There are few breeds more physically striking than the Belgian Tervuren. Dark, intelligent eyes gaze from a black-muzzled face. The dog's body hair is moderately long, though more abundant in mature males, and is of a base color ranging from warm fawn to fiery mahogany, overlaid with a veil of black. The underbelly and leg fringes are typically a lighter shade of the same color.
In describing the physical structure of the animal, perhaps "moderate" is the best word. There should be no feature of the dog which is excessive. Ideal size, measured at the withers, is 25 inches for males and 23 inches for females. The head is elegant and long, without being excessively so, and is set off by high-set, erect ears of small to medium size. The body is evenly proportioned, being neither too long nor too short, so that its length is approximately equal to its height at the withers. The total visual effect of the ideal dog is that it is perfectly balanced and stands squarely on all four feet. The Standard describes the Tervuren in detail.
Because the Tervuren is a herding dog, it moves with a light, tireless, reaching gait that appears to be effortless. "Floating" is a word often used to describe it. This movement is reflective of the work requirements of a herding dog, which demands that the animal be capable of performing for its owner despite long hours without rest, harsh weather, or rough terrain.
Nor is the talent of the Tervuren limited to its excellence in herding. Its quick intelligence, stamina, and agility ideally suit it to an extraordinary array of tasks. It is used as a guide for the blind and the deaf, as helper for the handicapped, as a search and rescue dog, including avalanche rescue work, as sentry and courier in wartime, and as a tracking dog. In lighter pursuits, it is of course a top obedience contender and has even proven to be an enthusiastic sled dog. Finally, it is a conscientious and talented baby sitter.
In temperament the Tervuren is highly individualistic. Some dogs are very lively, while others might best be described as mellow. In general, however, there are some characteristics which should be possessed by every dog. Most importantly the dog should be stable. Although the breed as a whole is a sensitive one, alert to changes in people and environment, no dog which is shy or fearful should be considered a typical specimen or used for breeding. Neither is an aggressive animal to be tolerated. Either extreme is untypical and undesirable. You should expect your Tervuren to be a companion which is highly intelligent, happy, and responsive to you and your family. You should expect devotion and watchfulness. Most Tervuren are suspicious of strangers until told by their owner to accept the strange person. For that reason, they are outstanding family guardians. Their intelligence, trainability, devotion, and responsiveness combine with their natural watchfulness to make them ideal companions.
If you have questions, perhaps our Frequently Asked Questions document can help.
This beautiful breed originated in the town of Tervuren, in Belgium, in the late 19th century. It traces its ancestry to certain Belgian Sheepdogs, which, unlike their litter mates, carried distinctive long coats of a blackened fawn color.
Like all herding dogs, the ancestors of the modern Tervuren were chosen for breeding more on the basis of intelligence, trainability, and temperament than for physical beauty or uniformity. As dog shows became popular, however, breeders began paying greater attention to uniformity of appearance and "type." Type is that combination of characteristics which make a breed unique and distinctive from all other breeds. When the early breeders of Tervuren established type they produced an animal stamped with Its own special qualities of beauty and grace, while retaining its intelligence and aptitude for work.
Although there almost surely were a few Tervuren In the United States before 1950, the first Tervuren brought to this country for breeding purposes were imported in 1953. Because the Tervuren was regarded to be a color variety of the Belgian Sheepdog, these first Imports were registered as Belgian Sheepdogs. In fact, the Tervuren still is considered to be a variety of Belgian Sheepdog in other countries.
In 1959, however, the American Kennel Club chose to grant the Belgian Tervuren status as a separate breed. At that time there was a small handful of Tervuren owners in the country, and in 1960, they formed the first national breed club, the Belgian Tervuren Club. There were about 12 charter members. Since that modest beginning, the club has grown to a membership of over 1000 persons. Its name has been changed to the "American Belgian Tervuren Club" (ABTC), and it has been granted formal recognition by the AKC as the parent club of the breed.
Today the breed is still relatively rare in the United States, but it is well-established. Tervuren may be found in the rings of many all-breed shows and obedience trials. There are local clubs which sponsor supported and licensed specialty shows, and there is an annual national specialty show, sponsored by the ABTC, which typically draws well more than 400 entrants.
At the heart of these events, and behind the success of the Tervuren, are the breed fanciers. These dedicated folk own show dogs, obedience dogs, family dogs, and working dogs (sometimes these are combined in a single dog). They love the breed for its beauty, its versatility, and its excellence in all the areas of dog show competition. This rare combination of virtues is the inspiration for the ABTC's motto, "A well-balanced Tervuren has a CH (championship) on one end and a UDT (Utility Dog Tracker) on the other."