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Briard fauve.JPG
Other namesBerger de Brie
Berger Briard
Weight Male 30–40 kg (66–88 lb)
Female 25–35 kg (55–77 lb)
Height Male 61–69 cm (24–27 in)
Female 58–65 cm (23–26 in)
Coat Long and slightly wavy.
Color Uniform black, fawn, grey or blue.
Life span 10-12 years
Classification / standards
FCI Group 1, Section 1 Sheepdogs #113 standard
AKC Herding standard
ANKC Group 5 (Working Dogs) standard
CKC Group 7 - Herding Dogs standard
KC (UK) Pastoral standard
NZKC Working standard
UKC Herding Dog standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Briard /brɑːrd/ is an ancient breed of large herding dog, originally from France. A Briard-like dog appears in Gaston Febus' Livre de chasse ("Book of the Hunt"), written in the late 14th century. According to legend, about the same time, a Briard fought a judicial duel with Robert Macaire to avenge the murder of its owner, Aubry of Montdidier.[citation needed] Charlemagne, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Lafayette are all said to have owned Briards.[1] The breed became popular after the Paris dog show of 1863, after having 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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed] 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. Briards were used in all types of herding situations, having the ability to learn many commands and fulfill the jobs expected of them. The Briard was most commonly used as a farm dog in the more crowded farming valleys of France, where row crops were grown.[citation needed] Sheep were allowed to graze the grass strips between crops and Briards were responsible for keeping the sheep moving along these strips, and preventing the sheep from eating the crops.[citation needed] The Briard moved the sheep daily from the farm to the graze areas and back again at night.[citation needed] At the farm, the Briard was the shepherd's partner, helping with livestock chores. The Briard was also used to move large flocks of sheep in areas of France that had wide grazing pastures and mountain pastures in summer. The Briards were usually worked beside one or two other breeds to keep the sheep from straying and herd the sheep to the proper areas.[citation needed] At night, they were alert and vigilant watchdogs, protecting the shepherds and flock from wolves and thieves.[2]


Double dewclaws are a characteristic of the breed.


The Briard can be tawny, black, grey or blue however there are variations in each color. 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. When cropped, the ears should stand erect and parallel with the base being wide and tapering to a rounded point with hair covering the opening.[3] Their long coat requires an extensive amount of grooming. The outer coat is coarse, hard and dry (making a dry rasping sound between the fingers). It lies down flat, falling naturally in long, slightly waving locks, having the sheen of good health. On the shoulders the length of the hair is generally six inches or more. The undercoat is fine and tight on all the body. The head is well covered with hair which lies down, forming a natural part in the center. The eyebrows do not lie flat but, instead, arch up and out in a curve that lightly veils the eyes. The hair is never so abundant that it masks the form of the head or completely covers the eyes.[3] Briards come in a variety from different colors.

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.[citation needed] 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 foxes and wolves.


A color variant with natural ears.

The Briard is a very loyal and protective breed, and is sometimes 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 very 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.

An adult Briard

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.

Briard puppy.

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.

Service and therapy roles[edit]

Briards have been used in a variety of service and therapy roles to help those with disabilities and comfort those in hospitals, schools and retirement communities. Briards are also being trained as autism service dogs and PTSD service dogs for both adults and children. With their keen intelligence, tactile coat interaction, and loyalty, they can make a difference in the quality of life for those with disabilities or in recovery.

With their breed tendency toward a dominant working temperament, aggression, and high prey drive due to their history as a working guardian type dog, they also can be very problematic, even dangerous, used for service or therapy work in the public setting. Some bloodlines have more issues with temperament than others. One needs to exercise caution.[4] If inappropriately trained they have a higher potential to attack other dogs (including other service dogs) or strangers around them [5] so careful selection, thorough training, and appropriate pairing of the individual dog with a handler appropriate to that particular dog is extremely important for success as a service dog with this breed[6].

The potential for aggression, especially towards other dogs and strangers is something that one who is training them for service work or similar pursuits needs to be aware of (and truthfully educate potential handlers about if placing in another home). While a small portion of Briards certainly have the proper temperament needed to participate in service work and similar, a larger portion are only suited for, and will do fine with an experienced handler and another portion not even then. Being a dog tending to a dominant temperament[7], and a powerful working breed, with often a high prey drive, any pairing with the inexperienced, small children, the physically fragile and the like should be undertaken with caution for the safety of the handler and the public around them [8].

This is not a breed, among others, that most trainers or service dog training establishments would choose or recommend for public service work with handlers that lack experience with these types of dogs. Potential handlers need to do their homework on a breed before committing to it. "Breeds classified as Guard Dogs, Flock Guardians or Fighting Dogs have aggression related breed traits that are particularly worrisome. Assistance dog partners who do not have previous experience handling a dog with a strong Protection drive, a fierce Territorial instinct or a hereditary dog aggression problem should not attempt a partnership with one of these breeds. Those who do choose to work with one of these breeds must respect the darker side of its nature, learn how to avoid triggering it and never ignore the potential for a misunderstanding.[9]

This accurately describes the Briard and many other working breeds perfectly. "The Briard is probably not the breed for you if you lack leadership skills, believe in giving in to every wish and desire of your pets or don't have the time, energy or commitment to bring out the best in a new Briard puppy.[10]"

Briard service dog


Briards can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, Schutzhund, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Briards exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[11]

Study on blindness using Briards[edit]

This breed is also commonly screened for congenital stationary night blindness (SNB) with a DNA test. SNB is inherited through recessive genes.[12] Progressive retinal atrophy PRA, is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.[13] Progressive retinal degeneration or atrophy (PRD/PRA) represents a group of inherited eye diseases characterized by abnormal development or premature degeneration of the retina. There are two types of photoreceptors in the retina and these are the light-sensitive rods and cones. They are responsible for detecting light and converting it into an electrical signal that travels to the brain. When the photoreceptor cells deteriorate, vision is lost because the animal has no way to generate an image from the light reaching the retina. Puppies are usually blind before one year of age.[14] For the first time ever, animals (Briards) that were born blind gained the ability to see after undergoing gene therapy, according to research from the University of Florida, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania. UF researchers had established that the apparently harmless adeno-associated virus can carry healthy copies of a gene into the cells of the retina, which is composed of layers of light-sensitive nerve cells. The healthy gene's mission: to produce a protein critical to translating light waves into nerve impulses that can be interpreted as images by the brain. The study was successful and the puppies could see in the eye that was treated. Officials from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which supported the study with grant funds, said the success in reversing blindness in dogs is an important advance.[15]

Briards in popular culture[edit]



  1. ^ Briard Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Herding description
  3. ^ a b AKC Briard Page
  4. ^ Lanam, Kathryn (June 2002). "Herding Group: Briard" (PDF) (119). American Kennel Club. AKC Gazette. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  5. ^ Erdahl, Kent. "Nanny defends 3-year-old boy from 'savage' dog attack". KDVR, Denver. Fox 31 Denver News. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  6. ^ Froling, Joan. "MATCH-MAKING". International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. IAADP. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  7. ^ Lebec Briards. "DOMINANCE in the Briard". Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  8. ^ Huslig, Martine. "Breeder at Aladax Briards". Briards Aladax Briards. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  9. ^ Froling, Joan. "Breed Choices". International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. IAADP. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  10. ^ Briards du Nouveau. "What is a Briard?". Briards du Nouveau. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  11. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  12. ^ Terry Miller. "Love in a fur ball". Archived from the original on 16 August 2013.
  13. ^ Learn about Briard diseases Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Progressive Retinal Degeneration in Dogs - Page 3
  15. ^ In Gene Therapy First, Scientists Restore Vision To Dogs Born Blind - ScienceDaily

External links[edit]