The Oldest of the French Sheepdogs?

The oldest of the French sheepdogs is thought by some cynologists to be the Berger Picard because dogs strikingly similar to the breed have been depicted in tapestries, woodcuts, paintings, and engravings for centuries. This may be fighting words to Briard owners since there’s evidence of dogs resembling the Briard in 8th century artwork, as well as records of Briards during the 1300s.  We leave the debate to the cynologists to duke out.

What we do know with more certainty is that back in the 19th century, sheepdogs in France were classified by hair length. Long haired dogs were referred to as the Berger de Brie, or Briard, while the shorthairs were Berger de Beauce, or Beaucerons. The ones in between were largely ignored for some time, but eventually they were recognized as the Berger Picard. Legend has it that with their crisp coats, Picards were used to smuggle tobacco and matches across the Franco-Belgian border. The tobacco would be put in goatskin pouches, hairy side up, and attached to the dog’s shaved back. At a distance, the dogs would scarcely get noticed, particularly at night.

 Image: “Dogs WINEing – Berger Picard” by Sara England is available for purchase here.

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