History of the Beauceron
The earliest record of what is believed to be the breed of dog now known as the Beauceron is found in a Renaissance manuscript in the year 1578. It is believed that the Beauceron descended from a hardy ancient canine designated by paleontologists as the “Chien des Tourbieres” from the French Jura, and was originally domesticated and employed as larger game hunting dogs (bear, boar, and stag.) From these duties they took early to the tasks of flock guardian and herding dog. The Beauceron’s role as esteemed companion and protector is also recorded in royal portraiture, where they are portrayed as companions to kings.
The Beauceron, sometimes referred to as the Berger de Beauce or “Bas Rouge” (red stocking,) was included in the first French Canine Exposition held in Paris in 1863 by the Imperial Society of Acclimation. In 1897 the first club for the “chiens de berger” (herding dogs) was formed. During this period, both the Beauceron and the Briard were considered to be of one breed with different coat types. In 1911 a separate club for the Beauceron was formed and the breeds divided. This club, Club des Amis du Beauceron, continues its stewardship of the breed today in France.
It is not surprising that the Beauceron is almost unknown outside of France, as it is truly rare by any standard. To add to the picture, the breed faced near extinction twice during the century due to both world wars where they were used not only as sentry dogs but also as bomb dogs and message carriers. Most recently, the breed was rebuilt following World War 2 primarily from approximately 50 select specimens.
In France the Beauceron must be confirmed (a detailed conformation evaluation) and pass a character test (general conduct, conduct under gunfire and attack on handler) with acceptable ratings being Excellent (awarded only when a dog is exceptional for his age) and Tres Bon (awarded when a dog is generally correct and excelling in courage.) Should the dog be scored Bon or insufficient they may be reconsidered in 6 months or denied breeding privileges altogether.
In the USA the Beauceron was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1994. In January 1996 the Beauceron was accepted into the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) for registration. (They could not be shown in AKC events at this time.) Sept 1, 2001 AKC accepted the Beauceron into the Miscellaneous Group and they were allowed to be shown in the Miscellaneous classes and participate in the performance sports (agility, obedience, herding, etc).
Finally, after all the necessary requirements were completed by the parent club, North American Beauceron Club (now American Beauceron Club.) On June 28, 2007 the Beauceron was moved into the AKC Herding Group and was able to compete for AKC Championship points. This was a banner day for Chateau Rocher, as our Arco du Chateau Rocher went Best of Breed at this historic show, was awarded a 4 point Major and went on to win Group 3 becoming the first Beauceron to place in the AKC Group.
Characteristics of the Beauceron
Like other breeds in the Herding Group, the Beauceron is very versatile and easy to train for a variety of tasks besides herding. Beaucerons also serve as military dogs, police dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, as well as family companions and protectors.
Perhaps the best description of the Beauceron’s character was given by Maurice Luquet, DVM. “The Beauceron’s intelligence is manifested in its good and rapid comprehension of its master’s desires. Beauceron are noted for their excellent memories and their ancestral instinct to guard all the persons and property of their home. Their principle qualities are obedience, vigilance, calmness, courage, hardiness and patience. They are without a doubt one of the most intelligent of breeds. Their expression and their behavior are ample demonstrations of these traits. The Beauceron, with their stern appearance, is always ready to intervene in a situation, knows how to command respect, yet will keep calm and only intervene when necessary. These qualities are only surpassed by the Beauceron’s extreme sense of loyalty and its eagerness to please. They are sensitive dogs and seem to sense their master’s moods.”
Beaucerons are very patient and tolerant, and make excellent family companions. They are gentle with the elderly and children. They are sociable with dogs they know, but they are territorial and intolerant of intruders onto their premises. However, in my experience, after supervised introduction, visiting dogs are tolerated as long as they mind their manners.
They also do well in off-leash situations such as the beach or hiking in the mountains and do not take sport in killing wildlife or attacking other dogs, but will defend if attacked. (I must emphasize, for the safety of the dog, the importance of having the dog properly socialized and trained in basic obedience, especially to come when called, BEFORE taking it to these types of off-leash situations.)
Being herding dogs, they instinctively try to herd animals standing together, horses, goats, sheep, ducks, cattle etc, but should be discouraged from herding everything in sight since they risk being injured in the process if not properly trained. The Beauceron is indeed a remarkable dog, but they are not for everyone. In particular, Beaucerons require early, competent training and socialization by an experienced and disciplined owner and do best when integrated into the family “pack.”
The breed Standard describes the Beauceron as ‘a strong dog but without heaviness. It is a tall dog (averaging 26-27.5 “) and can weigh 100 lbs. They should convey a sense of strength and agility, possess double dew claws on each rear leg, carry well-cropped ears high on the head, have a dark eye and a long (at least to the hock) tail that is carried down with a slight ‘J’ near the end. The coat is short and double (much like a Rottweiler) and occurs in two accepted colors: black and rust bi-color, and ‘Harlequin’ in which the black is merled with grey. They do shed seasonally, but when brushed weekly rarely develop any odor. Coat care and grooming requirements are limited to bathing when desired. The Beauceron is generally an ‘easy keeper,’ with good appetite and digestion and very good health.