Thought to originate from the Province of Brie, in France, the Briard was originally developed to protect against wolf attacks. Eventually, they became beloved pets and herding dogs.
History and Origin
As one of the oldest working dogs known, the Briard (pronounced bree-ARD) has a rich history. The Briard is recognized in some circles as the Chien Berger de Brie, or the Shepherd Dog of Brie. First described in the 14th century, this breed was depicted in tapestries dating as far back as the 8th century. The Province of Brie is the assumed place of origin, but there is no hard evidence of this.
The Briard may be a cross between the beauceron (a French herding dog) and the barbet (a French water dog). They were originally employed to defend humans against wolves and poachers. In time, the French army used the Briard to carry messages and to search for wounded in war. After the French Revolution they gradually came to perform more serene work in the form of herding. These dogs gained popularity as pets in the early 1900s. Some of the most famous owners of Briards are Charlemagne, Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson.
The Briard's history in the United States is not well documented. Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have introduced this breed to the country, but some documents credit the Marquis de Lafayette. The first AKC-registered litter of puppies was in 1922. The Briard Club of America was established in 1928. American soldiers were introduced to the Briard after World War I, and they promptly began using them for military work. Today, they are used as herders, guard dogs, companions, search and rescue dogs, and for military work.
Appearance and Size
The most distinguishing characteristics of the Briard are the eyebrows, moustache and beard. These characteristics give the Briard an almost human-like quality. Coupled with the small hook at the end of the tail, called the crochet, the Briard has an immensely unique appearance among breeds.
The Briard's hair is a wavy, course, double coat usually around 6 inches long. The colors range from fawn to black. The tail hair usually feathered. The hair on the high set ears is clipped into a round shape.
The Briard has an exceptionally powerful body. His strong neck and squared nose make for a commanding presence. His eyes are positioned well apart with a self-assured gaze. The AKC requires these dogs to have two dewclaws on each rear foot.
The adult Briard stands 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder. They range in weight from 74 to 76 pounds.
The Briard is a very intelligent breed. They are faithful and obedient, making them easily trainable. They have a very high herding instinct, and may tend to herd young children and other animals. They are attentive and gentle when dealing with their "flock."
Briards can be very protective of children. They need to be heavily socialized at a very early age; a poorly socialized Briard can be independent, stubborn and even fearful. Most are leery of strangers. They are eager to please, but owners must be firm. These dogs love to work. They have heightened hearing abilities making them a first-rate guard dog.
These dogs can be dog-aggressive. They require a lot of distraction and activity to keep them busy. A bored Briard is a destructive Briard.
Home and Family Relations
This breed can be standoffish with strangers. They do not thrive without socialization and demand time with the family. They require a lot of exercise, making them an excellent companion for an active older child. With the right owner, a Briard can be an exceptional family pet.
Briards learn very quickly with consistent training. Early training is recommended. As with all dogs, training should use positive correction – this breed does not respond well to punishment. They have an excellent memory and are very versatile. Briards excel at tracking, hunting, military work, police work and search and rescue.
With poor training, Briards can be aggressive. It is recommended that you consult with a professional trainer before beginning any training with your Briard.
The Briard coat requires regular grooming. This active breed can be a challenge to raise.
Common Diseases and Disorders
In general, the Briard is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported: