The Belgian Shepherd Dogs breed takes its origin from the large numbers of herding dogs that ran across Europe in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The first mention of dogs similar to modern Belgian Shepherd Dogs dates back to 1650. They were mainly shepherd dogs. These were dogs of different colors, sizes and coat structures. They had one thing in common – they perfectly helped herd herds: they gathered animals in a heap, and if necessary, they could protect them from a wild beast, and they also protected the owner from uninvited aggressive two-legged “animals”.
On September 29, 1891, shepherd lovers organized a Belgian Shepherd Dogs Club or Club du chien de berger belge in Belgium. The first project of this club was an exhibition at the veterinary school in Cureghem, which took place in the same year on November 15th. 117 dogs were presented at the show. After examination, only 40 of them were recommended for further breeding by Professor Reul. By April 3, 1892, the first detailed BO standard was ready. However, the dogs were still very diverse and the standard did not have any official status.
As a result, it wasn’t until 1901 that the first Belgian Shepherd dogs were registered with the Royal Saint-Hubert Society Stud Book (L.O.S.H.).
Over the next few years, breed enthusiasts worked actively to unify the type and “correct errors” from the original 1892 standard. It can be argued that by 1910 the type and character of the Belgian Shepherd Dogs had been established. The set of colors was discussed for a long time and hotly, but the morphology, character and suitability for work did not cause controversy.
At first there were three color options:
- for dogs with long hair – only black. This is the Groenendael;
- for dogs with short hair – red-brown color. Now we call these dogs Malinois;
- for dogs with coarse hair – gray. This type of BO is called Laekenois.
By adopting only three color options in the standard, many valuable dogs were excluded from breeding. Owners of dogs whose color did not match the above three organized their own club and bred dogs of all shades of brown, gray and black. In 1885 these clubs merged and the standard changed.
To date, the Belgian Shepherd Dogs are bred in the following four varieties:
- Groenendael – long-haired, black;
- Laekenois – rough-haired, gray or red-brown in color;
- Malinois – short-haired, red-brown color;
- Tervueren – long-haired, red-brown color.
By the way, the United States and Canada, under the name of the Belgian shepherd dog, mean only the Groenendael, while the Malinois and Tervurenines pass as separate breeds, and the Laekenois is not recognized at all.