Originating in France during the 14th century, the Briard shares their ancestry with the Beauceron, the largest sheepdog of France, and was bred to guard and herd flocks of sheep without any supervision, which led to their known independent temperament. The breed is believed to have descended from rough-coated dogs brought to Europe during the Middle Ages. The ancestors of both the Briard and Beauceron ranged from medium-to-large in size and had coats that ranged from being short and smooth to long and shaggy. In the 19th century, distinctions were made to separate their ancestors into different groups depending on the coat type. The shaggy-coated Briard grew in popularity during the early 1800s for being known as a great herder and guardian. They were used during World War I and II as mine detectors, supply deliverers, and also in search and rescue operations. Even today, the Briard can be found herding and guarding sheep throughout Europe, eventually making their way to the United States.
The Briard is a powerful and well-built herding breed that was not only developed for herding sheep but also to guard them against predators. They are mostly recognized by their coarse, long, and shaggy topcoat that covers a fine, tight-textured undercoat, requiring extensive grooming to keep it looking neat and tidy. Although concealed by their coat, this hard-working herder is both agile and well-muscled. Briards have large dark-colored eyes and natural ears that are slightly lifted, while cropped ears are carried upright; both are covered with long hair, giving them their unique appearance. The breed's square-shaped muzzle has a thick mustache and beard with a black nose. The tail of the Briard is feathery and crooked at the end.
With an excellent memory and overwhelming desire to please, the Briard has a good-natured temperament with lots of charm. These hard-working dogs are both attentive and alert, making them a potential choice as a watchdog. Although reserved with strangers, they are very devoted and affectionate towards their humans. The herding background of the breed gives them the instinct to guard their families and living spaces, and are even known to step in when children are being scolded! Due to their obedient nature, Briards are considered easier to train than some other breeds and are always eager to learn new tricks, but some dogs can be stubborn and without proper training, too much independence can lead to an unmanageable adult. Proper socialization and obedience training with strong leadership are important for this particular breed to understand when guardian behavior is appropriate. A well-socialized Briard will get along just fine with dogs and other pets, especially if they have been raised with them from a young age. This is not the type of dog for the lazy but they require plenty of daily physical and mental stimulation to remain out of trouble and are not the best choice for apartment dwellers. Best suited for families who live in rural areas, the Briard is a great breed choice for individuals looking for an affectionate, not overly dependent companion.