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. The Belgian Sheepdog is a very popular working breed and Show Dog around the world, but not all registries recognize it as a single breed, classifying the types as separate breeds. In 1958, the AKC officially recognized the Groenendael type as the Belgian Sheepdog and listed the Malinois and Tervuren varieties as separate breeds, keeping their traditional names as official ones, while excluding the Laekenois altogether, although it is presently recognized by the UKC registry.
The Tervuren Sheepdog is said to had been created by a local brewer and dog fancier from the village of Tervuren named M.Corbeel, who decided to breed his Malinois to a friend's Groenendael in the mid-1880's. Although its primary duties were herding and guarding of sheep, the Tervuren was also noted for its exceptional beauty and has reportedly been the first of four varieties of Belgian sheepdogs to also count the title of family companion in its list of common uses, something it is still known for to this day, more so than its other three cousins, with the possible exception of the Groenendael, which is presently becoming less common as a service dog and is slowly gaining popularity as a pet too. The charming and handsome Terv is still a committed property guardian and its remarkable trainability can make it a good working dog, either in Police and Military service or common Personal Protection activities, but it is unlikely to ever take the throne away from its tougher and more tenacious relative, the Malinois or even the ever-popular German Shepherd Dog, a breed for which the slimmer and quicker Belgian Tervuren is oftentimes mistaken for by the uninformed public.
While it is sometimes described as the softer and more sensitive of the Belgian sheepdog breeds, the Tervuren is in fact a very rugged, driven and protective dog, in need of early and broad socialization and is best suited for experienced and dedicated owners. This energetic guardian breed requires plenty of excercise and mental stimulation in order to prevent boredom and destructive behaviour, as well as aggression problems. The Terv is a muscular, lean and agile dog, with long, sturdy legs, a straight back and powerful neck. The head is moderately broad, with a narrow and long, but substantial muzzle. The ears are reasonably large and fully pricked.
The long coat is rich, straight and densely undercoated, coming in fawn, wheaten or mahogany shades, with a black overlay, mostly on the neck, shoulders and chest, with clear black markings on the face and ears. Most Belgian Tervurens tend to darken with age. Small white spots are acceptable on the chest, muzzle or chin, but aren't favoured.
Even though the height ranges from 22 to 27 inches, the majority of dogs average around 25 inches at the withers.