A "Heart Wrapped in Fur", Gentle, Sweet and Powerful


A "Heart Wrapped in Fur," The Briard is Gentle, Sweet and Powerful

This ancient French working-dog breed dates back perhaps as far as the eighth century, where it's depicted in tapestries from that time. In the 12th century, the dog breed was also mentioned, and described accurately in the 14th and 15th centuries. In its earliest days, the Briard was used to defend its masters against poachers and wolves, but after the French Revolution it was more likely to be used as a herder and guard dog. This intelligent breed is exceedingly versatile and can learn just about anything. Kind, quiet and exceedingly gentle, this breed also makes a successful service and hunting dog for owners who are willing to return this dog’s generously given affection. Loyal, unselfish and absolutely devoted, this is a dog that is suitable for almost every type of owner, from single person to large family, as long as the pet will receive lots of attention.


Originating in France during the eight century or before, the Briard was first used as a guard dog to defend an owners' expansive territory from invasion by criminals or wild animals, but this job became largely obsolete after the French Revolution, when the land was divided up and population increased. At that time, the Briard became a herder, excellent at keeping flocks of sheep within pastoral boundaries that had no physical borders, as well as guard dogs for their masters' estates. The Briard is one of four French sheepdogs, including the Pyrenean, Beauceron, and Picardy. Possibly originating in the province of Brie, a theory about this dog’s roots comes from early documentation of the breed which refers to the "Shepherd Dog of Brie" or "Chien Berger de Brie."

In 1863, Pierre Megnin officially separated a singular sheepdog breed into two to improve the looks of both: one with a long coat, the Briard; and one with a short coat, which became the Beauceron. That same year, the Briard was shown in the Paris dog show and found significant popularity.

In 1897, the first Briard standard was written by a club of breeders that specialized in both the Briard and Beauceron Shepherd dogs. In 1909, the French society Les Amis du Briard was established. This was disbanded during World War I, but was reestablished in 1923, with a more exact breed standard established in 1925. The Briard Club of America adopted this standard with only minor modifications.

It's not quite known how the Briard came to North America, but some say that the Marquis de Lafayette was responsible. Thomas Jefferson, too, brought ancestors of these dogs to the North American continent at about the same time. The Briard has historically made an excellent war dog, able to ignore the frightening distractions of artillery fire and exploding bombs to carry out vital missions. They have been used to detect mines; run messages; find wounded soldiers; carry food and ammunition to troops at the front lines; and support commando actions.

In 1922, the Briard was first registered with the American Kennel Club, citing Barbara Danielson of Groton, Massachusetts, as the breeder. The Briard remains a relatively rare breed in the United States, although it is still the most popular dog used for herding sheep in France.


The Briard is a large, powerful sheepherder by nature, with a height of 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighing about 75 pounds in adulthood. The fur is usually black, tawny, or gray, with an outer coat that is coarse and hard but long and wavy. Although not soft, it does have a noticeable shine. The fur is generally kept long, six inches or more, with a fine, tight undercoat as well. The Briard also has double dew claws on the rear of each leg, a natural adaptation of the dogs' need to turn quickly when they guard sheep.


Exceedingly intelligent, the Briard's main passion is to herd – be that children or sheep. It's been called "a heart wrapped in fur," for good reason. This is a dog that is truly kind and gentle; trainable; eager to please; and very sensitive and sweet-natured. It is also fearless, brave, and loyal. Because the Briard is so perceptive, you must be careful not to discipline too harshly. This is a unique danger, because such an experience may make a lasting, wounding impression with permanent damage. A poorly or gruffly-handled Briard may become aggressive – not because this gentle dog wants to, but because it will become fearful. Take a firm but gentle hand and be patient, and you will see that this exquisite pet is truly an animal to be cherished. It is important to train this pet early, especially if you have children, because these dogs tend to "herd" anything that moves. Although this may be endearing in many respects, your pet may also gently nip at your children's heels in an instinctive herding strategy, something you may not desire.

As long as you are affectionate with your pet, it will return that affection many times over. Athletic and in need of exercise, this gentle dog can tolerate an apartment setting as long as it receives plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Although your pet loves to be outdoors, never leave it there alone. This dog wants to love and be loved, to be devoted and to be cherished, all at once. Fulfill that emotional need, and you'll find you have an unbreakable bond.


Gastric torsion or bloat is a concern with this dog as with many other larger dogs, so make sure you take your pet to a vet at the first signs of digestive distress. This is a condition that can be fatal almost instantly (within an hour of onset), so immediate treatment is absolutely necessary. Surgery is usually the best course of action. This is a healthy, hardy dog otherwise, with the only other relative risk being heart disease. With proper veterinary care, the average life expectancy is 10 and 12 years.


With a coat that's been compared to a goat's fur in texture, daily brushing is required, although bathing should only rarely be necessary. The fur can mat if you don't brush regularly, so make sure to stay on top of this. The ears, as well, should be kept clean and excessive hair between feet pads or in the ears should be trimmed.


Adopt a Briard.

Retrieved August 24, 2013.

AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Briard.

Retrieved August 24, 2013.


Retrieved August 24, 2013.

Briard (Berger de Brie) (Brie Shepherd).

Retrieved August 24, 2013.

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