For every breed of protection dog well known around the world and established internationally, there are other breeds that are less known. Some breeds, such as the Bracco Italiano, are not very well known outside of their country of origin. Another example is the Beauceron. Although they are slowly gaining international recognition, the Beauceron remains little known outside of their native France.
The Beauceron is a sheep and cattle dog native to France, and the largest native French sheepdog. The breed has been active for at least several centuries. The first probable reference dates back to 1587 and describes a dog with the attributes of the Beauceron. It is therefore likely that the breed dates back well before then. The Beauceron is closely related to and associated with the Briard, a rather better-known long-haired sheepdog with similarly ancient roots. The Beauceron and Briard are commonly known in France as the Berger de Beauce and Berger de Brie respectively, the regions from which the breeds originated. (Berger means “Shepherd” in French.)
Although commonly used as a working dog whose primary purpose was herding and guarding livestock, the dog’s large size, strength and temperament made them ideal for protecting not only flocks and herds but homes and families as well. Standing nearly 24 inches at the shoulders and with an average weight of around 90 pounds, they are among the largest breeds of dogs in France, rendering them among the finest family protection dogs in France.
Despite their differences in both size and appearance, the Beauceron and Briard breeds of dogs were not widely described prior to the 19th century. In 1809, however, Frenchmen Abbe Rozier wrote an article describing both the Briard and Beauceron breeds. It was he who designated the breeds as Berger de Brie and Berger de Beauce.
Pedigrees began to attract greater prominence and significance in the late 19th century, and as a result, 1881 saw the establishment of the Société Centrale Canine, which was similar in function to the English Kennel Club and whose primary purpose was to sponsor dog shows. Twelve years after its founding, the Berger de Beauce was officially registered with the Société, a result of its increasing prominence and recognition among the French.
The differences between Briard and Beauceron sheepdogs were further cataloged and recorded by veterinarian Paul Megnin. It was he, along with his associate M. Emmanuel Ball, who firmly established the aesthetic requirements and standards of the breed. His devotion to the Beauceron continued, and in 1922 he guided the formation of Club des Amis du Beauceron.
Although the breed was formalized in 1893, there have been occasional changes in what is considered to be appropriate features for the breed. For example, certain common color patterns such as tawny are no longer accepted, and dogs with such a pattern are not considered to be purebred Beauceron.
Thanks to its intelligence, loyalty, and strength, the Beauceron and Briard both came to be heavily relied upon by the French armies during the first and second World Wars. The breed was served a variety of roles critical to the war efforts. While they were especially prized for their unwavering loyalty and ability to run messages from camp to camp, they were also used for a variety of other functions. Among them, the French military relied on their excellent sense of smell to pick up trails and detect mines. They were also used as personal protection dogs and assisted commando units.
In the years following World War II, there were concerns that, due to the growing urbanization of French society, the traditional, ancient sheepdog breeds such as the Beauceron could be lost. Thus, in the 1960s the French Ministry for Agriculture requested that the Société make an effort to preserve the traditional qualities of the Beauceron. Thanks to its intelligence and adaptable nature, the Beauceron has adapted from its original role of herding and protecting flocks to a more urban role as a protection dog. Their fierce loyalty to their masters makes them an ideal choice for a protection dog. In addition, the Beauceron is still employed by the French military and is also sometimes utilized by the police as personal protection dogs.
In the years following the Ministry for Agriculture’s efforts, the Beauceron’s popularity began to explode. This was bolstered in part by their loyalty and devotion to their masters, and also to a degree by the preference shown by beloved French author Colette, who called the Beauceron “the country gentleman,” writing strongly in their favor in her trademark prose.
Although still relatively unknown to the international community, the Beauceron is slowly starting to gain recognition worldwide, especially in the United States. Their excellent temperament, intelligence, and obedience make them ideal working dogs, especially in rural regions of the United States where ranching and farming occupy a significant role in the economy. They are also gaining attention in urban areas, as their fierce loyalty and strength make for excellent protection dogs. They also benefit from a temperament that makes them good with children and an excellent companion. The Beauceron is more than just a working ranch dog. They are excellent family protection dogs as well.