|Barked: Thu Jul 9, '09 11:11am PST |
|Shira Moir-Smith lets us know more about this great breed...
The Dogs of Flanders Fields
In the early evening, I'm walking along a trail with my Bouvier des Flandres, Griffin. He is ahead, moving smoothly and quickly with his habitual mile-eating trot. The trail curves, and briefly he disappears from sight. Suddenly I hear a high-pitched shriek. A jogger appears around the corner, clutching his chest melodramatically. "Oh, my god!" he gasps, "I thought it was a bear!" Griffin, unperturbed by the man's reaction, waits calmly while the man recovers his dignity, but positions himself solidly between the two of us.
People frequently have this "Bear!" reaction to Bouviers and it never ceases to amuse me. How many bears have you seen trotting purposefully along on well-peopled trails? It is true that Bouviers have a distinctive, rolling, bear-like gait. It is also true that Bouviers, like bears, tend to carry their heads low to the ground, and they are also shaggy, and black, and large. But they aren't that large.
In spite of first impressions, Bouviers are in fact medium-sized dogs, only slightly bigger than Labrador Retrievers. The ideal male Bouvier measures about 26 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighs around 95 pounds-much less than even a small black bear. The female is about an inch shorter and weights proportionately less. While much larger Bouviers are not uncommon, substandard oversize dogs lose the agility so essential for correct and harmonious motion. They also tend to suffer from physical problems related to poor structure, and tend not to live as long as their average-sized counterparts.
Bouviers are rough-coated and most commonly black-brindle, but they may also be grey-brindle or even fawn; and some may have little white stars on their chests. They are square dogs with relatively short backs and thickset bodies, presenting an overall impression of power without clumsiness. The characteristic beard and moustache make the head appear massive. The ears are generally cropped into a triangular contour that is proportional with the head and which contribute to the characteristic Bouvier look. Some owners leave their Bouviers' ears uncropped, but most still prefer the look and the ease of care of cropped ears; it's far easier to keep cropped ears dry inside and free of debris. Likewise, Bouviers generally have docked tails for practical reasons: docked tails don't get stepped on, crushed or run over by people or animals.
A Bouvier projects a sense of presence-an indefinable air of calm self-assurance that commands immediate respect from people and dogs alike. He needs no accolades or acknowledgment, as he knows who he is and he likes himself. He is typically easygoing, rational and prudent; but the fire in his eyes reveals energy, audacity and a willingness to act if necessary. Ordinarily unflappable, it takes a great deal to upset or provoke him, but once provoked he won't be easily intimidated or made to back down. But though fearless, he is neither vicious nor vindictive; he will apply the minimum amount of force necessary to deal with a situation He's more likely to prevent a burglar from leaving with the loot than to savage him (or her) during the break-in. This balance between aggressive protectiveness and respect for other creatures is a key characteristic of the Bouvier; and as a result they are often used in the French, Dutch and Belgian military and police forces. The Victoria, B.C., police department has also used Bouviers on its dog squad.
The Bouvier des Flandres originated as a distinct breed at the end of the 19th century, in the agrarian communities of western Belgium (Flanders).
To read the rest of this article, please go to: http://www.moderndogmagazine.com/breeds/bouvier-des-flandres
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