The Breed History
The first written records of this breed originated in the 12th century in France. Napoleon and Charlemagne are reported to have kept Briards. The first breed standard was laid out in 1897. Often referred to as a “heart wrapped in fur”, both the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson are credited with bringing the breed to America, and first AKC registrations occurred in 1922. UKC registration occurred in 1948.
Breeding for Function
They were originally used to defend home and farm, but later they became widely used as sheep herding dogs. They have also been used for tracking and hunting, and have served in times of war.
Height at Withers: female 22-25.5” (56-65 cm), male 23 to 27” (58.5-68.5 cm).
Weight: females 50-80 lb. (22.5-36.5 kg), males 60-100 lb. (27.5-45.5 kg).
Coat: The long (6”) wavy double coat is solid colored. All colors are accepted except white. Black, gray and shades of tawny are common. The coat requires frequent grooming; they are moderate shedders.
Longevity: 10-12 years.
Points of Conformation: The Briard is a large solidly built powerful dog, with distinctive eyebrows and beard. Their ears are high set and pendulous. Each rear limb carries double dewclaws. The tail has a distinctive tip called a crochet, which is a small hook. The tail is carried low and reaches to the tarsus. Eyes are black or brown with dark palpebral margins; lips and nose are pigmented black. Topline is slightly inclined down towards the croup. They have a deep thorax.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
This dog is reported to be characterized by: High intelligence, bravery, excellent herding instinct, independence, enthusiasm to learn, loyalty, and is reserved with strangers. Training should begin when they are very young to encourage good socialization. Obedience training is encouraged. They need a knowledgeable owner that can invest time to keep the dog challenged. Despite their guarding and watchdog talents, they are considered a gentle dog. They require lots of exercise.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hypercholesterolemia: Identified in clinically healthy Briards. Affected dogs have normal triglyceride concentrations and no other major abnormalities. Possibly caused by a primary abnormality in cholesterol metabolism. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 14.5% affected. Reported at a frequency of 19.4% in France. Reported at a frequency of 14.14% in the BCA Health Survey.
Congenital Stationary Night Blindness/Retinal dysplasia (CSNB, RPE65 Mutation): Autosomal recessive disorder causing night blindness and varying degrees of day blindness from birth. A mutation test is available from Optigen, that reports 1% affected, and 10% carrier in the breed. CERF does not recommend breeding any Briard affected with CSNB.
Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA): Autosomal recessive disease of slowly progressive retinal degeneration, caused by a defect in Vitamin E metabolism. Used to be seen in high numbers of Briards, especially in Europe when on Vitamin E poor diets. Now seen infrequently as diets have improved. CERF does not recommend breeding any Briard with RPED/CPRA.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 0.2% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Briards have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 11.69% in the BCA Health Survey.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 6.81% in the BCA Health Survey.
Lymphoma/Lymphosarcoma: Malignant cancer of lymphoid tissue. Reported at a frequency of 6.81% in the BCA Health Survey. There is ongoing research in many breeds into the genetic factors involved in the development of lymphoma.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.8% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 4.89% in the BCA Health Survey.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 2.58% of Briards CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Posterior cortex intermediate and capsular cataracts predominate, though anterior and nuclear cataracts also occur in the breed. Identified in 2.35% of Briards CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Briard with a cataract.
Corneal Dystrophy: Briards can have an epithelial/stromal form of corneal dystrophy. Identified in 1.41% of Briards CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina progressing to blindness. A late onset PRA is identified in the breed. Early fundus abnormalities usually appear after 4 years of age. Mode of inheritance has not been determined.
Digital Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Toe cancer seen at an increased frequency in black Briards. Treatment is digital amputation.
Open Bite, and Seasonal Flank Alopecia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Dandy-Walker-Like syndrome: Congenital disorder causing cerebellar ataxia and other CNS signs due to cysts arising from the 4th ventricle, dysgenesis of the cerebellar vermis, and hydrocephalus of the 3rd and lateral ventricles. Reported in one Briard.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for CSNB is available from Optigen and the Animal Health Trust. Direct test for black and tawny is available from Health Gene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs (at a minimum of 24 months of age), CERF eye examination (at least once between 6 months and 8 years of age), and CSNB genetic test. Optional recommended tests include thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and elbow radiographs. Recommend patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
• Breed name synonyms: Chien Berger de Brie, Chien d’Aubry (historical).
• Registries: CKC, AKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC(Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
• AKC rank in year 2008: 123 (237 dogs registered)
• Internet resources: The Briard Club of America www.BriardClubOfAmerica.org
The Briard Club of England: www.briards.co.uk/
Briard Medical Trust: www.briardmedicaltrust.org
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