The Briard is square or slightly longer than tall and powerful without being course; the overall appearance is one of handsome form. The Briard is a boundary herder, acting as a “moving fence” to keep a flock in an unfenced area. This requires the dog to be an independent thinker. Briards are loose-eyed, upright herders. Their movement has been described as “quicksilver,” with supple, light strides that give the impression of gliding. Their undercoat is fine and tight, and their outer coat is coarse and dry, lying flat in long, slightly wavy locks. On the shoulders, the coat’s length is 6 inches or more. The questioning confident expression is enhanced by the longer eyebrows, as well as the long-appearing head.
The Briard is one of four French sheepdog breeds, the others being the Beauceron, Picardy, and Pyrenean. This is the oldest of the four breeds, with dogs resembling Briards depicted in art from as long ago as the eighth century, and more definitive evidence by the fourteenth century. These early dogs were known as Chien Berger de Brie (Shepherd Dog of Brie), giving rise to the belief that the breed originated in the province of Brie; however, it may also be a corruption of Chien d’Aubry, referring to the dog of Aubry de Montdidier that avenged his master’s murder (according to fourteenth-century legend). The name Briard was not used until 1809.
Originally employed as a herd protector, the Briard was expected to tackle predators if the need arose. Briards also protected the flock and estates against human intruders. After the French Revolution, which resulted in the land being divided into smaller sectors, it was important that the flocks be kept close to home, and the Briards turned their talents to herding, rather than guarding sheep.
The first breed standard was written in 1897, but it was replaced by another in 1909. Briards came to America very early, with evidence that both Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson brought some of the first specimens to the New World. These dogs did not have a lasting influence, however.
The Briard was the official dog of the French army in World War II. After World War I, American soldiers brought some Briards to America, and this was the beginning of the modern American Briard. Popularity of the breed has been modest in America, but these dogs remain the most popular sheepherders in their native France.
Devoted and faithful, the Briard is a loving and protective companion. Briards are independent, intelligent, and self-assured, but are also willing to please and eager to serve as a partner in adventure. They are reserved with strangers. They can be assertive with other dogs and may nip at people’s heels when playing. They tend to stay at home and may attempt to keep the family’s children home as well! Young Briards need a lot of socialization.
This is a dog that needs a good amount of activity and interaction every day. Their favorite exercise is the chance to herd, but they can also be satisfied with a long walk or jog, or a long play session coupled with a little training. Their long coat needs brushing or combing every other day or mats can form.