The Belgian Tervuren goes by different names in various circles. In its homeland of Belgium, the breed is referred to as the Chien de Berger Belge. In most countries, the various subdivisions are not recognized as individual breeds and they are simply referred to by their parent breed's name as Belgian Shepherd Dogs. The Belgian Tervuren was, perhaps not surprisingly, named for the Belgian village of Tervuren (in some dialects it can be spelled Tervueren).
An early devotee of the breed was a man named M.F. Corbeel, a resident of the village. The first American Kennel Society registree of a Belgian Tervuren was in 1918, even though the breed had already been classified decades prior. The breed's handsome appearance led to a famous painting by dog portraiture artist Alexandre Clarys in the early 20th century. The dog serving as his model was known as "Duc II", and had won the first Belgian Shepherd Specialty in Cureghem, Belgium in May of 1892. Prints of the image are still sold to collectors and dog lovers.
The breed comes from the Belgian countryside, where they served as guard dogs and sheep herders. Belgian Tervurens were selected as the breed of choice for rescue workers after the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK. There were almost no Tervuren registrations with the American Kennel Club between 1918 and the end of the depression, and it wasn't until 1959 that the AKC granted the Tervuren their own show status. The breed had previously been shown as Belgian Sheep Dogs, and were finally recognized as their own breed when dog lovers started importing the Tervurens from Europe once again in 1953. Some Belgian Tervurens have an unusual habit of sitting on other dogs heads as an invitation to play.
The Tervuren are known for their arrogance and grace, which serve as valuable traits in dog show competitions where presentation is key. Belgian Tervurens have been tested by the American Temperament Testing Society at an average of 77.1 percent, having obeyed first commands at least 99.5 percent of the time and understanding new commands in fewer than five repetitions. The first Tervuren champion was a fawn named "Milsart" in 1907, being only two generations removed from "Tom" and "Poes", the match commonly believed to be the foundation couple of the breed.
A handful of owners can proudly trace their own Tervuren's lineage back to Milsart. The Belgian Tervuren's reputation precedes it, given that, regardless of the Tervuren's relative scarcity on the North American continent, the breed and their characteristics are still widely recognized throughout the United States and the rest of North America and they remain one of the most popular breeds in Search and Rescue, police work and the military throughout Canada and the United States.