The “Long Haired Malinois”

What is that doggy in the window???

A little history

When it comes to the Belgian Shepherd Dog, there is a lot of confusion in the United States regarding "what is that doggy in the window".  Hopefully I can help clarify the confusion.

In Europe, there is a breed called the Belgian Shepherd Dog (BSD).  It comes in 4 varieties. 

  • long haired black dog = Groenendael
  • long haired fawn dog with a black mask = Tervuren
  • short haired fawn dog with a black mask = Malinois
  • rough coated fawn dog with a black mask = Laekenois

There are also coat and color combinations that can crop up which don't technically have a variety, such as the short coated black dog.  Some people will say "well it's got short hair, so it's a  Malinois" regardless that it's color would just as easily put it in the "short haired Groen" category.  On occasion black and tan pops up also.  Most will label these Malinois or Tervs, again based on coat length.  But the standard for neither of these varieties actually includes black and tan.  The same is true for blue or other dilute colors.  For the "not really a variety" dogs most people seem to say if it's short haired it's a Malinois, if it's long haired and any color besides black, it's a Terv. 

Smo – AKC Registered Malinois

Some basic genetic information

A recessive gene is a gene that can be masked by a dominant gene.   A dog that has 2 copies of a dominant gene, or one dominant gene and one recessive gene will have the dominant phenotype. For a recessive gene to produce a recessive phenotype, the individual must have two copies, one from each parent. When looking at genetic markers, dominant genes are represented by a capital letter, and the recessive gene is a lower case letter.

Long hair is recessive to short hair.  Black can come in dominant or recessive to fawn.  The rough coat is dominant to the straight coat.  So depending on the genetic makeup of the parents, two Malinois can be bred together and produce Tervuren.  Two Tervs can produce Groen, and two Groen can produce Tervs.  A Laeken bred to the other varieties tends to produce offspring with a kind of rough coat that is rougher than a normal Mal/Terv coat but not as rough as a proper Laeken coat.  However, breeding those offspring back to another Laeken should produce proper Laeken coats in that generation.  There are other genes at play also, which is why some Tervs have super long coats, while others have mainly the furnishings around the ears and on the backs of the legs, while the coat on the body is still reasonably short.  But for this article I will not get into the genetics any further.  There are some links below if you want to read up on it further.

The following is some simplified tables that can be used to understand how recessive genes work.  In this example X is a dominant gene, and x is a recessive gene.  A short haired Malinois that carries the gene for long hair would be Xx in the table.  A short haired Malinois that did not carry the gene for long hair would be XX.  A Terv, who carries only the recessive long haired genes, would be xx.  When comparing black to fawn you can substitute X for the dominant black, and x for the fawn.  Or X for the fawn and x for the recessive black.

Two carriers bred together, producing 25% dominant only, 50% carriers, and 25% recessive.

  X x
x Xx xx

A dominant only bred to a carrier produces, producing 50% dominant only, 50% carriers and 0% recessive.

  X x

If you are interested in learning more about how dominant and recessive genes work, and specifically the genetics behind BSD coat length and color, the following links might be useful.

So why the confusion?

So why the confusion regarding "what is that doggy in the window"?  In the United States, and specifically within the AKC, the decision was made approximately 60 years ago for political reasons to separate the 4 varieties into 4 distinct breeds.  Belgian Sheepdog, the AKC name for the Groenendael, Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Malinois and just recently the AKC decided to fully recognize the Belgian Laekenois.  But that didn't change the basic genetics in the dogs.  So two Malinois bred together can still produce a long haired puppy, AKA Terv.  But AKC says Malinois and Tervs are two different breeds.  And just like breeding two Dobermans together can't produce a Rottweiler, two Malinois "can't" produce a Terv.  And two Terv "can't" produce a Groen, etc.  So we end up with "long haired Malinois", "solid black Terv", "fawn and black Groen", etc.  If these dogs were exported to another country, or registered with UKC, they would be registered with the correct variety, but in the AKC they will remain the incorrect "breed".  There have been attempts over the years to recombine the 4 "breeds" back into 1 breed with 4 varieties, but so far those attempts have failed.

As a side note, in the US the UKC considers the Belgian Shepherd Dog one breed, 4 varieties.  So a fawn long haired dog could end up dual registered as an AKC Malinois and UKC BSD – Tervuren.  Also, while people tend to blame the AKC for this situation, it was the members of the breed club who asked for the changes.  AKC simply gave them what they wanted.  AKC is also willing to recombine the 4 breeds into one, but once again all the breed clubs must agree to this, AKC will not just force it to happen against the clubs desires.

So what should I call it?

It's really up to you.  Some people believe the dogs should be called by the correct variety name, regardless of what it's registered with AKC as.  Others believe they should be labeled per the breed AKC says they are, and if the dog is actually a different variety indicate that also.  Such as "long haired Malinois", "black Terv" etc.  And then at least in the Malinois world there is that whole subset of unregistered dogs that could be called by the correct variety because AKC isn't involved, but many people will still just call Malinois and sometimes mention the dog has long hair, or is black, or black and tan, etc.  Personally what I call it depends in part in who I'm talking to.  If I'm talking to someone from Europe I generally use the correct variety name, because that's what they are used to.  If I'm talking to someone in the US I tend to use the AKC breed name, with a qualifier that it's got long hair, or is black, etc.  Because that's what most people are used to, many do not even realize the "breeds" are actually just 4 different varieties of one breed.  But I've also been known to toss out there "it's a long haired Malinois, AKA Tervuren" at times.

Still confused?  I don't blame you smiley  But hopefully now you understand a little better why you are wink


AKC Registered Laekenois

Raven & Night
AKC Registered Tervuren
Groenendael parents
AKC Laekenois – littermate to Frodo
with a correct Laeken coat


9 thoughts on “The “Long Haired Malinois”

  1. Rita

    AKC refuses to allow the BSD to be shown in varities much like Collies.  This reason alone is why the breeds have not been recombined and puppies allowed to be registered as the variety they are "when they drop"

    • dantero

      The reason the varieties were split into breeds is because the Groen people didn't want to have to show against the Terv people.  Back then would have been the right time to get AKC to just make them varieties instead of breeds.  Now I think the main reason is still the competition in the conformation ring, but I don't think it's the only reason.  I've seen people claim the other varieties/breeds have nothing to offer them so they won't support recombination.  Some claim it's because certain clubs don't want to have to recombine the bank accounts, or share control of the breed.  And others have said they would only support it if all possible genetic combinations were approved for the show ring since it's not fair to their variety that the other varieties have more approved IV breeding options.  There is also a large pool of owners who actually don't know the history of the breed, and believe their dog is no more related to one of another variety then it is to a GSD. 

  2. Sandi

    Love your explanation, although I won't remember everything. You made it fairly simple & clear. Thanks. There was just a discussion on this & I felt someone was a little off base. As you know, I have a Mal & a Terv (albeit a short hair Terv) I got from you & I love them dearly.

  3. Laura

    What a great explanation!

  4. Barbara Kwiecinski

    Interestly enough, a specific breed of cat came into being when two short-haired Abyssinians produced a long-haired kitten. Even though the long hair was a recessive gene, it turned up often enough that a few breeders bred long-hair to long-hair, resulting in wildly beautiful ruddy colored cats that looked like red foxes. They petitioned the powers that be to create a brand new breed called Somalis. Eventually, after many years, the Somali was a recognized separate breed. That, to me, makes sense. Having owned (and been owned by) 2 Somalis all I can say is thank goodness they did. A more affectionate, athletic, and beautiful cat does not exist!

  5. Barbara Kwiecinski

    BTW, I also happen to own and love dearly a BSD – a REAL Tervuren. He's 12.5 years and whatever he wants, he gets. Within reason 🤗

  6. Ana

    Thank you for this explanation. I have been confused ever since we were told my dog was a terv and not a malinois. His parents are both Malinois. All the other pups in the litter look like their parents except for Mali(yep, i named my dog Mali, short form malinois, because i was too lazy to think of a name. My golden retriever is named Golder. Lol.)

    anyway, he doesnt look like his parents at all. He has a thicker and longer coat. When i followed the hashtag belgian tervurens on instagram, i was surprised to see that my dog looks more like them than belgian malinois. So i googled "belgian tervuren recessive gene" and i was directed to this article.

    I am now convinced he is a terv. 😁 would like to show you so you could check but i dont know how to send you a photo. 😅😅

  7. MacDougall Kristin

    Why is it that some Malinois breeders don't even get this ? I had one tell me her terv was a long haired malinois !  Great explanation ! Do you find a temperament difference between the types or just the coat ?

    • dantero

      I have noticed some temperament consistencies in the long hairs in my litters.  I don’t know that I would call them differences per say, but in the litters where I do have a long hair, they have always been my “middle” pups.  Solid temperaments, but middle drive levels compared to the rest of the litter.  Not my driviest, but not my least drivey.  Not my most dominant, but not a push over either.  Just nice solid pups.  

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