Bouviers des Flandres

Breed At A Glance


Enthusiastic, pleasant and easy to train

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
Males 23-28 inches; Females 22-27 inches

Average Weight
Males 75-90 lbs; Females 60-80 lbs

Coat Color
Black, fawn, blonde, gray, or brindle

Coat Length/Texture
Rough, shaggy-looking outer coat, with a dense undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Very little when properly groomed

Also known as Flanders Cattle Dog, Vlaamse Koehond, Toucheur de Boeuf, Vuilbaard

General Temperament

In contrast to it’s intimidating appearance, the Bouvier des Flandres is a calm, gentle and obedient dog. Their intelligence rivals that of the German Shepherd, and they learn commands almost as quickly. They are even-tempered and playful, making them excellent companions for children. The Bouvier can be quite wary of strangers and is extremely protective of it’s human family. They make excellent guard dogs.

This breed requires an experienced handler who will establish and maintain dominance, otherwise the dog will take over and become unruly. Training should be consistent throughout the dog’s life, as they think independently and can sometimes be stubborn. But once a Bouvier des Flandres learns a command, they remember it for life.

Whether a Bouvier will get along with other household pets largely depends on their individual temperament, so be sure to find a puppy from parents whose personality you like. Socialize the Bouvier with existing family pets (dogs, cats, etc.) early to prevent inappropriate dominance or aggressive tendencies.

Although they are energetic and enjoy having plenty of room to roam and play, Bouviers can be happy in an apartment if properly exercised. They are particularly well-adjusted to harsh weather conditions.

Breed History

The Bouvier des Flandres takes it’s name from it’s homeland, the Flanders area of Belgium (the name literally “cowherder of Flanders”). It may have been a mix of the Belgian Griffon and the Baueceron, but the official lineage is unclear. Like with many other herding dogs, the original breeders of the Bouvier des Flandres did not give much consideration to establishing a breed standard; they preferred to breed based on working ability. This dog proliferated until the beginning of World War I, when the areas where it lived and worked were largely destroyed or abandoned, putting the breed as a whole in jeopardy. But a few specimens remained, and one in particular, Champion Nic de Sottegem (owned by a Veterinarian and Captain in the Belgian Army named Barbry) came to be accepted as the standard for the breed. Prior to his death in 1926, Nic sired many litters, and his name appears in most pedigrees.

The Bouvier des Flandres was recognized by the AKC in 1929.

Body Structure and Composition

The Bouvier de Flandres is a compact and powerfully built dog. It’s rugged appearance is in contrast to it’s agility and noble nature. The breed has a thick beard and shaggy eyebrows that give it a distinctive appearance. The ears are set high on the head and are carried erect. The neck is strong and muscular and leads down to a short and level back. The legs are strong-boned and well-muscled. The tail is typically docked to 2-3 inches, although docking has been outlawed in many countries. Some individuals are born tailless.

Medical Information

The Bouvier des Flandres is accustomed to difficult working conditions and is rarely ill, although they do suffer from some of the same health issues that affect other large breeds. Hip of Elbow Dysplasia are the most common complaints, and occur when the head of the bone no long fits into the cup provided by the socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) also occurs in this breed. GDV is a condition in which excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. This is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment.

The Bouvier can also be prone to eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and Entropion (inward-turning eyelids).

The Bouvier des Flandres has a very high tolerance for pain, which makes identifying injuries difficult. Even veterinarians have a tough time locating where the dog is hurt, even when manipulating legs or other body parts.

Extensive grooming is required to maintain the Bouvier’s coat. Loose hairs get caught in the dense undercoat resulting in matting, and daily brushing is recommended. They should also be trimmed several times per year, and the hair in the ears and around the feet should be maintained between trimmings. A properly groomed Bouvier des Flandres leaves very little shed fur around the home.

Anecdotal Information

Former President Ronald Reagan had a Bouvier des Flandres named Lucy.

A Bouvier named Patrache is featured in the novel A Boy of Flanders.

In the breed’s home country of Belgium, a Bouvier de Flandres cannot win the title of champion unless he/she has also won a prize in a work-competition, such as a police, defense, or army dog.

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