The history of the breeding of the Belgian Shepherd

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The history of the breeding of the Belgian Shepherd
The history of the breeding of the Belgian Shepherd

General characteristics of the species, the origin and use of the Belgian shepherd dogs, the development and popularization of these dogs, the division of the breed into four varieties and their official recognition. Belgian Sheepdogs or Belgian Sheepdogs are four distinct types of dogs that have similar genetics and differ in coat and breeding region. They are medium sized, well distributed dogs. They are strong and good-natured, able to withstand the harsh climate of their native Belgium. Although these animals are divided by the AKC into separate breeds, they share the basic structure of the musculoskeletal system, and many physical characteristics. Changes are mainly found in their coat structure and color. A characteristic feature of their body is a square and proportional structure.

Breeding and use of the Belgian shepherd dogs

Belgian Shepherd Dogs for a walk

Ancient artifacts found in Egypt and Mesopotamia dating back over 3000 BC confirm that dogs were kept for grazing even then. The pastoral themed vases of Greece show just such canines helping people to care for herds. Thus, the Belgian Shepherd Dog, which is a herding type, has an ancient past.

Back in Roman times, some of the tribes living in the area that eventually became the European continent kept large herds of livestock. The "belgae" tribe possessed the herding dogs mentioned by Caesar in his records, which document the wars in continental Europe. The Belgai people gave their name to the country of Belgium, and the Belgian Shepherd Dog arose out of the need for an intelligent, physically and characteristically strong animal capable of withstanding the harsh climate.

In Europe, the chronicles of the Medieval and Renaissance periods note that there was always a “shepherd” in the villages to control and supply livestock, which was considered a common property. Cattle breeding was known to be an important part of the community. It was the dog who helped the shepherd to look after the flock, accompany him to the pasture and back, provide safety and maintain in an orderly group during the "travel" period.

Over time, the canines have improved in skill and appearance. The Belgian Sheepdog as we know it today began to be documented in the 17th century. A reproduction of a French sketch from this period is included in the 1923 book The German Shepherd in Words and Pictures by Von Stefanitz (creator of the german shepherd dog) and shows Belgian Shepherd Dogs that differ from similar species in the region.

Also, representatives of the breed can be found in the writings of the 1700s and 1800s, in books published for those people who raised large herds of livestock and were considered "gentleman farmers" at that time. In the West, in America, you can find the same information. George Washington was a serious shareholder and created many manuals containing information on “correct” herding.

However, shepherd dogs as a group were not considered nobleman's dogs. The aristocracy of old Europe did not keep them in their nurseries, and their ladies did not have them as pets. The Belgian Shepherd Dog was no different. It is a working breed and as such was maintained by the social peasant class. In this case, both the Belgian sheepdog and its owner were considered of little value. Therefore, these canines are less documented than the dogs on which the nobility spent their time and finances.

The history of the development of the Belgian Shepherd

Black Belgian Shepherd muzzle

The surviving chronicles indicate that the Belgian people generally used the grazing method common in France. Throughout history, many countries have occupied Belgium.During these years of occupation, neighboring states will use their own species of herding dogs in this area. They became widely known as Continental and included: German, French, Dutch, and Belgian Shepherds. Finally, in 1831, Belgium was recognized as an independent country.

European society and eventually American society began to change with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Railways were introduced as well as factories and other new technologies. Urbanization has spread, leaving vast tracts of land unsuitable for farming and raising livestock. Many people have given up on agriculture as a way of life. However, some farmers continued to live in the old way. These people still used the Belgian Shepherd Dogs, just like in years past.

The late 1800s saw a rise in nationalism in Europe. Many European countries wanted to have a national dog breed characteristic of their homeland. These states began to develop species to precise standards that would separate them according to their belonging to a particular country. In Brussels, on September 29, 1891, the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (CCBB) or Belgian Shepherd Club was formed.

Later, in November 1891, Professor Adolph Reul of the Veterinary School of Medicine collected 117 specimens of herding dogs from the surrounding areas to study them in order to find a particular unique breed of the region. He found that there was sufficient homogeneity between specimens to ensure that there was indeed a natural herding type in the region that exhibited broadly consistent physical characteristics.

However, he also noticed some variation in coat type, texture and color based on the specific area of ​​development of the canine. In 1892, a standard was created for the Belgian Shepherd Dog. Its criteria recognized varieties with long, short and coarse coats.

The dogs used in the study were categorized by physical variations and names that relate to the area in which they are most common. The long coated black species would be known as "Groenendael", the long haired fawn "Tervuren", the short haired fawn "Malinois", and the coarse short haired "Laekenois".

The CCBB first approached the Societe royale saint-hubert (SRSH), the Belgian Kennel Club, in 1892, for recognition of the breed's uniqueness. The CCBB was denied this first request, and required further development and more solid establishment before the Belgian Shepherd Dog could be recognized. Such an event finally happened in 1901.

With the rise of the popularity of these dogs, Belgian breeders wanted to compete with neighboring countries, and as a result, they began to abandon the working demands of the Belgian Shepherd. Their "look" changed to qualities such as appearance, which gave the dog an advantage in the show. Because of this, the Belgian Sheepdog split into two types: long-haired dogs were more often used in competitions, and short-haired ones, as working animals.

Nicholas Rose of Groenendael is credited with creating the nursery that will form the backbone of today's black groenendael variety. At this time, grazing trials for the Belgian Shepherd were still being conducted. Luis Huygebart, a member of the malinois propaganda group, argued that these types of trials were inappropriate as there were few sheep in Belgium.

This man challenged the checks being carried out on the CCBB breed. He suggested that there are three attributes required for herding-type dogs. It is the ability to excel in obedience competitions, high intelligence and strong loyalty.

Thanks to him, new requirements were developed for testing the Belgian Shepherd Dog. They assessed the abilities and skills of the species, including certain exercises. Namely: jumping over high or long obstacles, swimming, and obedience tests.Until this time, the variety had always been praised as excellent, but with the results of these new tests, it became clear that their abilities were much higher.

Popularization of the Belgian Shepherd breed

Five Belgian Shepherd Dogs

The Belgian Sheepdog became known for being resourceful, able to learn easily and have a high intelligence while learning. When humans recognized that this versatile breed was able to perform well in a variety of duties, interest in it grew. The species has taken on a new purpose, surpassing its shepherd duties, for which it was highly regarded in the past.

The Belgian Shepherd Dog was the first dog to be used in police work by Belgian law enforcement officers. In March 1899, three dogs worked together with officers in the city of Ghent. In the early 1900s, Belgian customs officers took these dogs on border patrols. Their ability to assist in the capture of the smugglers was highly regarded.

The Belgian Shepherd first appeared in America in 1907 when a Groenendael-type dog arrived there. By 1908, the Paris and New York police departments were employing Belgian sheepdogs among their patrol officers. Dog sledding trials began, where similar dogs and their guides began to regularly win prizes. As the popularity of these trials grew, the breed won more and more prizes.

From 1908 to 1911, the Belgian Shepherd Dogs won shows and competitions, groenendael and malinois were more popular. Images of them began to appear around this time, in bookstores in countries such as America, Canada, Switzerland, Argentina and Brazil. In 1912, the AKC recognized this breed, which encompassed four varieties. The first specimens recorded with the AKC were imported by Hosse Hansens from Norfolk and Harris from Long Island.

With the outbreak of World War I, the Belgian Shepherd found another calling in the service of humans. Its representatives were involved in various hostilities. The breed has proven itself to be adapted for this service. The dog is excellent at handling messages on the battlefield, transporting luggage and equipment, and also performing excellent duties in the Red Cross and ambulance.

Due to its successful manifestation during the wartime period, the fame and popularity of the Belgian Sheepdog grew. She has firmly established herself as a hardworking, brave, strong and loyal companion. AKC registrations reflected this sentiment and the species made it to the top five AKC dogs by the end of the 1920s. The Belgian Shepherd Dog Club of America (BSCA) was formed in 1924. Shortly after its creation, BSCA became a member of the AKC club.

In the same decade, the AKC began to realize that the breed had two distinct varieties. The name Groenendael will be given to all Belgian Shepherd Dogs with long coats of any color, and those with short coats will be known as Malinois.

After World War I, the Great Depression will take its toll on America. Its devastating consequences will not only devastate an entire nation, but it will also leave no time or resources for breeding dogs. During this time, the BSCA disbanded. After these dire events, the number of registered Belgian Shepherds was so low that the AKC removed the breed from the Herding class at dog shows in the 1930s and 1940s and placed it in the Miscellaneous Breeds class. World War II continued to wreak havoc on the West, and during this time there was little interest in the variety in the United States.

After the Great Depression and both World Wars, people began to make progress. Survival was no longer a problem, and as the government and individuals resumed rebuilding from the devastation, their old ways of life slowly returned. There was renewed interest in their old hobbies, including dog breeding. The reproduction of the Belgian Shepherd Dog resumed and the registered groenendael began to grow.

By the 1940s, all Malinois registrations with the AKC had ceased. This changed when John Crowley imported two and founded the Nether Lair kennel.He began exhibiting his dogs and interest in the species was restored again. Several more organizations were created to breed this variety of Belgian Shepherd Dogs.

In 1947, Rudy Robinson founded a nursery for the breeding and promotion of the Groenendael species called "Candide". With an increase in the breed population and a growing interest in various types of Belgian Sheepdogs, in 1949 the second Belgian Shepherd Dog Club of America was formed.

Further imports of the tervuren species took place in 1953 and 1954. In 1958, the title was won by a tervuren type shepherd. This imported species began to overshadow the groenendael in America, but the BSCA was reluctant to recognize it.

The division of the Belgian shepherd into four varieties and their recognition

Four varieties of Belgian shepherd dogs

The AKC standard for the Belgian Sheepdog has not been changed or amended since its founding in the 1920s, but it only allowed the types of Groenendael and Malinois at the time. Some breeders have accused tervuren owners of crossing two existing lines to produce a successful new species. The groenendael fans asked the AKC to separate the breeds.

In response to a petition from Groenendael breeders, the AKC sent out a survey to registered Belgian Shepherd owners to determine their views on the matter. The ACC sought to gather information on the breeders' thoughts on appearance standards and whether “cross-family” selection was acceptable. In July 1958, the AKC received the poll results, and the board of directors voted in favor of separate options. Groenendael retained the name "Belgian Shepherd". In Malinois and Tervuren, the term "Belgian" is added to the beginning of their names. Thus, three types were distinguished into separate ones, but originating from Belgium.

This was not the only change in the Belgian sheepdog community. The BSCA has retained its name and position as a proponent of Groenendael diversity. In 1959, Bob and Barbara Krohn founded the American Belgian Tervuren Club (ABTC). Nowadays, Belgian malinois is still rare. By the summer of 1959, the AKC had approved three different standards for the Belgian shepherd dog species.

While the ever popular type of groenendael will soon see a rise in prominence for its rival varieties, over the past several decades, the tervuren has boasted more consistent success in obedience and appearance tests than any other Belgian Shepherd. Malinois continues to gain attention and fame in the field of work and "contributions" in the field of law enforcement. This type of shepherd dog was used as an assistant in patrolling and bomb detection and in search and rescue activities.

In 2010, another distinction was made in the breed standards of the Belgian Shepherd. It is believed that laekenois is the oldest and rarest. The AKC chose to distinguish him as a distinct variety of Belgian Sheepdogs. With the addition of Laekenois, the breed was divided into four varieties, each one unique and with its own type.

The history of all four species of the Belgian Shepherd is more closely related to each other than separate. Each was formed and developed throughout the entire time along with the others. In many countries, including their native Belgium, the Belgian Sheepdog remained four varieties within the same breed. However, the AKC is not alone in recognizing these dogs as isolated. The Australian National Kennel Club and the New Zealand Kennel Club also support this position. In the 2010 list of the most popular canines in Acrol: Groenendael - 116th, Belgian Tervuren - 108th, and Belgian Malinois - 76th.

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