Les Amis du Beauceron
The Beauceron is one of the oldest French breeds and shares a common origin with several different herding breeds. Some as Pennant and Tilesius believed the breed to be of jackal or wolf origin, but today it appears that this version is totally wrong. There have been many changes to the different varieties of the sheepdog breeds, resulting from the unique ways of living; whether as part of the family, tending livestock or working, in addition to all the environmental factors such geographical location, climate and use. Additionally, the different breeding methods and goals, lead to the usefulness of these dogs, whether that was for herding, companionship or protection.
The Beauceron is noted for being of "Lupoid" type and naturalists of the eighteenth century (Buffon, Linnaeus, Cuvier) as well as animal scientists of the nineteenth century (Cornevin, Mégnin, Dechambre) felt that the breed descended from a very ancient strain that palaeontologists have designated as the "Dog Tourbières" (Canis familiaris palustris). Remains of the Dog Tourbieres have been found in the lake regions in the french Jura, though it would be wrong to believe that this Dog Tourbières physically resembled the current Beauceron or other sheepdog breed.
Since ancient times, Latin authors have written of the sheepdog. In the first century of our civilization, Varro cites, without defining them, many famous sheepdog breeds. Later, Gaston Phoebus has also described these varieties. The idea that emerges from these writings is that the dog known as "shepherd" was primarily a defender of the flock against potential predators such as wolves, lynx, bears, etc. and not a driving dog. Until relatively recently, it seemed that all the shepherd dog work was focused on the defense of the flock. There are a few documents that allow us to imagine what life may have been like with these shepherd dogs; however they are a few centuries old and clearly lack details.
It was in 1809 in the course of agriculture of the Abbot Rozier, that we hear of two shepherd dog breeds, including a mastiff and the other a plain dog. And it was not until 1863 that the first dog show was organized in Paris by the Imperial Society of Acclimation on the occasion of the World Fair. It was here that 13 dogs were presented with straight ears, black coat with tawny markings; all who were very much of the lupoid type. Undoubtedly, this was the first official appearance of what was to become the Beauceron. Until then, there were only a few defined types of dogs; luxury dogs and hunting dogs, while the sheepdog was considered an indispensable tool but nothing more.
It was during the nineteenth century that the idea of shepherd breeds became clearer. The agricultural world living in isolation and practicing little trade with its neighbors, resulted with each region keeping its own unique particularisms. This lack of communication was certainly the basis for the creation of canine breeds, each better suited to a particular region. Based on this data, its easy to imagine that specific regions with rustic, active, intelligent dogs that lent themselves to great service, could indeed create a unique strain of shepherd dog.
At that time, puppies had no market value and entire litters were not kept, only certain pups were retained. To determine their choice during the first months of life, the simplest and most natural way was to keep the puppies most similar to the their parents, based on physical resemblance. It is also likely that they chose based on individual skills and moral qualities. Thus, in a relatively short amount of time, twenty years was enough to form, in specific areas, a certain homogeneity amongst the progeny. Without knowing it, the idea of selection and creating a breed was born.
Before 1898 is when we saw the first shorthaired shepherd dog. These beaucerons resembled our current dogs from a distance. They had a fine muzzle, short coat, erect ears and a cozy undercoat. They were stained with fire over the eyes, below the jaw, shoulders and front ends of the four legs, which led the breeders then to call these dogs "Bas Rouge" meaning Red Stockings. The coat was usually black, although there were dogs of all colors, entirely gray or completely black. In the year 1898 Sauret, Chapuis, Derossy, Thibault, and others presented very beautiful subjects. The term "Beauceron" was mistakenly given to all dogs in the area whose hair was short. The dogs selected with long disheveled coats were selected and later named "Briard".
In 1894, a book on dog breeds by Henry Earl of Bylandt, was published in the Dutch language and made no mention of the Beauceron or any other breed of French. The omission which was strongly reproached and in a later edition done in French which appeared in 1897, the omission was repaired. The drawings were of great technical quality reflecting the breed we know today as the modern Beauceron. It was in 1896, under the influence of Pierre Mégnin (veterinary studies, member of the Academy of Medicine) along with the observations of Sauret (advised drover) and Emmanuel Boulet (farmer), organized with the support of Ernest Menaut (Inspector General of Agriculture); that a meeting was held in a room of the Villette market. A commission was formed and charged with determining the most rational points fixing the characteristics of the two shepherd dog breeds, one short-haired, the other long-haired. This commission included Ernest Menaut, Paul Dechambre (Professor of Animal Science at the Veterinary School of Alfort House and Grignon School of Agriculture), Edwars Milne (Director of the Museum of Natural History), Emmanuel Boulet and Sevrette (breeders), Bertaux, Director and Teyssandier (Veterinarian at the Villette market), Bénard Brandin, Bizouème, Triboulet, Roussile, (farmers with renowned sheep). The commission decided to name the shepherd dogs with long hair "Briard" and for those with short hair "Beauceron". There was no question that the French province of names indicate the place of origin of these two races, but only to differentiate one from the other.
Besides, it was in Brie that we specifically met a short-haired sheepdog, flying without floating, that Cornevin that calls the cattledog. It is certainly this type, improved by early farmers, Leroux, Leclerc, Sardine (the king of cropping), Triboulet, Derossy, Leys, Houlier and Sauret, whom, under the designation of "Red Stockings short coat" obtained success in the first dog events from 1896.
The names of these first beaucerons who were the ancestors of our current Beaucerons were Fido, Bas-Rouge, Bergère, Partons-nous, Camarade, Fripon, Ribotte, Rapide, etc. Following the market meeting in Villette, the first standards were adopted; a few months later the "Club français du chien de Berger" was founded under the patronage and the grant from the Ministry of Agriculture and chaired by Emmanuel Boulet. His articles were published in an official bulletin, which later became a regular newspaper known as Le Berger Francais "The French Shepherd". The main goals were defined as follows: encouraging by every means possible the improvement, breeding and training of the French breeds as useful sheepdogs, essential employees of the farm, faithful guardians and reward the best shepherds.
1. To organize sheepdog competition at work and exhibitions.
2. To recognize the finest types, providing the description of each variety to help educate farmers in selective breeding.
3. To invite its members to register their subjects of good type in the Book of French Origins (L.O.F.) to make known to purebred dog lovers following the breed.
4. To invite all agricultural companies and agricultural commerces to recognize and reward their sheepdogs and cattle at their annual meetings.
5. To reward shepherds who have completed the most years of loyal service to their masters or in the same operation.
6. To engage the agriculture companies to appoint a committee to inspect the sheep in their constituencies and reward shepherds whose flocks are best cared for and kept the best sheep.
The description of the two shepherd breeds, the Briard and Beauceron, was further set to the same era by Cornevin, Professor at the Veterinary School of Lyon, who with the help of Emmanuel Boulet, establishes a protocol consisting of different characteristics and measurements indicating the points of the standard for the two breeds. One must not forget to mention that in 1900 the Beauceron appeared with a short coat. Indeed some breeders for various reasons gave preference to dogs with short hair and often very dark markings appearing very small in size or not at all. Great numbers of this type were then presented; it was time lost for the future of the race, because staying in their original coat, was more conducive for the work to which it was intended. This coat made by nature better protected from daily weather, giving more satisfaction than the short hair, as there is a certain freshness to the skin during periods of heat and protects from the cold during the winter. We must remember this attempt because, nowadays, we still find some beaucerons with short hair, often very dark with a long, thin head; they call them "dobermans", although it is likely that these are resurgences dogs selected of this type in that time.
From 1914 to 1918, Berger de Beauce dogs of excellent type participated with all their courage and strength, to rescue the wounded.