The Belgians were a rustic, brave dog, known for exceptional intelligence, athleticism and trainability. They were found working with the farmer – herding sheep and other small livestock; protecting home and property; and doing varied tasks for the modest working people of Belgium. They were prized in their homeland as police dogs and as war dogs.
The Belgians share a common ancestry. Originally classified as simply long hair, short hair, and rough haired, irrespective of coloring, to this day in their homeland they remain a single breed with varieties, named according to their phenotype, or appearance, which is not always the same as their parents.
How the Belgians got their names
The Belgian coat types were always diverse, born as varying coat types often within same litters of the Belgian Sheep Dog breed (Le Berge Belge). The specific variety names evolved in recognition of areas around Brussels where a fancier or group of fanciers became known for selecting and maintaining one of these coat types.
The short coated Malinois was named for the Maline region to the north. The long coated black Groenendael, known by us as the Belgian Sheepdog, was developed by the owner of a famous restaurant, the Chateau de Groenendael. The Tervuren got its name from the village of Tervueren (now spelled Tervuren), where a brewer, M.C. Corbeel, selected and bred together his long-haired blacked fawn dogs, born from black dogs, in about 1895. Another variety, the rough coated Laeken, is named for Laken, near Brussels. After the World Wars, the modern Tervuren evolved anew from long coats born in litters of Malinois, which were then bred to Groenendael and selected out again for their coat coloring. The first breed standard was put into effect in 1892. The breed was at first dividided into three varieties with no distincton of color: the long-haired, the short-haired, and the rough-haired.
The Belgians evolve into 3 AKC breeds
The first Belgians arrived in the United States in 1908. They were shown in the ring along with other shepherd breeds, as Continental Shepherds. The black Groenendael was the predominate long-haired variety for many years, both in the U.S. as well as in Europe.
The two World Wars had a devastating impact on the Belgians abroad, especially the Tervuren coloring, which did not yet have a large following. Today there are no existing lines of any Belgian varieties remaining in the United States that can be traced back to dogs that were in this country before World War II. Following World War II, the Tervuren as we know it today was revived anew by supporters in Europe, selecting long-haired blackened fawn and gray dogs produced from Groenendael and Malinois breedings.
Belgians were shown as one breed in the U.S., dominated by the black Groenendael, until 1959. In 1953 a few breeders imported Tervuren puppies from France with the intent of breeding and showing them. This caused quite a stir among some of the black dog fanciers, who were concerned about color issues. So in 1959 the AKC gave each variety separate breed status.
The black dogs, having the greatest number of registrations, took on the original breed name of Belgian Sheepdog. The Tervuren and Malinois formed new clubs and drew up their own breed standards. The Lakenois was not included in AKC registration, but today holds FSS registration status and is now shown in performance events. The Lakenois remains to this day dependent upon occasional breeding to the Malinois to improve health and fix type.
And so it is that the Belgian breeds indeed have much in common.
Of course, in the AKC show ring each is shown under the breed standard set forth by its parent club. While there are significant differences in emphasis, faults and disqualifications, the ideals remain essentially the same across the board, except for coat or color.
If you judge in Canada
Please note that in Canada, the Belgians are shown as one breed, The Belgian Shepherd Dog, consisting of all four varieties: the Groenendael, Laeken, Malinois and Tervuren.
The Belgians were a rustic, brave dog, known for exceptional intelligence. They were found working with the farmer – herding sheep and other small livestock; protecting home and property; and doing varied tasks for the modest working people of Belgium.They were prized in their homeland as police dogs and as war dogs.
In 1914, Belgium produced the first war messenger dog. Her name was “Taki”, a Belgian Groenendael (Sheepdog). The January 1930 American Kennel GAZETTE contained a story about Taki, who eventually came to the United States as an old dog.
In 1923, a statue was erected in Amsterdam to honor a renowned Tervuren, Albert, who was an accomplished police dog. Surviving photographs showing Tervuren, Groenendael and Malinois police and war dogs demonstrate their great popularity and success in those venues during that time.
Still today, the Tervuren's desire to learn and work, combined with their athletic and agile build and protective coats make them useful in a wide variety of pursuits.
The Belgian Tervuren has proven its excellence in many arenas: as search and rescue dogs, as assistance dogs, leader dogs for the blind, racing sled dogs, in protection, police, narcotic and bomb detection, and of course, in herding. The Tervuren has an enviable breed record as an outstanding performer in AKC events. The ratio of performance titles to registrations, and the ratio of breed Champions holding performance titles is among the top (if not the top) of all breeds.
In AKC History, the Belgian Tervuren is credited for being:
- The first single dog of any breed to obtain the AKC title of Herding Trial Champion
- The first single dog of any breed to earn the combined titles of Ch/UDT/OTCH and be a High In Trial obedience winner
- The first single dog in the Herding Group (and 2nd all-breed) to win both Best In Show and High In Trial obedience at the same show
- The first dog of any breed holding a Champion Tracker title to win a Best In Show
In 2002, the American Kennel Club awarded the prestigious ACE award for the top Search and Rescue dog to a Belgian Tervuren.
So proud are Tervuren owners of their dogs' accomplishments in performance venues that long ago the American Belgian Tervuren Club adopted as its official motto: "A well balanced Belgian Tervuren has a Ch. on one end and a UDT on the other"