The Beauceron is an entirely French dog. A written description of a dog closely resembling a Beauceron was found in a Renaissance manuscript dating back to 1587. In 1809, a priest named Abbe Rozier published an article on French herding breeds and was the first to describe the longhaired variety as the Berger de la Brie (the Briard) and the shorthaired variety as the Berger de la Beauce (the Beauceron) – both named after regions in France. Large sheep flocks and cattle herds were common in France in the early 19th century, and the Beauceron became indispensable to the men who tended them. This breed also was used to hunt wild boar early in its development. The breed was first identified as the “Beauceron” in or around 1888. The French Societe Central Canine was founded in 1882 and registered its first Berger de Beauce in 1893.
The Beauceron reportedly made its first appearance at a French dog show in 1900, although it had been shown as a “French sheepdog” since the mid-1800s. The first specialty breed club – the Club des Amis du Beauceron - was formed in the early 1900s, with the assistance of M. Paul Megnin, an acclaimed zoologist and devout fancier of the breed. A French breed standard was quickly written. At about the same time, French sheep production began a slow but steady decline and also began to be managed differently, making canine shepherds largely unnecessary and almost obsolete for their original function. As a result, the French breed club began promoting their dogs in areas other than herding, especially for use as personal guardians and protectors. Beaucerons were used extensively during both world wars to carry messages to the front lines, detect hidden mines and other explosives and carry replacement ammunition belts to troops. The breed’s popularity spread to Holland, Belgium and Germany in the late 1900s, and to a lesser extent to the United States. The latest revisions to the French breed standard were made in 2001 – only the 6th modification made in 100 years.
Today, this lovely breed is still used as a herding dog, a personal protection dog and a police, military, tracking and search-and-rescue animal. They are increasingly popular with obedience and agility enthusiasts and also are used for handicapped assistance, skijoring and Schutzhund work. Beaucerons are exceptionally devoted to their family. They are instinctively protective and naturally distrusting of strangers. They are described in an American Kennel Club publication as being “like some people who don’t talk much but have a strong presence. They have a dimension, a depth, rarely found in other dogs. This is the Beauceron, then and now.”
The Beauceron's average lifespan is between 10 and 12 years, which is in line with the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years). They have relatively few health problems. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found in the Beauceron, but not necessarily found, are as follows: