Any lover of Belgian Shepherds owes thanks to the Club du Chein de Berger Belge. This group is responsible for the classification of the breed we know and love today, however, the group's reputation is not completely spotless. This should not detract from anyone's love of the Belgian Tervuren or any of the other breeds of Belgian Shepherd, nor should the members of the club themselves be deprived the respect they deserve for initiating the Belgian Shepherd classification.
The group had been the subject of some controversy, but they certainly deserve more praise for what they've done for dog lovers than criticism for their mistakes. On September 29th in 1891 in Brussels, the Club du Chein de Berger Belge was founded by Professor Adolphe Reul of the Cureghem Veterinary Medical School to determine if there was a particular breed of dog unique to Belgium.
Initially enacted as an effort of national pride, the Belgian Shepherds have spread all over the world and live and work with dog lovers everywhere from Alaska to Australia. The pivotal meeting, held on november 15th of the same year, had the group looking at 117 different sheep herding dogs before settling on the Belgian Shepherd classification and subdivisions. Shortly thereafter, though, the club came under some criticism for perceived errors in judgement on the part of Professor Reul.
While the Malinois, Mechelen and Tervuren have gone undisputed as definite Belgian Shepherds, the initial classification of the Laekenois has been said to be motivated more by favoritism than by objective evaluation. The breed barely survived, as only two subjects existed at the time of classification. Not surprisingly, both of these subjects were owned by M. A. Claessens, a dedicated and active member of the club. The more common and homogenous candidate had been bred by a shepherd named M. Janssens, a humble man who lived in Belgium but only spoke Flemish. Prof. Reul has been accused of bias and short sightedness in this regard.
After quite a bit of heated debate between 1891 and 1899, the Club du Chein de Berger Belge would eventually lose their status as the authorities on Belgian Shepherds. The argument that sealed their fate was held between themselves and the Berger Belge Club. The Club du Chein de Berger Belge insisted that the Belgian Shepherd be defined and classified by color, with the Club du Chein member, Mr. Van Hertsen, demanding that "Black is a sign of strength and intelligence. Pale colours betray the degeneracy". The Berger Belge Club had insisted that color was not as important as the dog's breeding lineage, training and personality and chose to breed and classify the dog for functionality and ability. The Club du Chein eventually lost the argument and were replaced with the Berger Belge in 1901. However troubled their affairs became after the initial classification meeting, their place in dog breeding history certainly stands as one of relevance.