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.
According to some sources, the black variety of the Belgian Sheepdog originated from an unplanned mating between a Tervuren and either a Beauceron, a Sylvan or an Altdeutscher Schaeferhund, depending on the version of the story, even though the Groenendael is actually older than the Tervuren variety, making it more likely to have its roots in the old longhaired Malinois type. Tracing its name to the Chateau Groenendael, this handsome Belgian breed was established as a distinct variety by Nicholas Rose, who promoted the Groenendael's working abilities and beauty as an ideal for all sheepdogs. When the European Police Dog Trials became popular, Belgian contestants did extremely well, with the Groenendael winning the prestigious competition four times in a row, from 1908 to 1911, earning the respect of sheepdog fanciers worldwide. Although a successful service dog during wartime, the Groenendael was slow to recover in the years following WW1, finally increasing in numbers and quality in the 1920's, when the most famous bloodlines were established, some of which served as the foundation for many American champions. The most popular of the Belgian Sheepdogs in the United States, this beautiful long-coated breed has had a long and successful Show career ever since the formation of the official Club in 1910. In 1929, a shorthaired variant of the Groenendael was accepted and recognized, but today these dogs are extremely rare and undesired.
The Groenendael is a very good watchdog, said to be less aggressive than the Malinois, but equally effective as a family protector. This driven breed requires early socialization and experienced handling. Oftentimes mistaken for a black GSD, the Belgian Groenendael is much slimmer, with a longer muzzle and narrower head than its German cousin. The body is muscular and lean, with a deep chest and long sturdy legs.
The coat is long and rich, uniform black in colour, although some examples have small white markings on the chest. Average height is around 24 inches.