American Belgian Tervuren Club

terv1 on tnt colorThis 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.


See also:

A Quick History of AKC Registration of the Belgian Tervuren

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 Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA). In French

Rival's Story  -  first AKC CH OTCH MACH Belgian Tervuren

Toppers's Story -  a series of e-mails sent out through the "Belg-L" list after Topper and Pat Grant returned from searching the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Copyrighted bt Pat Grant, DVM.

 History and Purpose section in Judges Education

What is a Tervuren?NeoSonic

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.

 Physical Structure

 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.

Working Breed


 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.


Today the breed is still relatively rare in the United States, but it is well-established. rzsTervuren 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."  





Effective March 1, 2007
AKC Approval January, 2007

General Appearance

The first impression of the Belgian Tervuren is that of a well-balanced, medium-size dog, elegant in appearance, standing squarely on all fours, with proud carriage of head and neck. He is strong, agile, well-muscled, alert and full of life. He gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male should appear unquestionably masculine; the female should have a distinctly feminine look and be judged equally with the male. The Belgian Tervuren is a natural dog and there is no need for excessive posing in the show ring.

The Belgian Tervuren reflects the qualities of intelligence, courage, alertness and devotion to master. In addition to his inherent ability as a herding dog, he protects his master's person and property without being overtly aggressive. He is watchful, attentive, and usually in motion when not under command.

The Belgian Tervuren is a herding dog and versatile worker. The highest value is to be placed on qualities that maintain these abilities, specifically, correct temperament, gait, bite and coat.

Size, Proportion, Substance

The ideal male is 24 to 26 inches in height and female 22 to 24 inches in height measured at the withers. Dogs are to be penalized in accordance to the degree they deviate from the ideal. Males under 23 inches or over 26.5 inches or females under 21 inches or over 24.5 inches are to be disqualified. The body is square; the length measured from the point of shoulder to the point of the rump approximates the height. Females may be somewhat longer in body. Bone structure is medium in proportion to height, so that he is well-balanced throughout and neither spindly or leggy nor cumbersome and bulky.


Well-chiseled, skin taut, long without exaggeration. Expression intelligent and questioning, indicating alertness, attention and readiness for action. Eyes dark brown, medium-size, slightly almond shape, not protruding. Light, yellow or round eyes are a fault. Ears triangular in shape, well- cupped, stiff, erect; height equal to width at base. Set high, the base of the ear does not come below the center of the eye. Hanging ears, as on a hound, are a disqualification. Skull and muzzle measuring from the stop are of equal length. Overall size is in proportion to the body, top of skull flattened rather than rounded, the width approximately the same as, but not wider than the length. Stop moderate. The topline of the muzzle is parallel to the topline of the skull when viewed from the side. Muzzle moderately pointed, avoiding any tendency toward snipiness or cheekiness. Jaws strong and powerful. Nose black without spots or discolored areas. Nostrils well defined. Lips tight and black, no pink showing on the outside when mouth is closed. Teeth full complement of strong white teeth, evenly set, meeting in a scissors or a level bite. Overshot and undershot teeth are a fault. An undershot bite such that there is a complete loss of contact by all the incisors is a disqualification. Broken or discolored teeth should not be penalizedMissing teeth are a fault. Four or more missing teeth are a serious fault.

Neck, Topline and Body

Neck round, muscular, rather long and elegant, slightly arched and tapered from head to body. Skin well-fitting with no loose folds. Withers accentuated. Topline level, straight and firm from withers to croup. Croup medium long, sloping gradually to the base of the tail. Chest not broad without being narrow, but deep; the lowest point of the brisket reaching the elbow, forming a smooth ascendant curve to the abdomen. Abdomen moderately developed, neither tucked up nor paunchy. Ribs well-sprung but flat on the sides. Loin section viewed from above is relatively short, broad and strong, but blending smoothly into the back. Tail strong at the base, the last vertebra to reach at least to the hock. At rest the dog holds it low, the tip bent back level with the hock. When in action, he may raise it to a point level with the topline giving it a slight curve, but not a hook. Tail is not carried above the backline nor turned to one side. A cropped or stump tail is a disqualification.


Shoulders long, laid back 45 degrees, flat against the body, forming a right angle with the upper arm. Top of the shoulder blades roughly two thumbs width apart. Upper arms should move in a direction exactly parallel to the longitudinal axis of the body. Forearms long and well-muscled.  Legs straight and parallel, perpendicular to the ground. Bone oval rather than round. Pasterns short and strong, slightly sloped. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet rounded, cat footed, turning neither in nor out, toes curved close together, well-padded, strong nails.


Legs powerful without heaviness, moving in the same pattern as the limbs of the forequarters. Bone oval rather than round. Thighs broad and heavily muscled. Stifles clearly defined, with upper shank at right angles to hipbones. Hocks moderately bent. Metatarsi short, perpendicular to the ground, parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Dewclaws are removed. Feet slightly elongated, toes curved close together, heavily padded, strong nails.


The Belgian Tervuren is particularly adaptable to extremes of temperature or climate. The guard hairs of the coat must be long, close-fitting, straight and abundant. The texture is of medium harshness, not silky or wiry. Wavy or curly hair is a fault. The undercoat is very dense, commensurate, however, with climatic conditions. The hair is short on the head, outside the ears, and on the front part of the legs. The opening of the ear is protected by tufts of hair. Ornamentation consists of especially long and abundant hair, like a collarette around the neck, particularly on males; fringe of long hair down the back of the forearm; especially long and abundant hair trimming the breeches; long, heavy and abundant hair on the tail. The female rarely has as long or as ornamented a coat as the male. This disparity must not be a consideration when the female is judged against the male.


Body rich fawn to russet mahogany with black overlay is ideal and preferred. Predominate color that is pale, washed out, cream or gray is a fault.The coat is characteristically double pigmented whereby the tips of fawn hairs are blackened. Belgian Tervuren characteristically become darker with age. On mature males, this blackening is especially pronounced on the shoulders, back and rib section. Blackening in patches is a fault. Although allowance should be made for females and young males, absence of blackening in mature dogs is a serious fault.

Chest is normally black, but may be a mixture of black and gray. White is permitted on the chest/sternum only, not to extend more than 3 inches above the prosternum, and not to reach either point of shoulder. Face has a black mask and the ears aremostly black. A face with a complete absence of black is a serious fault. Frost or white on chin or muzzle is normal. The underparts of the body, tail, and breeches are cream, gray, or light beige. The tail typically has a darker or black tip. Feet- The tips of the toes may be white. Nail color may vary from black to transparent. Solid black, solid liver or any area of white except as specified on the chest, tips of the toes, chin and muzzle are disqualifications.


Lively and graceful, covering the maximum ground with minimum effort. Always in motion, seemingly never tiring, he shows ease of movement rather than hard driving action. He single tracks at a fast gait, the legs both front and rear converging toward the centerline of gravity of the dog. Viewed from the side he exhibits full extension of both fore and hindquarters. The backline should remain firm and level, parallel to the line of motion. His natural tendency is to move in a circle, rather than a straight line. Padding, hackneying, weaving, crabbing and similar movement faults are to be penalized according to the degree with which they interfere with the ability of the dog to work. 


In his relationship with humans he is observant and vigilant with strangers, but not apprehensive. He does not show fear or shyness. He does not show viciousness by unwarranted or unprovoked attack. He must be approachable, standing his ground and showing confidence to meet overtures without himself making them. With those he knows well, he is most affectionate and friendly, zealous for their attention and very possessive.


Any deviation from these specifications is a fault. In determining whether a fault is minor, serious, or major, these two factors should be used as a guide:

  • The extent to which it deviates from the standard.
  • The extent to which such deviation would actually affect the working ability of the dog.


Males under 23 inches or over 26.5 inches or females under 21 inches or over 24.5 inches.
Hanging ears, as on a hound.
An undershot bite such that there is a complete loss of contact by all the incisors.
A cropped or stump tail.
Solid black, solid liver or any area of white
except as specified on the chest, tips of the toes, chin, and muzzle.

Copyright © 2007 American Belgian Tervuren Club, Inc. All rights reserved.