The Bouvier des Ardennes is rare breed of herding dog, well used to the cold winters and rugged uplands of the Ardennes Forest. But despite the breed’s hardy outdoor beginnings, these companionable and loyal working dogs fit in well as family pets, or standing guard at the front door or by the garden gate.
The history of the Bouvier des Ardennes
The origins of the Bouvier des Ardennes can be traced back to the southern Belgian countryside. In the Ardennes, it was used to guard and manage flocks of sheep, herds of pigs, and particularly cattle. In an area where breeding and animal husbandry were a source of local pride, these dogs were doubly valued: both for protecting the prize livestock, and as a regional emblem in themselves. Centuries ago, their ancestors were also used when the nobility went hunting the forest’s deer and wild boar – a further proof of the breed’s reliability, versatility and quick learning.
As the number of farms in the area dwindled, the Bouvier des Ardennes could easily have gone the way of other now-lost breeds, such as the related Bouvier de Moerman and Bouvier de Paret. Fortunately, a revival of interest among specialist breeders ensured their survival. However, these handsome creatures are much more than just an interesting historical rarity. They have retained the hard-working traits that originally made them so useful around the farm. Tireless and loyal, they have the potential to be trained up as excellent working dogs.
The Bouvier des Ardennes at its best
The Bouvier des Ardennes is, above all, a hard worker – the result of careful breeding in days gone by. It’s easy to see the innate characteristics that first attracted the breeders’ attention, and the finest examples have a wonderful natural vigour. However, too much is sometimes made of this defining eagerness and strength – they are also courageous but also playful and naturally curious.
It is this range of characteristics that ensures the breed’s adaptability - a welcome addition in many different walks of life. Many Bouviers des Ardennes are well-loved members of the family, but others still ply a trade as sheepdogs or guard dogs; these roles make good use of their ingrained pack loyalty and readiness to defend their family and territory. As a rule, the breed does not require elaborate or lengthy training, as they are quick on the uptake and temperamentally well suited to their main roles.
Appearance and build
With their lightly shaggy coats, sharp eyes and large, alert ears, these animals look every inch the outdoor working dog. They grow to medium size, with males being heavier and larger than females: females are usually between 52 and 56 centimetres tall, with male dogs generally a few centimetres bigger. They weigh in at anything from 28kg to 35kg.
Beneath their characteristic topcoat, the undercoat is thick and warm all year round, growing slightly thicker during the harshest winter weather. The combination is the perfect foil to the great outdoors, keeping the dogs well protected. Generally, the coat grows to around six centimetres, although it is shorter and closer around the head. The Bouvier des Ardennnes has a distinctive beard that can grow to up to six centimetres.