Little is known about the Beauceron prior to the XIXth century. The foundation of the race
dates back directly to the Canis familiaris palustris, otherwise known as the "Peat Dog"
(Chiens des Tourbières), where its existence has been documented to the Stone Age
(Neolithic Period), and is the oldest European dog. Remains of the "Peat Dog" have been
found in the lake dwellings of Switzerland and France. The "Peat Dog" seems to have
transmitted to its descendants a type common to the herding breeds. The origins of the
Beauceron are similar to those of most herding breeds from Continental Europe.
In the ancient times, the shepherd used the dog to protect its flock. The animal was rather
solid, powerful, courageous and distrustful.
The origins of the herding dog appear to date back to the XIIIth century, in the
Scandinavian Islands. Its use spread to the British Isles during the XV th century and did
not become widespread in Continental Europe until the end of the XVIIth century.
We still see the dog from the plains, of medium size, and the mountain dog, smaller ( not
to be confused with the mountain type of certain large dogs). They each possess endurance
and a willingness to work that consists of moving the animals (sheep, mostly) from one
field to another, and from the farm to the market or to the slaughterhouse, to bring back
the stragglers and to protect the fields.
After the disappearance of the wolves, the plains became safer; the flocks expanded
without the fear for the safety of the animals. The protection dog became less popular,
except in the mountainous regions and other hostile areas where it was still useful. The
herding dog was essentially developed in the plains; its use became necessary as soon as
the land became subdivided and cultivation became more widespread.
With the advent of modernization in the twentieth Century, and a decline in sheep farming,
the Club des Amis du Beauceron in France saw a need to redirect the use of the Beauceron
while still preserving the qualities that it was known for, including its herding
abilities. Since the Beauceron already possessed the qualities required for the art of
Ringsport, it was an easy transition and he has not only become a familiar sight at
Ringsport competitions but also a formidable opponent. Fortunately, its herding abilities
have not been lost, and the Beauceron is still an excellent herding dog today.
The Beauceron has undergone a constant evolution and adaptation over the years and the
Beauceron from today is different both physically and mentally than the Beauceron from the
early 20th Century.
History and Origins
If we look at the morphological evolution of the Beauceron throughout the years, we
notice a distinct change. The Beauceron from the early to mid-1900s was, on average,
shorter and lighter in bone structure than it is today. Their head was closer to the
ideal breed standard, with correct proportions, albeit the muzzle tended to be a little
By looking at the show results and the photos of the Beaucerons over the decades, we
notice a change and constant evolution in the breed, progressively attaining better
homogeneity. Today’s Beauceron tends to be larger, heavier, and have a more substantial
bone structure than it did 80 years ago. For the most part, both extremes have been
eliminated, thanks to rigorous selection and severity of the judgements, especially at
the Nationale d’Elevage which has been held in France since 1963.
There is still the possibility to throwbacks from decades ago, not due to poor
selection, but strictly to the hazards and unpredictability of the genetic influences of
the individual subjects.
During the 1980s and prior, the Beauceron was not the sociable gentleman that it is
today. A number of females especially, were fearful of people and there were few dogs
with a true “guard dog” personality. This, coupled with the fact that some of the dogs
showed a tendency to aggression, is what gave the Beauceron the reputation of a dog that
could not be trusted and that could if provoked have a tendency to bite.
The selection in France over the many years has eliminated the dogs from both extremes
of the scale (aggressive and fearful), rendering some Beaucerons softer in temperament,
and, often times, too soft to stand up in difficult, sometimes simple day to day
A true guard dog is sociable, yet tough, not intimidated by a person having dishonest
intentions, always willing and ready to defend himself and his master, a tough dog with
a tender heart for his master. Due to a number of factors, from the difference in people’
s lifestyles to the liability concerns and stigmas associated with having a “tough dog”,
today’s Beauceron has become a “watch dog” as opposed to a “guard dog”.
The trend today is towards dogs that are easy to handle for the busy families, easy to
train and sociable, get along with everyone, so as not to present any threat to anyone
else. The trend has also shifted from having true working dogs to having dogs used in
“fun sports”, such as Agility, Rally Obedience, Tracking, Obedience, where dogs are
expected to get along with each other and with people in class settings. This trend is
much more prevalent in North America than in Europe, where the Beauceron is still very
much used in defence sports, such as Ringsport, Shutzhund, or R.C.I.
Today, the Beauceron, like many other breed has been molded to become more “socially
acceptable” in today’s society.