Bouvier des Flandres

Having worked for centuries as cattle herders, in the Flanders region on the border between France and Belgium, this breed remains primarily a working dog, serving excellently in seeing-eye, military, and police roles.

This was a dog of many uses which included pulling carts and driving cattle or oxen.


At first these dogs were used to herd cattle, then later to pull milk carts. Bouvier means cow-keeper or cow-chaser in French. British author Ouida's (Marie Louise de la Ramee, 1839-1908) book A Dog of Flanders was based on the bouvier and helped to popularize the breed. Due to the local ravages of WW I, it almost became extinct; however, Belgian vets saved a few remaining bouviers and began breeding them. It was only in the 1930s that this breed was introduced to the United States, supposedly by a film producer.


The Bouvier des Flandres is large, up to 27 1/2 inches/70 cm for the male and 26 1/2 inches/67 cm for the female. Under the British Standard, males are 25-27 inches/63-68 cm. On average, the breed weighs 75-95 pounds/34-43 kg. The Bouvier is a square dog with a robust body.

Compact, square built, well muscled with strong limbs, yet short and wide, the rugged bouvier des Flandres has a big head with a flat skull, a large nose with flared nostrils, high-set ears that are often cropped, and dark brown eyes covered with long eyebrows that give this dog a very melancholic look. Its harsh, dry, medium-length (2 1/2 inches) outercoat and soft, thick, fine undercoat, along with its prominent whiskers, beard, and longer hair between the toes, allow the bouvier to withstand severely inclement weather. Dogs that are white, chocolate, or parti-color, however, are strongly penalized at dog shows. The Bouvier des Flandres is a big, wonderful, tousled dog with a dependable disposition.

The bouvier des Flandres appears quite calm and collected; it pays careful attention to, yet is most polite with children.

Because of its large size and tough appearance, it makes a good watchdog. In addition to its original role, it also does well as a guide dog or helping in police job.

Health Matters

As with many large to giant-sized breeds, the Bouvier des Flandres is prone to hip dysplasia and so stock should be purchased from reputable breeders who have health and temperament as their primary interest and who have kept health records on several generations. Gastric torsion can be a problem and it is recommended that the Bouvier be given two or three small meals daily. Feeding soy-free products is encouraged.

Care and Exercise

Teeth, nails and ears need weekly attention and, as the coat should be 2 1/2 inches/6.5 cm in length over the entire body, routine weekly brushing and combing are prerequisites. The beard and mustache can grow quite bushy and long and they may need washing and drying on a regular basis. Full baths should be given as required; regular grooming will remove shedding hair.

A thorough half-hour brushing daily will suffice, but this breed requires a good walk twice a day. Because of its size and energy, it does best when kept outdoors where it can run freely in a big enclosed area.


Its large size necessitates ample space in which to exercise. The breed also enjoys being put to work, which keeps its mind active. For these reasons, it is much better suited to country living.


A slow-maturing (about 2 1/2 years) breed, a bouvier des Flandres usually has five to ten puppies in a litter. If a puppy's ears are cropped, this should be done at eight to twelve weeks after birth. As the breed has an excellent memory, the puppies are very easy to train and discipline.

Gallery of Bouvier des Flandres