Bouvier des Flandres

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Bouvier des Flandres means “cowherd from Flanders.” The dog was originally used by farmers and cattle merchants to control cattle. They were also used as farm and livestock guardians and as draft dogs. During World War I, they served as message carriers and as cart dogs carrying wounded soldiers. As a result of his exposure during the warfare and the nearly total destruction of Flanders, the breed was almost completely killed off. After the war, the Bouvier was reconstructed from a few individuals, and a breed club was established in Belgium. Currently the Bouvier serves as a watchdog, guardian, family companion, and as a herding and carting dog. This breed has also been used as a guide for the blind.


The Bouvier is a powerful, compact, rough-coated dog of rugged appearance. Its thick beard and shaggy eyebrows give the dog a distinctive appearance. The broad, strong muzzle is slightly tapered to a large, black nose with open nostrils. The oval, dark brown eyes have a bold, alert expression. The nose is black. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. Body length from point of shoulder to the tip of the rump should be approximately equal to the height of the dog from the withers to the ground, giving the dog a square profile. The chest is broad and deep, extending down to the elbow. The dog has a double coat. The rough, shaggy-looking outer coat is harsh and dry to the touch, lined with a soft, dense undercoat. The coat protects the dog in all types of inclement weather. The coat colors are primarily black or black-brindle and gray or gray-brindle. Fawn is allowable. A white star is permitted on the chest. The tail is customarily docked and the ears may be cropped to a point, though some breeders now leave them natural.

Key Facts

  • Height: 24-1/2 to 27-1/2 in. (male); 23-1/2 to 26-1/2 in. (female)
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 80 to 100 lbs. (male); 65 to 85 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Might take some effort to find
  • Talents: Tracking, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, military work, search and rescue, carting, agility, competitive obedience, and Schutzhund


The shaggy coat requires a lot of attention. Can be nippy in an attempt to herd people. Very hardy, but prone to hip dysplasia. Purchase only from OFA stock. The Bouvier is slow-maturing in both body and mind. Full maturity is generally not reached until the dog is 2 to 3 years old. Belgian lines tend to be somewhat smaller and lighter than Dutch bloodlines.


A brave guard with a pleasant nature. Looks intimidating, but is actually calm and gentle. Steady and fearless. Should be socialized well at an early age to avoid over-protectiveness and shyness. A good family dog, the Bouvier likes children. Loyal, enthusiastic, and responsible. Needs an experienced owner to prevent dominance problems. Obedience train early. Behavior with other animals depends on individual temperament and character. Be careful with non-canine pets. Dominant individuals can be dog-aggressive.


  • Children: Excellent with children
  • Friendliness: Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability: Easy to train
  • Independence: Fairly independent
  • Dominance: High
  • Other Pets: Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Not a barker
  • Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: Skilled trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Medium coat
  • Shedding: Very light
  • Docking: The ears are customarily cropped, and the tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise: Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Bouvier des Flandres Breed Standard

Bouvier des Flandres Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres Gifts