The Berger Picard (bare ZHAY pee CARR) or Picardy Shepherd is one of the oldest French herding breeds. A medium-sized, active and athletic herding dog, the Picard was bred to be a working companion, enthusiastically performing its job while also responding well to training. As most herding breeds are bred for stamina and drive, the Picard needs daily exercise and mental stimulation. Their observant nature makes them great watchdogs, and with proper socialization and training they can also become quiet, even-tempered house pets. The Picard responds well to positive training and is a loyal companion.
This breed has a shaggy, wiry topcoat with a short, dense undercoat to produce a weatherproof coat that is overall rough to the touch. The Picard’s coat comes in shades of fawn with or without gray underlay and trim on the ears as well as brindle. White markings are also allowed. Monthly brushing is necessary to prevent matting, with occasional bathing and hand-stripping of the ears to neaten.
The Berger Picard, like most of today’s French herding breeds, originated from the dogs brought to northern France and the Pas de Calais, during the second Celtic invasion of Gaul around 400 BC. Throughout the Middle Ages, sheepdogs resembling Berger Picards have been depicted in tapestries, engravings and woodcuts. The breed was used to herd cattle and sheep in France for centuries as well as to smuggle contraband tobacco across the French/Belgian border. By the 1900s, the Berger Picard was regarded as its own breed, and its first breed standard was drafted in 1922 followed by breed recognition in France in 1925.
Although the Berger Picard made an appearance at the first French dog show in 1863, the breed’s rustic appearance did not lead to popularity as a show dog. Even though Picards continued to be shown and participated in defense and guarding trials, the breed was not officially recognized in France until 1925.
With its population concentrated on the farms of northeastern France between Normandy and Paris, the Picardy Shepherd, as it is known in some countries, was decimated by the ravages of the World Wars and the breed was reduced to near extinction. In the late 1940’s several devoted fanciers scoured Picardy looking for well-typed subjects to rebuild the breed. The Picards’ easy care and happy, though mischievous, temperament has the breed back on the road to recovery. There have been several unsuccessful attempts in the past 20 years to establish the Berger Picard in North America. The current influx of Picards is greatly attributed to the use of the Internet, which provided the means of communication between European breeders and American buyers. As more Picard puppies are slowly being imported to the U.S. from France and other countries, it is important that owners and potential breeders remain responsible, as they will determine the fate of this breed in the United States.
The 2005 release of the movie “Because of Winn Dixie” introduced America to the Picardy Shepherd. Berger Picards can also be seen in the movies, “Daniel and the Superdogs,” and “Are We Done Yet?” The movie producers wanted a dog that looked like a mixed breed, but needed several that looked alike so that production could continue smoothly. Thus they decided on this rare purebred dog. It is this breed’s rustic tousled appearance that has fooled many people into thinking the dogs in the movies are just a mutts. Picards are often mistaken for another canine actor, the Wirehaired Portuguese Podengo Medio, also a scruffy looking rare breed.
Country of Origin: France
Height: Males, 23-½ to 25-½ inches;
Females 21-½ to 23-½
Weight: 50-70 lb.
Life Expectancy: 13 to 14 years
Recognized Registries: FCI, ARBA, UKC, CKC, NCA, and AKC Miscellaneous January 2013
This breed is predicted to move to the AKC Herding Group in JULY, 2015.
AKC Standard for the Berger Picard: