Belgian Tervuren history begins, unsurprisingly, in Belgium. Prior to the late 1800s, the Tervuren was simply considered one variety of several types of Belgian Shepherd Dog, which had already existed as an all-purpose herding dog for centuries. But in 1891, Belgian breeders formed the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club), and the organization soon divided the different breed types by coat length and color: the Groenendael (long-haired black coat), the Tervuren (long-haired, any color other than black), the Malinois (short coat), and the Laekenois (wire-haired coat).
The Tervuren type is named after the village of the same name, where lived a breeder named M.F. Corbeel. Sometime in the mid-1890s Corbeel bred two fawn-colored Belgian Shepherd Dogs named Tom and Poes; their offspring, simply named Miss, was then bred with a black Belgian Shepherd. One dog in Miss's litter was a fawn-colored dog with black overlays on its coat named Milsart, which went on to win first prize at the national dog show in Belgium in 1898; Milsart is now considered the model for all Belgian Tervuren dogs which came after it.
As years passed, the Tervuren variety became popular throughout Europe, and eventually dogs of this type began being imported to North America. In 1918 the American Kennel Club registered its first Tervuren, but due to low interest in the breed the Tervuren disappeared from the AKC's stud book by about 1940. Post-World War II, enthusiasts began showing interest again, and in 1959 the AKC recognized the Belgian Tervuren as a distinct breed. Today, Tervs rank 107th out of 190 AKC-recognized breeds.