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About the Tervuren

What is a Tervuren?

There are few breeds more physically striking than the Belgian Tervuren. Dark, intelligent eyes gaze from a black-muzzled face. The dog’s body hair is moderately long, though more abundant in mature males, and is of a base color ranging from warm fawn to fiery mahogany, overlaid with a veil of black. The underbelly and leg fringes are typically a lighter shade of the same color.

Physical Structure

 In describing the physical structure of the animal, perhaps “moderate” is the best word. There should be no feature of the dog which is excessive. Ideal size, measured at the withers, is 25  inches for males and 23 inches for females. The head is elegant and long, without being excessively so, and is set off by high-set, erect ears of small to medium size. The body is evenly   proportioned, being neither too long nor too short, so that its length is approximately equal to its height at the withers. The total visual effect of the ideal dog is that it is perfectly balanced and  stands squarely on all four feet. The Standard describes the Tervuren in detail.

Image courtesy of Becky Hansen
Image courtesy of Becky Hansen

A Herding Breed

Image courtesy ABTC Archives and Libby Miller


The Belgian Tervuren is a herding dog. It should move with a light, tireless, reaching gait that appears to be effortless. “Floating” is a word often used to describe it. This movement is reflective of the work requirements of a herding dog, which demand that the animal be capable of performing for its owner despite long hours without rest, harsh weather, or rough terrain.  The quick intelligence, stamina, and agility of the Tervuren allow it to excel in an extraordinary array of tasks. It is used as a guide for the blind and the deaf, as helper for the handicapped, as a search and rescue dog, including avalanche rescue work, as sentry and courier in wartime, and, of course, an enthusiastic partner in many dog sports.


 In temperament the Tervuren is highly individualistic. Some dogs are very lively, while others might best be described as   mellow. In general, however, there are some characteristics which should be possessed by every dog. Most importantly the dog should be stable. Although the breed as a whole is a sensitive one, alert to changes in people and environment, no dog which is shy or fearful should be considered a typical specimen or used for breeding. Neither is an aggressive animal to be tolerated. Either extreme is untypical and undesirable. You should expect your Tervuren to be a companion which is highly intelligent, happy, and responsive to you and your family. You should expect devotion and watchfulness. Most Tervuren are suspicious of strangers until told by their owner to accept the strange person. For that reason, they are outstanding family guardians. Their intelligence, trainability, devotion, and responsiveness combine with their natural watchfulness to make them ideal companions.


Today the breed is still uncommon in the United States but it is well-established. Tervuren are found in the rings of many all-breed shows and in performance events. Local clubs sponsor supported and licensed specialty shows, and  there is an annual national specialty show, sponsored by the ABTC, which typically draws several hundred entries. At the heart of these events, and behind the success of the Tervuren, are the breed fanciers. These dedicated folk own show dogs, obedience dogs, family dogs, and working dogs (sometimes these are combined in a single dog). They love the breed for its beauty, its versatility, and its excellence in all the areas of dog show competition. This rare combination of virtues is the inspiration for the ABTC’s motto, “A well-balanced Tervuren has a CH (championship) on one end and a UDT (Utility Dog Tracker) on the other.”  These were the highest AKC titles available to the Belgian Tervuren when this motto was written.

Image courtesy Vincent Ramirez