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History of the Briard

The Briard is an old French breed which goes back in history as far as Charlemagne, having been seen in tapestries of that period, history also attributes two Briards to Napoleon. Sometimes known in France as "Chien Berger De Brie" or sheepdog of Brie, this name is thought to have originated in one of two ways. The first explanation is that they originated in the ancient region of Brie, an environ of Paris. The more romantic alternative stems from an old legend of the Middle Ages which recalls the murder of Sir Aubry de Montdidier. His dog took it upon himself to relentlessly pursue the assassin, a man named Macaire. The King ordained that a judiciary duel should take place between man and dog. This strange conflict was fought out in 1371 on the Isle de Notre Dame, and the dog of which the description is very similar to that of a Briard , was the winner. The dog might well then have been known as the dog of Aubry (chien d'Aubry), and it is easy to see how this could have changed, in common usage, to 'chien de Brie'.

A wonderful working dog, the Briard is the most numerous of the French sheepdog breeds and has been used throughout the centuries as a shepherding dog, as well as a guardian of the flock and the homestead. With his size and substance he was well able to fight off wolves and other predators - even two legged ones! Due to their keen hearing and vast intelligence they were used during World War I as red cross dogs, sentry dogs and ammunition carriers. Consequently by the end of the war the Briard population was sadly depleted.

Despite his very ancient history, the Briard was introduced into this country only in the late 1960's with the first dog arriving from Ireland in 1966 and the first imports from France in 1969. The first ever litter in Great Britain was born in March 1969 from Irish imports and the second in November of the same year. The first Briard was shown in 1967 and by 1969 two Briards had qualified for Crufts. The breed then went from strength to strength and November 1973 saw the formation of the British Briard Club. In 1974 the breed was granted championship status, with the offer of 6 sets of Challenge Certificates, and this year also saw the first Briard Champion, Desamee Mitzi Moffat.

What Kind of Dog is he ?

We will not go into the standard in detail. Suffice it to say that he is a big, rugged, sturdy dog, measuring from 23" minimum for females to 27" maximum for males. He should weigh anything from 70 - 100 lbs according to sex and height. His bone should be heavy and his feet large. He should be covered all over with a long, wavy coat and this coat may be any colour of fawn, from quite pale to a deep rich shade, (richer shades being preferred) with or without dark shadings on ears, muzzle, back and tail: all black, or with white hairs scattered through black coat; slate grey.

His character should be very intelligent, gay and lively and his temperament fearless with no trace of timidity or aggressiveness. This often translates into boisterous and unless a puppy is sensibly trained one could easily end up with an over exuberant and unmanageable adult who will take its owner for a walk rather than the other way round.

How Manageable is his Coat ?

His coat, although having the advantage of not moulting, requires a considerable amount of grooming. From the day your Briard puppy arrives you must get him used to being brushed. So often the mistake is made by saying, 'he has no coat let's wait until it's grown a little' and when puppy is 6 months old you have a large dog that has no intention of standing to be groomed. Start when puppies are about 8 - 10 weeks old; don't put up with any nonsense like the puppy trying to chew the end of the brush, or your hand, he must be taught.

As your puppy's coat grows, so the need for grooming becomes more frequent; about 10 minutes per day. This is done by starting at the feet, which should be examined closely in between the toes for any hard lumps of soil, grass seeds or hair that has matted, this must be removed as it will cause discomfort and could lead to lameness. Once the feet are cleared you then start on the lower leg by holding up the coat with one hand and brushing it down in layers with the other, this ensures that no tangles are in the underneath of the coat. This method should be used up all his legs and body, it is not enough just to run the brush over the top layer of the coat. If properly groomed you should be able to run a wide toothed dog comb through the coat.

Grooming around the face of your dog can be a problem, most dogs dislike it and a number of owners generally forget or can't be bothered because of the fight. It must be done and the best way is to hold puppy by his beard and brush from his nose down the sides of his mouth. Make sure that the top of the head, behind the ears and around the eyes are all kept clear of tangles.

Briards have double dew claws on the hind legs and single dew claws on their front and these must be clipped from time to time. This is done with dog nail clippers, as the nails of Briards are black it is very difficult to see the quick so, unless you have the right equipment and know what you are doing, this must be left to your veterinary surgeon. The same applies to his nails, although the average dog who gets plenty of road walking should not have too long nails.

To shampoo your dog start as early as possible, whether puppy is dirty or not, it is far easier to console a little puppy than a fully grown adult. A good method is to wet puppy over his body, leaving his head, shampoo his body and rinse well, then wet, shampoo and rinse his head, taking care to plug his ears with cotton wool and making sure no shampoo gets into his eyes. It is a good idea to use baby shampoo on your puppy's head. The reason for leaving his head until the end is two fold. Firstly, he gets used to the water by the time you get to his head and secondly, once a dog has a wet head he starts to feel the cold.

Briard breed guide written by : Marilyn Scrutton (Gemeau Briards)