The Briard is an ancient breed of large herding dog, originally from France. A Briard dog appears in Gaston Febus’ Livre de chasse (“Book of the Hunt”), written in the 14th century. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Lafayette are all said to have owned Briards.
It became popular after the Paris dog show of 1863 after the breed had been crossed 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 a companion dog.
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 have proven to be very good to have around children of all ages. Indeed, these dogs rapidly develop an affection for their owners. They are really emotional, capable of crying for a long time after their owners’ departure, and celebrate their return in a very enthusiastic way.
The Briard has an excellent memory. Once a lesson is learned, good or bad, it will retain the knowledge for a long time. Sometimes they may appear to be strong-headed and stubborn, but these are a few of Briard’s characteristics. They were bred for centuries to think for themselves and act upon their conclusions, sometimes to the point of thinking what the “flock” will do ahead of time.
The coat of a Briard sheds water and dirt, with little shedding if well-groomed. They need brushing and combing daily to prevent mats from forming. Bathing should be done only when necessary as it can damage the coat, making it difficult to groom. Ears should always be kept clean. The Briard is a generally healthy breed, although they may develop hip dysplasia, PRA, and cataracts.
The Briard became popular after the Paris show of 1860. This breed had a reputation of being brave as the flock guard. It was more inclined to snap and bite than to defend its flock, but the Briard’s temperament was softened through selective breeding.
This dog has been used by the French army in the past to run messages, as the dog did not fear exploding bombs and artillery fire. This dog would find wounded and seek help in the front lines of battle. It is thought the name comes from the French province of Brie. The Briard still serves as a flock Guardian and herder but also makes a great family pet. Some of their talents are search and rescue, military work, herding, and guarding the flock.
As with other working breeds, the Briard should be given a long walk or be allowed to run alongside a bicycle. If not exercised enough, they will become destructive and restless. This breed makes a wonderful jogging companion and also enjoys a good swim. Ideally suited for defense/police dog trials, this breed has a great deal of energy.