The Belgian Tervuren was named after the Belgian village of Tervuren, where rural farmers in the late 1800s had a great need for a general purpose herding and guarding dog. This breed’s protective nature provided security for farm and family, and its instinctive herding abilities helped with daily tending of the flocks. There is little historical record about this breed before the Belgian Shepherd Club was established in 1891, with the first breed standard being approved by that club in 1893. At that time, the Belgian sheepherding dogs that today are separate breeds were lumped together, with a variety of colors and coat lengths being acceptable. Currently, any longhaired Belgian Shepherd that is not black is considered a Tervuren.
In the early years of its development, the breed primarily was used to guard, to protect and to herd. The breed almost became extinct during World Wars I and II, although a small group of dedicated breeders continued preserving and protecting the breed. After World War II, the Belgian Shepherds, generally, experienced a resurgence of popularity. In 1948, in Normandy, France, a pale fawn longhaired shepherd called Willy de la Garde Noire was born, of Groenendael parents (now known as the black longhaired Belgian Sheepdog). Willy was campaigned heavily in Belgium and France and competed equally with the best Belgian Malinois and Groenendael of the time. It is because of Willy that the renaissance of the Belgian Tervuren began in France, ultimately extending throughout Europe and to the United States. The modern Tervuren is a post-World War II descendant of longhaired puppies in Malinois litters and fawn to gray puppies in Groenendael litters. As the breed grew in popularity, it became prized not only for herding but also for its stable, affectionate and loyal personality. They are valued as human companions, therapy dogs and service dogs for the disabled and also excel at obedience, conformation, sledding, schutzhund and agility.
The Belgian Tervuren has an average lifespan of between 10 and 14 years, and they have relatively few inherited health problems. They may be prone to developing allergies, cataracts, epilepsy, hip or elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and progressive retinal atrophy. Their long coat requires daily brushing to reduce shedding, prevent matting and keep dirt and dander from accumulating.