Rough, strong and compact, Bouviers des Flandres have a powerful, strong, rugged appearance. They have an abundant, harsh coat that is unkempt-looking, and a beard, moustache, and bushy eyebrows. Bouviers come in colours from fawn to black, and brindle. Adult females measure 59-65cm and weigh 27-35kg. Adult males measure 62-68cm and weigh 35-40kg.
The exact origins of this breed are unknown, but from the 1600s all dogs working with cattle were called 'bouviers' (bovine herder) and each region throughout the area had its own name and type. These dogs were prized as drovers and guardians. During World War One bouvier dogs were almost decimated and many of the rarer types were lost altogether. The only two to survive were the Bouvier des Flandres and the Bouvier de Ardennes. Both France and Belgium claim origin of the Flandres dog. A Belgian army veterinarian, Captain Darby, can be credited with ensuring the continuity of the breed throughout the war years.
Despite their forbidding appearances, Bouvier des Flandres have stable temperaments and amiable dispositions, making them ideal family pets. Protective of their families and homes, they are somewhat reserved with strangers but never aggressive. Quiet, calm and sensible in the house, they are affectionate with their family and will accept other dogs and household pets if properly socialised and introduced when young.
Bouvier des Flandres are relatively hardy dogs, but as with many breeds, they can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important. The breed is particularly predisposed to laryngeal paralysis, which can result in noisy breathing and difficulty breathing.
As puppies, Bouvier des Flandres dogs will get enough exercise running about their own gardens. Once adults, they are very adaptable to family circumstances, but should be given at least an hour's daily exercise.
Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. The Bouvier is prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.
This breed has an abundant, coarse outer coat that should be kept at about 6cm long. The undercoat is close and dense. Bouviers should be groomed at least three times a week with particular attention being paid to their beards and moustaches to ensure they are kept free of food. It is important to ensure the undercoat is kept mat-free for the comfort of the dog. The outer coat should be stripped at least twice a year during their moulting seasons.