haired 

From 1978 the FCI recognised the following colours:
- GROENENDAEL - black, long haired
- TERVUEREN - all shades of red and grey, with overlay and dark mask, long haired
- MALINOIS - red-brown with dark mask, short haired
- LAEKEN - red-brown, rough haired 

Inter-Variety breeding is permitted on application.


How the GROENENDAEL came into being

A restaurateur named Rose, living in the hamlet of Groenendael, acquired from a sheep-breeder of Hof d´Uccle a black long-haired dog, which excelled in general performance with the flocks and also answered in his appearance the ideal of Prof.Reul. Rose already had several bitches of different colours but of similar type. He mated them to this black dog, which was called PICCARD. On of these bitches was black and was called PETITE. So Piccard and Petite became the forebears of the black Belgian Sheepdog, which they called Groenendael because the first breeder lived in Groenendael- The black offspring of this pair, mated in clos in-breeding again, produced a very well-balanced, beautifull type. Amongst these DUC and PITT de Groenendaels became especially well-known. Later descendants of this line won in the great 1906 Paris show. Another famous stud-dog of this era was PEK ZWET (which means pitch black). He was mated to a great-grand-daughter of Piccard d´Uccle, out of which mating came the four time Champion, DEMON DE L´ENFER.


History of the TERVUEREN

The black Piccard d´Uccle was also the forefather of the Tervuerens and other colours, for his son, PITT de GROENENDAEL, mated to the red-brown bitch with good black overlay, MISS (which herself came from likewise red-brown parents, TOM and POES) produced the red-brown MILSART. Milsart from black on the sire´s side and red-brown on the dam´s side, turned out to have inherited the true red-bworn and handed on this colour. This Milsart was mated in close inbreeding with his dam, his daughters and their offspring, which kept the colour in the first line, whereas in the second line the conformation points came first.

Nevrtheless, for all the fixing of the colour, this variety very soon lost the typical marks of the breed, the breeding basis was small and many breeders preferred to turn to the attractive Groenendael or to the Malinois with its ideal disposition for working: the more so since a constant battle over the colour went on, which led to a split among the breeders and to the founding of the Dissidents Club of 1900. Then came the first world war 1914-1918 and Belgium suffered undspeakably under German occupation. Valuable breeding stock went under in the turmoil of war and the breeders grew older and lost heart.


The Belgian Shepherd Dog of other colours

When the Belgian Shepherd Dog was born, about the end of the 19th century, Prof.Reul advised the first breeders to breed the dogs according to their ideal and vision, not to cross-bredd the different hair types, but to disregard colours. The battle over the colour, however, began very early, around 1900, when the newly founded club decreed that the long-haired should henceforward only be bred black, the short-haired only red-brown and the rough-haired only grey. This innovation the existing breeders of other colours did not accept and they bred outside the club´s rules at their own discretion, formed their own club and produced good long-hairs in all shades of grey and brown. In 1914 at the Brussel show a long-haired grey bitch was exhibited which took the first prize. She was called CREOLE and was from the pure black Groenendael parents Doka and Demon de l´Enfer. Creole created a great furore at the time, for she was exceptionally well-built, embodied the desired type in the highest degree and also had a wonderful nature. Through her colour she visibly rocked the established theses of the great experts and organisers of the breed, for she was light grey in colour, her name was somewhat darker and the undercoat was black. But judges as well as breeders were enchanted by her beauty and people rightly asked why one should exclude such valuable animals from breeding. After all, this so-called grey colour is simply a throw-back to the wild colour which most of the herd dogs formerly were.

The first world war put an end to all the quarrelling, for little breeding stock survived the war, so that the club saw it necessary in 1920 to let the red-brown and grey long-hairs as well to the breeding programme. Still the Tervuerens and the other colours had almost dissapeared, so that it looked as if this variety would vanish. Certainly one saw grey and brown coloured dogs here and there but they first got talked about again when in 1965 to 1970 the grey MILKO du Parc de l´Hay won in all shows. Milko came from Groenendael parents.

The history of the MALINOIS

At the first show at Cureghem, besides 40 long-hairs and 19 rough-hairs, there were also 33 short-haired Belgian Shepherd Dogs shown. In the dogs the first prize went to a red-brown, the second prize to the very strongly "overlaid" CHARLOT, and the third prize again to a red-brown dog. In the short-haired bitches a brindle won and in second and third places were two red-browns. One can see from these results that in the beginning the short-hairs were also being bred in all colours, although before long peoples suddenly tried to keep as far as possible to the red-brown colour. At that time there existed a dog from a brown brindle named SAMLO which was said to have been of extraordinary beauty. Samlo, mated to a grey bitch which on her side stemmed from a short-haired, brindled dam and a rought-haired sire, produced the prototype of the Malinois, the foundation dog of this variety. He was called TOMY and was an exceptional red-brown in colour with good overlay and dark mask.

Most breeders of the short-haired variety bred in Malines and its surroudings, whence the name of this coat type also originates. Thei dogs were mostly light red, almost yellow in colour. When these breeders saw this TOMMY, which so greatly outmatched his competitors in colour and build, they were so entranced with him that they mated their bitches to him. One of these was called CORA and out of her came a dog called TJOP, which certainly had the desired colour but was rather lacking in overlay and mask. He was well-built, elegant and also had the qualities of the working dog wich were then already much sought after. A year or two later another dog came into the limelight, called DEWET. He was closely related to Tjop, but was of rather pale colour with almost too strong overlay. But in any case these two stud dogs strongly influences the build-up of this variety.


The history of the LAEKEN

As already described, the original club of 1899 only accepted grey rough-hairs. But there were at the time rough-haired Belgian Shepherd dogs in many shades of brown. From 1900 until the second world war the Groenendael gained the prestige year in and year out because of his striking elegance, the Malinois because he was the best working dog. The Laeken, however, could only be maintained with difficulty because he was less smart in appearance, was rather quiet and introvert by nature and suited enterprising shepherds and breeders less well. Also there was a continuing battle over the colour, one group wanted him grey, the other brown, so the breed was always left somewhat between two stools. The name Laeken comes from the fatc, that there was a shepherd family with their sheep in the park of Laeken castle who for a long time bred this variety straight and knew from their parents the exact pedigrees of this dogs and that. But because this family only spoke Flemish, they had little contact with other breeders, therefore this breeder with his rough-haired dogs always stood somewhat aloof.




Z Kovárny - Groenendael, Tervueren, Malinois