It's unknown when Briard history originated. These sheepdogs may have been present as long ago as the 8th century, when similar-looking dogs were depicted in paintings. There are positive records that date back to the 13th century, however, so these dogs can be confirmed during the Medieval period. In any case, they are certainly the oldest of the four sheepdog breeds known in France. (The other three are the Beauceron, the Picardy, and the Pyrenean.)
Where in France the Briard came is also unknown, but stories abound. Some believe the breed came from a dog that was popular in Brie, whereas there are others who think the dog is steeped in the legend of a canine who avenged his master's murder. For many centuries, this breed was called Shepherd Dog of Brie (in French: Chien Berger de Brie) and it was not until 1809 that the name was changed to Briard.
Before it became known the world over, this breed was apparently greatly appreciated by many Western leaders: Marquis De Lafayette, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Thomas Jefferson were some of those who had a Briard. Some people say that even King Charlemagne had one of these dogs — way back in the 8th century!
It took nearly another century for the standard to be written. That was in 1897, and by 1909, that standard had been modified. Up until then, the dogs had been used for shepherding and guard duties on farms. As the turn of the century approached, they became seen in dog shows. One of their earliest appearances was in the Paris dog show of 1863. After World War I, they were, like many other breeds, taken to the United States by soldiers returning home.