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A Brief History of the Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog standing outside in the field.

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, February 2014 issue.

 

A Brief History of the Belgian Sheepdog

The Belgian Sheepdog breed came into being in 1891 in Belgium when Adolpho Reul chose medium sized dogs with prick ears that were sheep herders. These dogs were traced back to Central Europe as a domestic dog that protected stock from predators. Sheep herders found them to be desirable because they were strong and agile, and could withstand any climate. Because of their intelligence and easy trainability, they were adaptable to many functions. The first decade of the Twentieth Century found Belgian Sheepdogs working for the police forces throughout Belgium, Paris, New York City, and in Newark, New Jersey. They were also employed by European border patrols as watchdogs. During the Wars Belgians served as message carriers and Red Cross dogs. Since World War II, interest in the breed has continued to grow and develop very quickly because of its versatility. In the early 1900’s some Belgians were imported into the US with AKC records showing them being imported and registered in 1911.

History of the Belgian Sheepdog

Rudy Robinson is credited with the increase of the Belgian Sheepdog. He kept his people updated with his own newsletter and is credited with having imported over 50 dogs. He was an active communicator with the European breeders. The greatest impact was probably the 1951 importation of Zulvo and Zamarone. Zulvo would have a tremendous impact on most of the major kennels of this time and therefore can be found behind most of our American dogs. Zamarone was to be a brood bitch of the Krohn’s kennel. The importation of the Pirata Nero litter from Italy also impacted the development of the breed in the US. Zulvo and this litter impacted Geier Tal, Mi-Sha-ook, A-Yacht, C’est Si Bon, Ganymede, Bingen, Ebon Will, Solarmarc, Siegestor and Val de Tonnerre.

History of the Belgian Sheepdog

You will find these kennel names behind virtually every American dog. The next great impact on the breed was the straw vote of 1959 that split the breed. Belgians were registered and shown as one breed in the United States. The AKC gave each variety a separate status. The longhaired black dog was recognized as the Belgian Sheepdog. The uprising by the Tervuren people allowed them to be recognized and to compete as a separate breed in the group. The Malinois did not achieve AKC recognition until the 70s and the Laekenois is still working on achieving full AKC recognition. This split has the United States as the only country where we are not one breed in the world.

Today Belgian Sheepdogs show their talents in the conformation, obedience and agility rings, tracking, schutzhund and in herding. They are still used in police work and in search and rescue. They make excellent service dogs for the handicapped and therapy dogs. The Belgian Sheepdog continues to prove themselves as one of the most versatile breeds and still maintains devotion and beauty.