The Beauceron, one of France’s largest and oldest sheepdogs, was developed within the confines of the country and never crossed with any foreign breeds, rendering it a purely French dog. To date, the earliest written description of a Beauceron has been found in a manuscript written in 1578. In 1809 Abbe Rozier wrote about the French herding dogs; he was the first to differentiate between the long and short coated varieties describing them respectively as the Berger de Brie and Berger de Beauce. These two types would eventually come to be known more commonly as the Briard and the Beauceron.
In the early 1800s, large flocks of sheep were common in France; two Beaucerons could tend two-hundred to three-hundred head of sheep. A versatile and superior working dog, Beaucerons could both guard and guide well, where most herding dogs were suited to one or the other. The Beauceron’s strength and great endurance allowed them to travel fifty miles or more a day, guiding their herds or flocks. At the same time these dogs were able to guard the sheep or cattle from bears and wolves. It is also believed the short-haired sheepdog was used to hunt wild boar.
In 1863 the first dog show in Paris was held, in conjunction with the World’s Fair. Even though thirteen herding dogs, later to be known as Beaucerons, were shown, they were still viewed as a working dogs, not a show dogs. The Society Central Canine was founded in 1882; in September 1892 the first Bas Rouge was registered. Born in 1891, her name was Bergere de la Chapelle; she won the title “Champion of Beauty”.
Pierre Megnin, veterinarian and professor of zoology, coined the name Beauceron for the breed in 1888 in a book he wrote on war dogs. Prior to that time the Beauceron was sometimes called Bas Rouge, which means red-stockings, because of the reddish tan markings on the inside of the dogs’ front legs.
In 1896 a meeting was held in the market of the village of Villete. Emmanuel Boulet, a farmer and breeder, Ernest Menaut, the Minister of Agriculture, and Pierre Megnin were among those who attended. They formed a commission to establish standards for the long and short-haired sheepdogs and differentiated the two by naming the long haired one Berger de la Brie and the short-haired dog Berger de la Beauce. Each was named after specific regions of France, though they both originated in the northern plains areas near. Berger is French for shepherd.
Another offshoot of the meeting was the formation of the Club of the French Shepherd Dog founded a few months later. Emmanuel Boulet was appointed chairman, with support from the Minister of Agriculture.
Pierre Megnin founded the French Club des Amis du Beauceron (CAB), or Club of the Friends of the Beauceron, in 1911. Beauceron became the name for the breed and its close relative Berger de Brie, became known as Briard. The CAB has since guided the development of the breed in France, mindful to preserve the Beauceron’s herding and working abilities for which it has so long been valued.
But in the latter part of the 1800s, sheep production in France had declined and corralling herds replaced the practice of moving them from one grazing spot to another. Both of these changes greatly reduced the need for sheepdogs. The CAB responded by promoting Beaucerons for other purposes, such as protecting homes and families. The two World Wars provided more opportunities for the breed. The French army used Beaucerons to deliver messages to and from the front lines, pick up trails, detect mines, and support commando activity. After World War II, the popularity of Beaucerons increased markedly. Today, while still used to herd sheep and cattle, they are more often used for personal protection and companionship, tracking, and police and military service.
In the 1960s the Ministry for Agriculture required the SCC to create a confirmation examination for the Beauceron to help protect the historical qualities of France’s sheepdogs. The last modification to the French standards was in 2001, marking only the sixth time it had been changed in one hundred years.
Throughout the late 1900s the Beaucerons’ popularity grew and the breed spread to Holland, Belgium, and Germany. The United States, however, has been slower to develop a strong interest in the breed. With a formal club dedicated to the breed, The American Beauceron Club (ABC) not being established until 2003 and accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2009. The Beauceron was approved by the AKC for acceptance into its Miscellaneous class in 2001; the breed achieved full recognition by the AKC in 2007, as part of the Herding Group. While not exceedingly popular in the United States ranking 153rd out of 167 dog breeds according to AKC registration statistics for 2010, Beaucerons are increasingly known outside of their native country and continue to grow in popularity in France.
Today Beaucerons excel in many areas of competition: Herding, Guarding, Tracking, Search and Rescue, Cooperative Agility and Obedience, French Ring, Schutchund, and Skijorging. They also are used in police work, service, and for personal companionship and protection.
Male Beaucerons stand 25 ½ inches to 27 ½ inches tall (measured from the withers to the ground). Females range in height from 24 to 26 ½ inches. There is no formal weight standard for Beaucerons because they are a working breed. Generally, Beauceron males weigh 70-100 lbs. and females weigh 66-85 lbs.
Beaucerons have both an outer and under coat. The color of their outer coat may be either black and tan or black, tan, and gray (Harlequin). These coarse, thick outer coats are about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches long and lie flat against the torso. The hair on their heads, ears, and lower legs is shorter and smoother than on their necks, tails, and backs of the thighs; the hair is fringed on the tails and backs of the thighs. Beucerons’ undercoats are a mousy-gray color that doesn’t show through outer coat; the under coat is short and has a woolly texture.
The Beauceron’s head is long and chiseled; the skull and muzzle are equal in length. Seen in profile the top lines of the skull and muzzle are parallel. The skull is either flat or rounded near the sides of its head. The height and width of the dog’s head are each a little less than half its total length. The Beauceron’s nose is black and, in profile, should be in line with the dog’s upper lip. The upper lip overlaps the lower lip tightly. The Beauceron should have a complete set of teeth that are evenly set and meet in a scissors bite. The Beauceron’s eye color should be dark brown to dark hazel. The eyes are horizontal and slightly oval. Beauceron ears are set high on the head; their ears may be natural or cropped. Natural ears are half-pricked or drop; they are short (length is half that of the head) and flat. If the Beauceron’s ears are cropped, they should stand upright, pointing slightly forward.
The Beauceron has a muscular neck and well defined shoulders. The chest is large in both width and length; its wider than the dog’s shoulder height by 20% more. The tail of the Beauceron is carried down at least as far as the point of the hock. When the dog is in motion the tail may be carried as high as the topline, horizontal to the ground. Beaucerons’ tails form a “j” and line up symmetrically, not leaning left or right.
Forequarters are vertical when seen from the front and profile; hindquarters should be vertical when seen from the back and in profile. The thighs are muscular and wide. Beaucerons should have double dewclaws near their feet, that look like sixth toes; they have large, round feet, with black toenails.
Beaucerons’ torsos (measured from shoulder to buttock) are slightly longer than their height; females tend to be a bit longer than their male counterparts. The Beauceron’s physique should be powerful and well-muscled, without a heavy or clumsy appearance. They should move gracefully in long strides; when moving their heads are lowered, almost to the topline of their bodies.
The famous French novelist Colette called the Beauceron the “Country Gentlemen” because of their noble and commanding presence. They are loyal and protective of their families and territory, but wary and reserved with strangers. Intelligent and stoic, as well as strong and athletic, Beaucerons love to work hard and take care of their families.
Training a Beauceron is not recommended for a first time or timid trainer. However, with firm, consistent leadership, this intelligent and strong-willed dog is quick to learn and please his or her owner. Beaucerons are natural leaders and therefore instinctively try to take charge, so when training and socializing them, you need to exert strong leadership on a consistent basis. Both training and socialization of Beaucerons need to begin at an early age. Keeping in mind that the breed is highly intelligent and independent, the trainer (and anyone else, for that matter) should never use harsh treatment on the dog. These dogs do not tolerate unfair or unkind behavior, especially in strangers. In training them, such behavior would be at least ineffectual and at worst, dangerous.
Beaucerons need to be socialized well with people outside of their family because their instinct is to mistrust strangers. Because of their wariness, though, they make great watch dogs. Protective of their family, they are also affectionate toward them as well. They are happy to jump up on you, even their feet lifting off the ground, to greet you; or they may decide to run at you full speed, turning at the last minute to avoid a collision. These affectionate tendencies, while endearing, can also be daunting considering the power and size of this breed. It is wise to consider your ability to handle such situations, as well as pay attention to these possibilities when training your Beauceron.
Though generally good with children, the size and strength of a Beauceron could cause it to inadvertently hurt a child. Children and pets need to be socialized with the dog from the time he or she is a puppy. Within the breed, individual dogs exhibit a range of tolerance levels for children, so before purchasing a puppy, check with the breeder regarding his or her stock’s behavior around children.
Beaucerons are territorial with other animals, but usually fine with pets in their own family if raised with them. They are aggressive towards dogs of the same sex, and can be aggressive toward other animals. They have instinct to chase and nip at things that move. Beaucerons tend to want to control people and animals by prodding and need to be trained not to do that.
Beaucerons require a great deal of physical exercise and mental stimulation. If your dog grows bored he or she may become destructive. Beaucerons are too active to live in apartments or kennel situations. They need a house with a large yard to run and play in or, best of all would be a rural setting. Their high energy and athleticism demands daily vigorous exercise—much more than the standard walk around the block. Beaucerons are sociable dogs. If you and your family are gone most of the day, the Beauceron is not a good choice.
Beaucerons are low-maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming. They need to be bathed regularly and to have their nails trimmed and teeth cleaned periodically. Their coats do not require trimming. Normally, a weekly brushing of their coat will suffice, except in shedding seasons. At such times, daily brushings will be necessary.
Although the Beauceron is considered a rugged and healthy breed with a lifespan of around 11 years, they are prone to certain hereditary conditions. Beaucerons are susceptible to Canine Hip Displasia (CHD), which can cause varying degrees of loose or dislocated hip joints, as well as degenerative arthritis. Beaucerons are at risk for Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart muscle which causes the heart to enlarge and lose ability to contract and pump blood properly. Osteochondrosis Desiccans (OCD) is a hereditary health concern for Beaucerons. OCD is a defect in the cartilage that overlies the head of one of the long bones, usually at the shoulder or elbow, which causes inflammation, joint instability and pain, lameness, and degeneration of the joint.
Other health issues of Beaucerons are: