Descended from old eastern shepherds, herders and watchdogs, the Belgian Sheepdog has been bred to a fairly uniform type, consisting of four main varieties for centuries, before the proper classification of the breed in 1891, when Adolphe Reul concluded that the only difference between the Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael and Laekenois was in the colour and length of their coats. Although wolf-grey, brindled and black-n-tan dogs existed, they weren't as valued, primarily because they weren't considered pure, some of them tracing their lineage to the Beauceron, Dutch Shepherd and even the Brabant variety of the old Bullenbeisser dogs. These regional subtypes eventually disappeared, but unusual colourings can still occur in some working litters to this day. Related to other herding dogs of Europe, such as the various shepherds, cattledogs and collies of Germany, Holland, France, Britain and neighbouring countries, the Belgian Sheepdog was also known under the Continental Sheepdog name throughout the 2nd half of the 19th century. The Club du Chien de Berger Belge was established in 1891, followed by the presentation of the 1st breed Standard in 1892.
Named after the city of Malines, where the 1st Club was formed to promote the short-coated variety of the Belgian Sheepdog breed, the mighty Malinois has been bred to a strictly set type since 1898, thanks to the efforts of Louis Huyghebaert, one of the earliest breeders in Belgium. His suggestions led to the changes in working trials, shifting focus from simple herding exhibitions to a broader field of excercises based on the dogs' ability to multitask, resulting in the establishment of dressage competitions, aimed at testing the breed's intelligence, loyalty, obedience and agility. These trials later developed into the famous Belgian Ring Sport, which the Malinois has traditionally dominated. After proving itself to be a superb service dog in the 1st World War, the Belgian Malinois became one of the most popular working breeds in Europe and America, where it was promoted by the Belgian Sheepdog Club since 1924. Today, the Malinois enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a worker seen as superiour to some of the more common and traditional service dogs and is slowly becoming a favourite breed of many Military and Police handlers around the world, regularly out-performing German Shepherds, thanks to its lighter body, greater speed and outstanding drive and trainability. It should be noted that the practice of outcrossing in the working dog world is more common than many would like to admit and some Malinois lines are no exception in this regard, having been periodically enriched with the blood of the Dutch Shepherd, English Bullterrier, American Pit Bull Terrier and other breeds, with intentions of increasing the prey drive, physical strength and overall agility.
Depending on the bloodline from which the dog comes from and the intentions behind its breeding, a Malinois can vary in both physical and behavioural aspects, from smaller and heavier dogs to taller and leaner animals, as well as having differences in terms of prey drive, willingness to please and aggression levels. However, regardless of the type or breeding, most Mals are very energetic, somewhat "high-strung" and immensely protective, best suited for experienced owners willing to properly socialize, train and give plenty of excercise to their dogs. The Malinois is first and foremost a serious working dog, suspicious of strangers and very territorial, making an excellent guard dog, but its aggressive and anxious nature make it a poor choice for an urban pet. Lupoid in features, the breed is superficially similar in appearance to the smooth-coated variety of the Scottish Collie, but is more muscular, agile and powerful. The body is strongly boned and sturdy, but very lean and elegant, with a deep chest, straight back and long legs.
The short flat coat comes in a wide range of fawn shades, always with a black mask on the face. Average height is around 25 inches.