Information about the Briard
The Briard is an ancient breed of large herding dog, originally from France. A Briard-type dog appears in Gaston Febus’ Livre de chasse (“Book of the Hunt”), written in the 14th century. According to legend, about the same time, a Briard fought a judicial duel with Robert Macaire to revenge its murdered owner, Aubry of Montdidier. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Lafayette are all said to have owned Briards. It became popular after the Paris dog show of 1863, after the breed had been fixed, with crosses with the Beauceron and the Barbet. During the First World War, the Briard was used, almost to the point of extinction, by the French Army as a sentry, messenger, and to search for wounded soldiers. The Briard’s modern-day roles include police, military and search-and-rescue work, as well as companion dog.
The Briard can be any of several different solid colors or lighter colors with darker or light ears and face. Briards stand 58 to 69 cm (22 to 27 inches) at the withers. Ear cropping has been common in the breed, although more breeders are leaving the ears in their natural state since ear cropping is becoming illegal in most European countries, including the Briard’s land of origin, France. Their long coat requires an extensive amount of grooming. Briards come in a variety from different colors and the ones with lighter colors are often mistaken for haystacks.
They were originally bred to herd as well as guard flocks of sheep. And they were often left to their own devices in order to accomplish their assigned tasks. This makes the Briard different from those breeds that only guard and those that only herd. The breeds that just herd are often smaller in size, agile, and swift of foot. Those breeds that just guard are usually larger and heavier.
The breed characteristics of the Briard, are of a medium sized, rugged, agile dog, having harsh coat and double dewclaws mounted low on each rear leg, resembling additional toes. Each double dew claw should have bone substance and nail, giving the appearance of a wider rear foot. Bred for centuries to herd, the additional digits on each rear foot give the Briard the ability of pivoting on one foot for quick turns and complete turn arounds, which are necessary when herding and guarding their flocks. Throughout history, the Briard has retained an appropriate balance of size and build that is required for both herding and protection of their flocks. They are not too large to tire during herding yet large enough to fend off predators such as fox and wolves.
The Briard is a very loyal and protective breed. The Briard is also called a heart of gold wrapped in fur. Once they have bonded to their family members, they will be very protective. They can be aloof with strangers – new introductions should be on the dog’s terms, including furniture or the addition of a new baby into the household. They require showing that the new intrusion is friendly and free of conflict. They must be taught that it is a good thing and not harmful. They have proven to be a very good breed to have around children of all ages. Indeed, these dogs rapidly develop an affection to their owners. They are really emotional, capable of crying for a long time after their owners’ departure and celebrate their return in a very enthusiastic way.
It is also important that the Briard be introduced to several different individuals of all ages and in all types of situations. Socialization starting at a very young age is mandatory. Briards should be walked as often as possible, to many different places, and they will develop into a well rounded animal. Pet stores, city parks and malls are a good place to start.
The Briard has been bred for centuries to herd and to protect their flocks. To domesticated briards, their family is the flock and all strangers may appear to be predators. Letting them know that the public in general are friendly and not harmful will help them establish a lifelong socialization pattern which will result in an outgoing and happy dog. This socialization with the public in general will not diminish their capacity for protecting and guarding their family.
The Briard has a very good memory. Once a lesson is learned, good or bad, the knowledge will be retained for a long time to come. Sometimes they may appear to be strong minded and stubborn but these are a few of the Briard’s characteristics. They were bred for centuries to think for themselves and to act upon their conclusions, sometimes to the point of thinking what the “flock” will do ahead of time.
These are some of the traits that the Briard has retained throughout history. Even if a Briard is a city dweller, they have a degree of herding ability within them. If ever, during their lifetime, they are introduced to sheep or cattle, they will automatically start doing what they were bred to do, herding. They will even herd humans by nibbling on their ankles or guiding with their heads and guide them to his master if ordered.