- after the herding

(In the following I have translated excerpts from a historical article,
mainly the info dealing with work and working dogs.)

by Arlet Møllerud
In 1892, the Club de Chien de Berger Belge together with the Belgian Collie Club, held a herding dog trial on sheeps - the first of its kind in the continental Europe. Not suprisingly, all the contestents were professional herders. But the number of sheeps, and thereby the need for herding dogs decreased and it became clear that they had to come up with other tests to utilize and maintain the Belgian Sheepdogs natural talents. As early as in 1899 it had been developed a program containing, among other things, the following exercises: Heal, free on foot, guarding of objects, retrieving (also from water), vertical jump climbing, length jumping, non- bark excersise, refusal against food from strangers and personal defense. 

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The first working dog trials for Belgian Sheepdogs was then held in 1903 in Mechelen, with among other things the following excersises: Vertical jump climbing (1,90 meters), length jumping (3,60 m), defense and attack work and individual work. On one of the trials in 1906 the Groenendael, Djeck, jump climbed 2,85 meters and length jumped 5,00 meters. It was also in 1906 that the decoys for the first time used bite suites. Before this, all Belgian Sheepdogs were wearing muzzles to prevent injuries on the decoys.

In trials where different working breeds participated, the Belgian Sheepdogs were superior. During the years 1908-1914, the Groenendael, Jules de Moulin, wins both the World Championships and the international trials for working dogs and police dogs held in Paris. But Jules wasn't the only Belgian that distinguished himself - just take a look at the results from 1912:


1. Jules (Groenendael)
2. Carl (Tervuren)
3. Mab (Beauceron)
4. Rouget (Beauceron)
5. Gamin (Tervuren)
6. Tallion (Tervuren)
7. Ducos (Groenendael)
8. Pataud (Hollandsk gjeterhund)
9. Daxon (Groenendael)
10. Tom (Malinois)
11. Cob (Groenendael)
12.Cesar (Malinois)
13. Cesar (German Shepherd)
14. Duc (Groenendael)
15. Coquet (Beauceron)
16. Marck (Groenendael)
17.Piroutte (Briard)
18. Bella (Groenendael).

But despite the superiority of the Belgian Sheepdogs compared to the other working breeds, many Belgian dog owners turn against the Ring trials, which 'robotize' the dog too much. Instead they choose to go for tracking trials (with tracking and identification), because this kind of trials utilize the dogs talent and intelligence much better.

The Belgian Sheepdogs proved to have an excellent sense of smell and the number of clubs working with field trials and tracking trials for Belgian Sheepdogs grew higher and higher. In 1909 "Societé Nationale pour 1'Amélioration du Chien de Berger Belge" held the first allround trial in Lierre. The trial consisted of agility, attack work and hunting and tracking tests. Let us see what Mr. Sodenkamp, Liebehaber of 'real' hunting dogs, has to say about the scent work of the Belgian Sheepdogs:
"I had been told that there where a group of sportsmen in Lierre, which used their Belgian Sheepdogs for hunting hares, rabbits and pheasants. In my ignorance, as a lover of pointing bird dogs, Spaniels and English Retrievers, I turned down several invitations to participate in a hunt together with Belgian Sheepdogs, because I did not want to observe a ridiculous performance and show my immovable point of view...After spending several hours with the Belgian Sheepdogs, I have completely changed my mind, and I still haven't gotten over this chock...I have seen Belgian Sheepdogs in the best of Pointer and Setter style search through meadow and heather fields, under unfavourable conditions (with the wind) and then at full speed turn and find the small, hidden items and retrieve them in full gallop over a distance of  200-300 meters. I have seen field trials for pointing bird dogs and Spaniels, and I have no doubt in claiming that, if these Belgian Sheepdogs were allowed to participate in these trials, they would have beaten even the best of the pointing bird dogs."

In 1914, the two Groenendaels Lary (bitch) and Zig (male) sat a record in cold tracks. The tracking took place in an area of scrub, forrest and grasslands with small valleys cut through, stony areas and a small stream. Lary covered a 3 kilometers long, and 10 hours old track in exactly 60 minutes, while Zig spent 12 minutes on a similar, but only 1 hour old track. Both Lary and Zig identified the 'criminal' (the track layer) at the end of the track.

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In the beginning of the 20th century, many of the Belgian cities had their own police dog service. And there where a lot of Belgian Sheepdogs working as tracking dogs for the police during the years between the two world wars. The most famous probably was the Malinoises, Crigga and Mascotte du Tigre Royal. These two dogs tracked down a large number of fugitives.

The greatest honour was given to a Tervuren male from Holland, Albert. After his death in 1922, he was honoured with a statue in Amsterdam Oosterpark. Albert had a fabulous carreer as a tracking dog in the Amsterdam Police Force, and he tracked down over 200 fugitives.

Still working today these great dogs...

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