Breed History

From:  A Celebration of Rare Breeds

The Beauceron is a newcomer to this country.  He has attracted much attention for this appearance, which, to the untrained eye, is reminiscent of a cross between a Doberman Pinscher and a German Shepherd.   Those who are familiar with the breed say that the Beauceron has a kind heart, and a uncanny ability to sense his owners moods and desires.  A loyal and unselfish breed, the Beauceron makes an ideal pet.

The Beauceron is an distinctly French breed, said to have been developed solely in that country, with no crosses to foreign breeds.  Indeed, it is a very old working dog.  Sheepherding breeds have long been known in France and are depicted in tapestries from the eighth century.  Writings from the twelfth, fourteenth and sixteenth centuries mention herding dogs.  It is thought that a passage in a manuscript, written in 1587, is the first specific mention of a dog of the Beauceron's description.

In France, the breed is called Berger de la Beauce (Shepherd of the Beauce).  La Beauce is a plains region surrounding Paris, and is generally acknowledged as the cradle of the breed.  The Beauceron shares a common heritage with his cousin the Berger de la Brie, recognized in this country as the Briard.  While the two breeds appear quite different in appearance, both serve the same working functions.  In the early days, the French farmer was not at all concerned with type.  He cared only about practical working qualities, and the shepherd dogs were of an extremely diverse type.  All fell under the general category of chien de la plaine or "dog of the plain."  They could be found in all coat colors and coat lengths.  While hunting dogs were highly esteemed in those days, the French accorded little consideration to these rough and rugged working dogs.  In those very early years, the  Beauceron and the Briard served more as livestock guardians, defending the animals from predators, such as wolves and human poachers.  With the advent of the French Revolution, their function changed.   The land was no longer strictly in the hands of the nobility, but was divided among the people, resulting in more farmers on smaller holdings.  The Beauceron and the Briard became herding dogs whose work was essential, for those early French farms were not fenced.  Undoubtedly, they also doubled as watchdogs for their masters' homes.

In 1809, a priest, Abb Rozier, wrote an article on these French herding dogs.  It was he who first described the differences and used the terms Berger de la Brie and Berger de la Beauce.  He described the Beauce as a shorthaired, mastiff-like dog, and said that the Brie was a longhaired dog of different type.  According to French writings, during the late years of the 19th century, there was a meeting of cattle and sheep breeders.  It was there that the decision was made to name the longhaired dogs after the area of Brie and the shorthaired types after the Beauce region.  Both breeds still varied greatly in type.  In 1900, the Beauceron was first exhibited at a show.  The first Beauceron champion, a bitch named Bergere, bears little resemblance to the breed known today.  She was said to have been semi-longhaired.  Indeed, we are told that the coats were often longer than today's standard allows, the muzzles were thinner and the size was significantly smaller.  The tan markings on the feet may also have extended higher up on the leg, and this may have given the rise to the early breed nickname of "Red Stockings".

In the 1900's more attention has been paid to Beauceron breeding.  A club, Les Amis Du Beauceron (Friends of the Beauceron), was established in 1911.  In 1927, the first book devoted exclusively to the Beauceron, was written by Monsieur A. Siraudin.  This book is still held in such esteem that it is considered, by many, to be the "Beauceron Bible".

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  During both World Wars, Beaucerons earned respect as military dogs.   They were applauded for their strength, and machine gun ammunition belts were often wrapped around their sturdy bodies, to be carried to gun emplacements.  With their intelligence, they were often used as messenger and sentry dogs.  Incredible stories have been told about their powers of observation and perception.

Is this a Beauceron?

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Private Collection:  Mr Sauvignac

The Beauceron is still best known in his native France.  Although still used for herding, the breed is most often used in police work, and serves in the canine units of both the French army and police.   The breed has spread to other European countries, although it has not yet achieved the popularity enjoyed in France.  The Beauceron is a newcomer to the United States, where many Americans caught their first glimpse of the breed in the James Bond film, "Moonraker."

One of the essential breed characteristics, and a topic of endless debate in Beauceron circles, is the standard's call for rear double dewclaws.   The standard states:  "Dogs otherwise well qualified as to type but lacking double dewclaws can take only a mention."  There is a curious, somewhat superstitious, tradition attached to the presence of double dewclaws.  Old time ranchers believed that you could select a good working pup from a  litter by picking the one with these double appendages.  Indeed, this contention may have led to the establishment of this trait in the first place.  Some old timers believe that the double dewclaws allow the Beauceron to more easily climb onto the backs of the sheep.   Others point out that there is little muscular control the dewclaws, and that other breeds, such as the Australian Kelpie, are very adept without benefit of double dewclaws.   There was, in the past, a heated debate on this subject, when the Federation Cynologique Internationale proposed eliminating this requirement.  The parent club, in France, firmly held that without double dewclaws  the dog could not be considered a Beauceron.

The lovely harlequin Beauceron almost became extinct, but French breeders, most notably, Mme. L. Delaire, of Kennel de la Horde Noire, have dedicated themselves to reviving the harlequin.  The coat color most closely resembles that of a dappled Dachshund or a merle Great Dane.  The harlequin is required to have the rich tan or red markings found on the black and tan Beauceron, and these are said to be difficult to achieve.  It is generally conceded that it is much more difficult to breed a superior harlequin.  To help the situation, the French Kennel Club decided to allow harlequins to compete as a separate variety.  However, in all other countries black and tans and harlequins are shown together.