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.
A History of the Belgian Shepherd Dog by Lee Jiles
The Belgian Shepherds section from the 1894 landmark book "Les Races de Chiens" by Adolphe Reul is available in a downloadable pdf file, courtesy of Kathy Champine of the the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA). In French