The Briard /briːɑrd/ is an ancient breed of large herding dog, originally from France. A Briard-type dog appears in Gaston Febus' Livre de chasse ('Book of the Hunt'), written in the 14th century. According to legend, about the same time, a Briard fought a judicial duel with Robert Macaire to avenge its owner's murder, Aubry of Montdidier. 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 fixed, with crosses 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 companion dog.
The Briard can be tawny, black or gray however there are variations in each color. Briards stand 58 to 69 cm (22 to 27 inches) at the withers. Ear cropping has been common in the breed, although more breeders are leaving the ears in their natural state since ear cropping is becoming illegal in most European countries, including the Briard's land of origin, France. When cropped, the ears should stand erect and parallel with the base being wide and tapering to a rounded point with hair covering the opening. Their long coat requires an extensive amount of grooming. The outer coat is coarse, hard and dry (making a dry rasping sound between the fingers). It lies down flat, falling naturally in long, slightly waving locks, having the sheen of good health. On the shoulders the length of the hair is generally six inches or more. The undercoat is fine and tight on all the body. The head is well covered with hair which lies down, forming a natural part in the center. The eyebrows do not lie flat but, instead, arch up and out in a curve that lightly veils the eyes. The hair is never so abundant that it masks the form of the head or completely covers the eyes. Briards come in a variety from different colors and the ones with lighter colors are often mistaken for haystacks.
The breed characteristics of the Briard, are of a medium sized, rugged, agile dog, having harsh coat and double dewclaws mounted low on each rear leg, resembling additional toes. Each double dew claw should have bone substance and nail, giving the appearance of a wider rear foot. Bred for centuries to herd, the additional digits on each rear foot give the Briard the ability of pivoting on one foot for quick turns and complete turn arounds, which are necessary when herding and guarding their flocks. Throughout history, the Briard has retained an appropriate balance of size and build that is required for both herding and protection of their flocks. They are not too large to tire during herding yet large enough to fend off predators such as fox and wolves.
Source of information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briard
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