Belgian shepherds are medium-sized dogs with a slender build. As their name suggests, they were bred in Belgium, where they were used as herding dogs. Although originally working dogs, they can make great pets, as long as they get sufficient exercise. The American Kennel Clubs recognizes four different types of Belgian shepherd, each named after their area of origin. The main difference between these varieties is their coat type.
The Tervuren is perhaps the most popular and easily recognized of all four types of Belgian shepherd. The village of Tervuren is its place of origin and where it gets its name from. You can spot it by its long, thick coat, which is a rich fawn to russet color, with black overlaying it. As a long-coated dog it needs regular brushing to keep its fur tangle-free.
The Groenendael is another common type of Belgian shepherd. Like the Tervuren, it has a long coat, but this type has a much harsher texture to its coat, with a long, straight outercoat and dense undercoat. However, the most recognizable difference between the coats of these two breeds is that the Groenendael has pure black fur. Again, this breed requires regular brushing, especially during periods of heavy shedding, which occur twice per year.
The Malinois is similar in color to the Tervuren -- the majority of their coat is a fawn or russet shade, with a black overlay mostly around the head and on the back. Rather than being long-coated like the Tervuren, the Malinois is a short-haired breed with a firm-textured coat. This breed originates and takes its name from Malines, a small Belgian city.
The Laekenois is perhaps the rarest of all Belgian shepherd breeds. However, it was the favorite of Queen Marie Henriette and gets its name from her royal residence, the Château de Laeken. This type has extremely distinctive wiry hair, which gives it a shaggy or wooly appearance. Like both the Tervuren and the Malinois, its coat ranges from fawn to mahogany in color, with some black overlay.