Groenendaels /

A brief history and KC breed standard...

A Brief History of the Belgian shepherd Dog Groenendael

We can trace back the origins of the Belgian Shepherd Dog to the late 1800’s when in a surge of nationalism Belgian breeders began looking to see if there was a distinct type of shepherd dog that was unique to their country. In September 1891 the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club (Club du Chien Berger Belge) was formed with this purpose in mind.

In November of that year under the direction of Veterinary Professor Adolphe Reul a meeting was held at Cureghem, on the outskirts of Brussels. At this meeting the shepherd dogs of the Brabant province were examined and different types of shepherd dogs were identified such as Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Briards and German Shepherd Dogs to name but a few. The most exciting identification was a consistent type of native shepherd dog that was a square, medium sized dog with well set triangular ears and very dark brown eyes, differing only in the colour, texture and length of coat. Similar meetings in the other 8 provinces produced similar results. The Belgian Shepherd Dog had been identified.

In 1892, again under the direction of Professor Reul, the first Belgian Shepherd Dog standard was written. This first standard recognised three varieties, dogs with long coats, short coats and rough coats. The Club du Chien Berger Belge (CCBB) petitioned the Societe Royal Saint-Hubert (the Belgian Kennel Club) for breed status, but it was denied. Somewhere between 1892 and 1901 the Belgian Shepherd Dog was recognised as a breed. As a result many kennels emerged, promoting and developing the varieties of their choice. By the beginning of the 20th century it became popular to use place names to identify the different varieties.

As the breed developed in Belgium (between 1892 and the first World War), several different clubs and organisation were founded. The most significant of these were the Berger Belge Club founded in 1898, which opposed the Club du Chien Berger Belge. The Kennel Club Belge founded in 1908, which opposed the Societe Royal Saint-Hubert. The Groenendael Club was founded in 1910 and promoted the Groenendael variety. The Federation Cynologigue Internationale (World Canine Organisation) was established in 1912, and the Societe Royal Saint-Hubert joined with them. All these have played an important role in the development of the breed in Belgium.

The Groenendael variety can be traced back to two long-haired blacks, Picard D’Uccle and Petite owned by Nicholas Rose, a restaurateur and owner of the Chateau Groenendael, south east of Brussels. Both dogs were exhibited several times and at the first show for Belgian Shepherd Dogs, Petite won first prize in the long-hair class. The first known litter of Picard and Petite, whelped May 1, 1893 and this litter produced, amongst others, Duc de Groenendael. Duc was bred to the long–haired Fawn Miss in 1896 and sired Milsart, the first Tervueren Champion of the breed.

Prior to the first World War, Belgian Shepherd were also used as guard dogs and they were the first dogs used by the Belgian police forces. In March 1899, the first 3 Belgian Shepherds began their police dog service in the city of Ghent. International police dog trials became popular and the Groenendael, Jules du Moulin, and his trainer, M Tedesco, won the World Championship title for 4 consecutive years from 1908 to 1911. In October 1911, the first tracking trial was held in Belgium and was won by the Groenendael Polo.

At the beginning of  the first World War many Belgian Shepherds were requisitioned by the Military and they were used as messenger dogs, Red Cross dogs and ambulance cart dogs.  Unfortunately the war decimated the breeding stock and recovery of the breeds had to begin.

After WW1 in 1921 a refining of the breed started with the birth of two Tervueren, which would greatly influence the breed: Minox LOSH 15141 and Collette ex Folette LOSH 20495. In 1924 they produced the Tervuerens: Jinox, Lakme and Noisette. All three of these offspring were, through their descendants, key dogs in the development of the Tervueren and Groenendaels.

The Groenendael kennels where the slowest to recover after WWI. Many Groenendaels were registered with the Kennel Club Belge as the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert refused to recognise the pedigrees. Joseph Drossart a noted Groenendael, Malinois and Schipperke breeder under the “L’Enfer” kennel name, produced a few Groenendael litters after the war. Several of his dogs where imported into the U.S.

The two most influential Groenendael kennels in this period were Emile Boudart’s “Mont-Sara” kennel and Jean Beaudoux’s “L’Infernal” kennel. The L’Infernal kennel concentrated on refining the breed type and produced dogs that are not dissimilar to the Groenendaels we see today.

After the second World War the FCI has had considerable influence on the development of the breed. In 1966 the FCI recognised the 4 varieties we know today, the Tervueren, Groenendael, Malinois and Laekenois. At this time the cross breeding of the varieties was allowed to increase and maintain the similarities in the 4 varieties. This was changed by the Belgian Kennel Club in 1973, they no longer allowed the cross breeding of the varieties except under exceptional circumstances and then only with the permission of the Belgian breed council. Even then the offspring of such a mating would not be recognised for three generations.

In Belgium Rene Renard began breeding the Groenendael variety in 1969 under the kennel name “Pouroffe”. In the 1970’s several kennels where established, of which the following kennels should be recognised: the “Boscaille” kennel and the “Val de L’Ambleve” kennel (both established in 1972). The “Maison du Bois” kennel of Anne-Marie Heraly (Established in 1977), Domaine Ponti began breeding Groenendaels and Norman  Deschuymere began his “Quievre” Kennel in the same year. M Dohnt’s   “Val Des Artistes” kennel (established 1978) and lastly the “du Pays des Flandres” Kennel (established 1979).

The 1980’s saw a number of kennels devoted to the Groenendael variety founded amongst them where the EDomaine de Noirs", "L’Ocre Noir", "Du Loriers" etc. The “Van de Hoge Laer” kennel which up to this point had concentrated on the Tervueren variety began to produce Groenendaels in the mid 1980’s. In  the 1990’s the ranks of the Groenendael breeders were further enhanced by the founding of the “Vant Sparrebos”, “Of The Two”, “Sincfal” and “Pre du Vieux Pont” kennels.

In the United Kingdom the first 2 Groenendaels were imported by Mrs Grant-Forbes  in 1931 when she returned to our country. However her dogs where purely pets and no litters where bred from these dogs.

The first Groenendaels of note to be imported where 2 unrelated puppies of the then famous "Des Forges Moncues" kennel. These 2 dogs where imported in 1959 by a group of  8 obedience enthusiasts lead by Mr Eric Irvine. These 2 dogs where Indo des Forges Moncues and Inkasa des Forges Moncues. Two litters were produced from the mating of these 2 dogs the first litter in 1960 and the second in 1962. Only one of the 8 enthusiasts is still active in the breed today and that is Anne O’Shea who owns the well known Zellik kennel.

In 1964 the Belgian Shepherd Dog Association was formed and in 1971 the breed was recognised by the Kennel Club of Great Britain by the awarding of Challenge Certificates to the Groenendael, which enabled the breed to have Champions. This also lead to the Groenendael being removed from the rare-breed register.

Up to 1994 the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd dogs were being shown separately, but the Kennel Club became unhappy with the practice of cross breeding between the varieties and ruled that the Belgian Shepherd Dog should be shown as one breed. This had disastrous consequences and breeding of the varieties nearly stopped. In 1999 the Kennel Club acknowledged what was happening and balloted the members of the Belgian Shepherd Dog Association and the Northern Belgian Shepherd Dog Club on the future of the breed. The overall consensus was to return to showing the 4 varieties separately with no cross breeding between the varieties to be allowed. The Kennel Club accepted this consensus and Crufts 2000 was the first show where the breed was shown in this way.

Source: "The Complete Belgian Shepherd Dog" by Deborah Fleming and "A History of the Belgian Shepherd Dog" by Mara Lee Giles (web article on

Note: As of November 2009, the UK Kennel Club is once again allowing limited intervariety matings between the Groenendael and Terveuren, but these have to be pre-aproved by the UK Kennel Club , who will assess each case on it's merrits and they would also consult the various UK breed clubs to see if the proposed matings are supported by them. The offspring of such matings would be registered by their breed type (i.e. Groenendael or Terveuren) and would have to be bred back to the relevant breed for 3 generations.



KC Breed Standard of the Belgian Shepherd Dog

General Appearance
Medium-sized dog, well proportioned, intelligent, attentive, hardy and alert. [Four Varieties: Groenendael; Laekenois, Malinois and Tervueren.]

With fine proportions and proud carriage of head, conveying an impression of graceful strength. Not only a sheep dog, but a guard dog.

Wary, neither timid, nervous nor aggressive.

Head and Skull
Head finely chiselled, long but not excessively so. Skull and muzzle roughly equal in length, with at most slight bias in favour of muzzle, giving impression of a balanced whole. Skull of medium width in proportion to length of head, forehead flat, centre line not very pronounced; in profile, parallel to imaginary line extending muzzle line. Muzzle of medium length tapering gradually to nose. Nose black, well-flared nostrils. Moderate stop. Arches above eyes not prominent, muzzle finely chiselled under eyes. Cheeks spare, quite flat but well muscled.

Medium size, neither protruding nor sunken, slightly almond-shaped, preferably dark brown; black rimmed eyelids. Direct, lively and enquiring look.

Distinctly triangular appearance, stiff and erect, set high, moderate length with external ear well rounded at base.

Wide, lips thin-textured, very firm, strongly pigmented. Strong white teeth firmly set in well developed jaws. Scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Pincer bite tolerated.

Very supple. Neck slightly elongated, well muscled and without dewlap, broadening slightly towards shoulders. Nape very slightly arched.

Withers distinct, strongly boned throughout with wiry, powerful muscle structure. Shoulder blades long and oblique, firmly attached, flat, forming such angle with humerus as to enable elbows to work easily. Forelegs long, well muscled, parallel. Pasterns strong and short. Carpus clearly defined. Dewclaws permissible.

Body powerful but elegant. In males, length from point of shoulders to point of buttocks approximately equal to height at withers. In females slightly longer permissible. Chest deep and well let down. Ribs moderately well sprung. Upper line of body straight, broad and powerfully muscled.Belly moderately developed neither drooping nor unduly cut up continuing lower line of chest in a graceful curve. Rump very slightly sloping, broad but not excessively so. Skin springy but quite taut over whole body. All external mucous membranes highly pigmented.

Well muscled and powerful. Good but not excessive angulation; hocks well let down. Viewed from behind, legs parallel.

Toes arched, very close together; soles thick and springy with large dark claws. Forefeet round. Hindfeet slightly oval.

Firmly set, strong at base, of medium length. When at rest, hangs down, with tip slightly bent backwards at level of hock; when moving it should lift accentuating curve towards tip, never curled, nor bent to one side. Tip may be carried slightly higher than topline.

Brisk, free and even.

There are three distinct coat types:
Groenendael/Tervueren - Outer coat long, straight and abundant. Texture of medium harshness. Not silky or wiry. Undercoat extremely dense. Hair shorter on head, outside of ears and lower part of legs. Opening of ear protected by hair. Hair especially long and abundant, ruff-like around neck, particularly in males. Fringe of long hair down back of forelegs, long and abundant hair evident on hindquarters and tail. Males longer coated than females.
Laekenois - Harsh, wiry, dry and not curly. Any sprinkling of fluffy fine hair in locks in rough coats is undesirable. Length of coat about 6 cms (21/2 ins) on all parts of body. Hair around eyes but not to obscure them. Muzzle hair not so long as to make head appear square or heavy. Tail not plumed.
Malinois - Hair very short on head, exterior of ears and lower parts of legs. Short on rest of body, thicker on tail and around neck where it resembles a ridge or collar, beginning at base of ear and extending to throat. Hindquarters fringed with longer hair. Tail thick and bushy. Coat thick, close of good firm texture with woolly undercoat, neither silky nor wiry.
No variation in these types is acceptable.

The acceptable colours relate directly to coat type.
Groenendael - Black or black with limited white as follows: small to moderate patch or strip on chest, between pads of feet and on tips of hind toes. Frosting (white or grey) on muzzle.
Laekenois - Reddish fawn with black shading, principally in muzzle and tail. Tervueren/Malinois - All shades of red, fawn, grey with black overlay. Coat characteristically double pigmented, wherein tip of each light coloured hair is blackened. On mature males this blackening especially pronounced on shoulders, back and rib sections. Black mask on face, not extended above line of eyes and ears mostly black. Tail should have a darker or black tip. Small to moderate white patch or strip permitted on chest, between pads of feet and on tips of hind toes. Frosting (white or grey) on the muzzle. Beyond the age of 18 months a washed out colour or colour too black undesirable.
No variation on these colours by coat type is acceptable.

Ideal height: dogs: 61-66 cms (24-26 ins); bitches: 56-61 cms (22-24 ins). Weight, in proportion to size.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

(courtesy of the UK Kennel Club)