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Belgian Cattle Dog Breed Description

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Breed Organization

American Bouvier des Flandres Club

Native Country

Other Names
Vlaamse Koehond, Bouvier des Flandres, Flanders Cattle Dog

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10-12 Years

Litter Size
Average 5-10 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

The Bouvier is a powerfully built, compact, rough-coated dog of rugged appearance. It gives the impression of size and strength without clumsiness or heaviness. Perhaps its most notable feature is the impressive head which is accentuated by a heavy beard and mustache. Although the practice of cropping both ears and tail are now mostly cosmetic, tails were originally docked to prevent injuries caused by herding and cart-pulling. The practice of cosmetic docking is currently opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The weight of males ranges from 80 to 120 pounds or 36 to 54 kilograms, slightly smaller for females. They are powerfully built, with a thick double coat, which can be fawn, black, grey brindle, or "pepper and salt" in color. Bouviers are sometimes considered non-shedding, but in fact do lose hair, like all dogs. Most of the hair that they lose is caught within the double coat which results in matting. They require weekly brushing and combing to maintain the coat. In addition to weekly brushing, the coat should be trimmed approximately every 3–5 weeks if it is to be a show dog. Trimming requires practice to achieve the proper look.

Breed Standard

Head and Skull: The head should appear big, the moustache and beard making it appear even more so, in proportion to the body and height. When handled it should be found to be well chiselled. Well developed and flat, the skull should be slightly broader than it is long. The lines of the under side of the skull and the top should be parallel. The proportion of the length of the skull in relation to the muzzle should be as 3 is to 2. A very slight furrow in the forehead. The stop not very deep, but appearing so, due to the heavy eyebrows. The muzzle broad, strong and bony, rectangular when seen from the front, gradually narrowing towards the nose, but never becoming pointed. The circumference, measured just in front of the eyes, should be approximately equal to the length of the head. Extending the foreface in a slightly convex line towards its tip, the nose should be very well developed, rounded at its edges and always black. Nostrils wide. Cheeks flat and clean. Scissor bite i.e., the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Eyes: Honest, alert in expression. Neither protruding nor set too deeply. Slightly oval in shape and horizontally placed. As dark as possible in color in relation to the coat. Light or wild looking eyes to be strongly penalised. Eyelids black, with no sign of loss of pigment. Conjunctiva should never be visible.
Neck: Strong, well muscled and thickening slightly towards the shoulders. A little longer than the length of the head, nape strong and arched. No sign of dewlap.
Forequarters: Forelegs very strong and absolutely straight. Shoulders relatively long, muscular without heaviness and placed obliquely. Shoulder blade and upper arm of equal length. Elbows set well into body and parallel, never turning in or out. Forearms, seen either from the front or the side, absolutely straight, parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. Well muscled and heavy boned. Pasterns strong, fairly short, sloping very slightly.
Body: Strong, deep, broad and compact with very little tuck-up. Length from point of shoulder to point of buttock about equal to height at withers. Chest should descend to level of elbows and should not be cylindrical, although the ribs should be well sprung. Croup should continue, as far as possible, the horizontal line of the back and blend imperceptibly with the curve of the rump. Broad but not excessively so in the dog, broader in the bitch. A rising croup, or one which falls away, is a very serious fault.
Hindquarters: Hindlegs very strong with pronounced muscle. They should move in the same plane as the forelegs. Thighs broad and well muscled. Hocks well let down. Dew claws should be removed.
Feet: Short, round and compact. Toes tight and well arched. Nails black and strong. Pads thick and hard.
Gait: Proud, upright bearing. Ambling is permitted.
Tail: Docked to 2 - 3 vertebrae. It should continue the normal line of the vertebral column and be carried gaily when moving. Dogs born tailless should not be faulted for this.
Coat: Hair coarse to touch, dry and matt. Neither too long nor too short, about 6 cm (2.5 in), unkempt looking but never woolly or curly. On the head it should be shorter and the outside of the ears almost bare, with the inside of the ear protected by fairly long hair. The coat should be particularly thick and "crackly" on the top of the back, gradually becoming shorter as it comes down the legs. It should be always harsh. A flat coat is to be avoided since it denotes lack of undercoat, which should be normally fine and close grained. The upper lip well moustached, the lower carrying a full harsh beard, which gives the forbidding expression so characteristic of the breed. Eyebrows formed of backward sweeping hairs which accentuate the shape of the eyebrows but which never hide the eyes.
Color: Usually fawn or grey, often brindled or shaded. Black is also permissible and no color shall have preference. Light, washed out shades are undesirable.
Weight and Size: Ideal weight: Dogs 35 - 40 kg (77 - 88 lb). Bitches 27 - 35 kg (59.5 - 77 lb).
Ideal height: Dogs 62 - 68 cm (24.5 - 27 in) Bitches 59 - 65 cm (23 - 25.5 in). In either sex the ideal is midway between the measurements.
Ears: Set on high, very flexible; in proportion to the head.
Mouth: Jaws strong and of equal length. Teeth strong and white with a perfect regular and complete set.


The Bouvier Des Flandres is also known as the Belgian Cattle Dog or the Vlaamse Koehund, (and sometimes Dirty Beard!). This dog takes its name from its place of origin, the plains of Flanders in Belgium; and the French word "bouvier" means herdsman. However, not much more information exists about its ancestral origins. Some claim it descended from the Schnauzer, while others suggest the breed is a mix of several European herding breeds, the Flemish Cattle Dogs in particular. Although its history is vague, its value as a working dog has never been questioned, whether it be herding, guarding the farm, or cart pulling. Before the Machine Age, the Bouvier was used to drive cattle to market, and later, the strong and capable dog proved its merit on the battlefields of WWI and WWII. The breed is still used for police and protection work. A breed standard was not agreed upon until 1922, and since then the breed has found favour all over the world.


Bouviers des Flandres are rational, gentle, loyal, and protective by nature. The breed's particular blend of characteristics makes them good family pets, as well as keen guard dogs. Unlike some animals bred for aggressive nature and power, the Bouvier possesses sophisticated traits, such as complex control, intelligence, and accountability.

The Bouvier des Flandres is an obedient dog with a pleasant nature. They look intimidating, but are actually calm and gentle. They are enthusiastic, responsible, even-tempered, and fearless, and are excellent guard and watchdogs that are easy to train. This breed learns commands relatively fast. However, Bouviers get bored easily and learn best when repetition is limited.

They require well-balanced training that remains consistent in nature. Without being harsh, it is important to consistently make the dog aware that the owner will remain the boss. This breed needs an experienced owner to prevent dominance and over-protectiveness problems. These dogs poorly trained can become inappropriately dominant towards humans. An un-socialized Bouvier can become fearful and pose a problem when introduced to new situations in which they do not feel comfortable.

Bouviers should be socialized well, preferably starting at an early age, to avoid shyness, suspiciousness, and being overly reserved with strangers (although the breed is naturally aloof with strangers). Protection of the family when danger is present is not something that needs to be taught, nor is it something one can train out of them. The dog will rise to the occasion if needed. A good family dog, the Bouvier likes, and is excellent with, children. The Bouvier is very adaptable and goes about its business quietly and calmly. Obedience training starts when they are young. Their behavior depends on the owner's ability to communicate what is expected, and on the individual dominance level of the dog. They are usually good with other dogs if they are raised with them from puppyhood. Dominant individuals can be dog-aggressive if the owners are not assertive and do not communicate to the dog that fighting is unwanted. Slow to mature both in body and mind, the Bouvier does not fully mature until the age of 2–3 years.

This breed needs peaceful surroundings and exercise to blossom, and requires regular brushing.


Bouviers des Flandres can compete in dog agility trials, carting, obedience, dog showmanship, Schutzhund, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Bouviers exhibiting basic herding instincts can then be trained to compete in herding trials.


Prone to hip dysplasia, eye problems such as cataracts. The Bouvier has a very high pain threshold. They can take a lot of contact with the cattle's legs without feeling it. This does not make them a veterinarian's favorite patient, as they cannot tell where the dog is hurting by manipulating the legs and/or other body parts.

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