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Get to Know the Belgian Tervuren: Mahogany Majesty

This elegant herding dog is tougher than she looks.

Caroline Coile  |  Apr 25th 2016


I met my first Belgian Tervuren when I was a teenager. She was in our obedience class and was by far the shining star. Elegant, intelligent, loyal — I was to find out she was a typical Terv. But these days, the Terv seems overshadowed by its fellow Belgian breeds.

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Belgian Tervuren by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Belgian Tervuren

  • The Belgian Tervuren is one of four Belgian Shepherd breeds, all sharing the same origins but distinguished by different coat types and colors. They are the wire-haired Laekenois, the shorthaired Malinois, the long-black-haired Groenendael (known in America as the Belgian Sheepdog), and the long-anything-but-black-haired Tervuren.
  • All of these herding-guard breeds were interbred before and after their recognition as one breed (the Belgian, or Continental, Shepherd) in 1891.
  • The Belgian Tervuren was developed as an all-around farm dog, capable of herding, guarding, and even draft work if needed. Early on, they were also chosen for police work, and they particularly excel in scent work.
  • The Tervuren was named after the village of Tervuren, where one of the breed’s earliest proponents lived.
  • The Tervuren lagged behind the other Shepherd breeds in popularity, perhaps hindered by its less flashy color and disagreements over exactly what colors were desirable. The accepted colors today are fawn to mahogany, with black overlay, and a black mask and ears.
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Belgian Tervuren by Shutterstock.

  • The AKC recognized all the coat varieties as one breed, the Belgian Sheepdog, in 1912. The first Terv was registered in America in 1918, but the breed’s numbers were so low that they died out by the Depression.
  • In the early 1900s, Belgian Shepherds were already being used as police dogs in Europe, with a few even performing that duty in America. In World War I, they served as sentries, messengers, and even draft dogs.
  • In the 1920s, an Amsterdam Terv police dog named Albert tracked down more than 200 fugitives. A statue of him stands in an Amsterdam park.
  • The breed had to almost re-create after World War II from longhaired offspring of Malinois parents. Long hair is a recessive allele.
  • In 1959, the Belgian Shepherd was divided into the three separate breeds we now know: the long-coated black Belgian Sheepdog, the long-coated sable Belgian Tervuren, and the short-coated sable Belgian Malinois. As a separate breed, this meant the Terv could no longer be interbred with the others, and it was on its own.
  • The breed has since captured the eye of many fanciers, as they are the most elegant of the three breeds, and they now enjoy moderate popularity.
  • They are a versatile dog and are used less in guard work, but more in herding, than their Belgian Malinois and Belgian Sheepdog counterparts.
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Belgian Tervuren by Shutterstock.

  • Many Tervurens have appeared in movies due to their trainability and their wolf-like appearance.
  • The Terv has competed at the Westminster dog show since 1961. It has won the group once, in 1983, the first year that the Working Group was split and the Terv won the newly formed Herding Group. The winning Terv was named Champion Corsairs Beaujangles.
  • The Terv may be confused with the German Shepherd, but the Tervuren is much more square proportioned, finer boned, and usually has longer hair.
  • The Terv is the 98th most popular AKC breed, up from 108th five years ago.
  • A Terv had a recurring role in the BBC television series EastEnders.