The origin of the Brussels Griffon

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The origin of the Brussels Griffon
The origin of the Brussels Griffon

General description of the dog, breeding area, name and ancestors of the Brussels Griffon, its development, popularization and recognition, influence on the type of world events, its current position and appearance in the cinema. The content of the article:

  • Breeding area, name and ancestors
  • Development
  • Popularization and recognition
  • Influence of world events
  • Current situation

The Brussels griffon or the Belgian griffon is a toy breed that originated in the Belgian territory, more precisely, in the city of Brussels. Few dogs pose as many classification problems as these canines. There are several types of them, but different kennel clubs recognize their number of types. Some people take each as completely separate. Most international nurseries divide them into three varieties: griffon bruxellois, the griffon belge, and petit brabancon. However, many American kennels lean towards only two types (smooth and hard-capped), classifying them as one breed.

The Brussels Griffon is usually a small, robust build. Medium adults are 23-28 cm tall and weigh 4-5 kg. They have domed heads, short noses, and slightly protruding lower jaws. Their humanoid features are often compared to the Ewoks, a fictional race of bipedal mammals in the epic Star Wars series. Griffon is available in two coat options - dense / rough and smooth. Their colors can be red, black-brown or black-red.

As you know, brussels griffon has a huge heart, and a strong desire is constantly with its owner. They demonstrate decent self-esteem. The griffin doesn't have to be shy or aggressive, but he is very emotionally sensitive. Therefore, such a pet should be subtly educated from a young age. These are alert, inquisitive dogs, interested in their surroundings.

Breeding area, name and ancestors of the Brussels Griffon

Brussels griffon on the lawn

Brussels griffon is a native of Belgium and is named after Brussels, the capital of this country. This breed has evolved gradually over several centuries, and its ancestral history stretches back several hundred years, although the current form of the variety did not appear until the 1800s. "Griffon" is a French word for several types of rough-coated canines, most of which are either gun dogs or hounds.

The actual origins of the Griffons are actually lost in time, although their ancestry is believed to start with a wiry-coated hunting dog of the Celts known as the "Canis Segusius". The Brussels Griffon is usually placed in this group because of its name. However, this breed is almost certainly not a true griffon.

Most likely, it was so named because the hard "coat" of some individuals resembles such species as "petit basset griffon vendeen" and "wirehaired pointing griffon". Probably, the French-speaking Belgians called this dog "Griffon" when they met these French breeds. Regardless, the Brussels Griffon is almost certainly a member of the pinscher / schnauzer family.

Like griffons, members of the family have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years of existence. These dogs have served as working farm dogs for the German-speaking peoples for countless centuries. The Pinschers, the progenitors of the Brussels Griffons, were commonly used to kill parasites and evolved into highly skilled rat-catchers.These pets also served as farmer assistants, and many of them were given the dual duties of dogs to guard or attack. Also this species has developed into good shepherds.

Most of the pinscher were used to kill rats and almost all of them had hard covers. Therefore, when they were first imported into English-speaking countries, many people incorrectly assumed they were members of the terriers family. Some experts even mistakenly claim that pinscher or schnauzer is the German word for a terrier. “Pinscher” is translated from German as biting, and “schnauzer” is a mustache. However, there is no evidence that these dogs, the possible ancestors of the Brussels Griffons, are in any way related to terriers. It seems that any similarities between the two are likely the result of breeding for a similar purpose.

This family always includes: miniature schnauzer, standard schnauzer, giant schnauzer, miniature pinscher, german pinscher, doberman pinscher, affenpinscher (affenpinscher) and Austrian pinscher.

The Dutch smoushund and the swedish / danish farm dog are often referred to by most dog experts. In recent years, some experts have begun to believe that the four Swiss mountain dog breeds, the extinct belgische rekel and the dachshund, fall into this category, although these additions are the most controversial.

Since the earliest records of the Pinschers and Schnauzers, the ancestors of the Belgian Griffons, these dogs have been present in two different types of coat: hard and smooth. In fact, the Standard Schnauzer and the German Pinscher were considered the same breed until the beginning of this century. Eventually, breeders in parts of Germany developed small pinscher varieties that had extremely wiry hair. There were probably many such dogs at one point, but the only survivor is the Affenpinscher.

Development of the Brussels Griffon

Three Brussels Griffons

It is unclear exactly when this process began, but the earliest records of the affenpinscher date back to the 1600s. The Afenpinscher, the closest relative of the Brussels Griffon and closely related species, has almost certainly been further developed by breeders in low-income countries. Ultimately, the underdeveloped states split between the Protestant Netherlands, Catholic Belgium and Luxembourg, leading to linguistic and cultural differences.

In these countries, the rat-killer canines are likely to split into the newly rebuilt dutch smoushund and the now extinct belgian smousje (Belgian smoothie). The wiry-haired dog depicted by Jan Van Eyck in the process of his creation is smousje in the portrait of the Arnolfini family. The species probably worked primarily as a shepherd. Belgian male transporters began bringing in specimens of this breed and similar killer rats to cleanse their stables of parasites.

Carriers from all over Belgium regularly traded dogs, the predecessors of the Belgian Griffons, and injected the blood of new species they encountered for breeding purposes. In the end, people developed a unique breed - "griffon d'ecurie" (griffon-d'ecurie). It is likely that the French-speaking Belgians at this time mistook the Pinscher of the German-speaking Belgians for a French griffon. This variety spread well throughout Belgium, although it was probably quite variable in appearance.

In the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, Belgian male carriers continued to inject new blood into the griffin d'ekuri. Since these people did not contain any records of dog breeding, it is impossible to say for sure which breeds they used.They almost certainly mixed this species with the pug, a variety that was incredibly popular in neighboring France and the Netherlands. It is believed that the pug is responsible for both the brachycephalic type of structure (depressed muzzle) of the modern Brussels Griffon, and for the smooth coat and black color of another variety of the species - the petit brabancon. It is also generally accepted that the black and tan and red King Charles and English Toy Spaniels were obtained by crossing with the griffon d'ecurie.

These crosses are responsible for the black, brown and red markings found in most modern Belgian griffons. It is also believed that the pedigree of the pug and english toy spaniel is responsible for the accidental fertility in brussels griffon of individuals with webbed toes, kink tail, or lack thereof. In the end, the griffon de'ecurie was so different from the original form that separate names began to be assigned to it.

Popularization and recognition of the Brussels Griffon

Brussels griffon on a walk

The smooth coated dogs became known as the Petit Brabancon, after the Belgian national anthem "La Brabonconne". Individuals with a rough covering, painted in solid red, were called griffon bruxellois or Brussels griffon, after the name of the Belgian capital of Brussels. The specimens that had hard hair and any other variety of colors were known as griffon belges or Belgian griffons.

The Brussels Griffon, represented throughout the country of Belgium, was accessible to people of all socio-economic classes. It became popular among both the working class and the Belgian nobility. By the mid-1800s, show shows and kennel clubs were quite fashionable and popularized in Europe. Belgium was no stranger to this passion, and therefore standards were developed for a number of local varieties.

The earliest Brussels Griffon registered with a kennel club appeared in the first volume of the Belgian Kennel Club studbook in 1883. Queen Marie Henriette of Belgium has greatly increased the popularity of this breed. She was a great breed enthusiast and became a regular participant in dog shows held throughout the country. She regularly attended these events with her daughters.

Queen Marie Henrietta became the breeder and promoter of the Brussels Griffon and was responsible for the distribution of these dogs throughout Europe. All populations of the species outside of Belgium are likely to be largely the result of the influence of this noble person. The Brussels griffon became the most popular in the UK in 1897 when the first breed club outside Belgium was founded.

While it is unclear how and when the first Belgian Griffons arrived in America, these dogs were well established by 1910, when the American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the variety. In continental Europe, the griffon bruxellois, griffon belge and petit brabancon were eventually split into three separate breeds and were no longer crossed. However, in the United Kingdom and the United States, all three types of these canines remained the same breed and were crossed regularly.

The influence of world events on the Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon near the New Year tree

Belgium was the site of most of the worst battles of the First World War, and the species declined sharply across the country. Many Brussels Griffons were killed during the fighting, and a significant number of others either starved or did not breed because their owners could no longer take care of them. After the end of this difficult period in history, an amateur activity was organized to restore the variety.

But, this work has progressed slowly because breeders were determined to correct perceived deficiencies such as webbed fingers. In addition, the stables where the Brussels griffons worked as rat catchers became obsolete and gradually disappeared through the proliferation of automobiles.As terrible as it may seem, the Second World War proved to be even more catastrophic for Belgium than the First World War. Much of the country's urban area was bombed and plundered, first by the German blitzkrieg, and then again by the Allied forces trying to free the nation from the Germans.

Between these two invasions, there were years of brutal German occupation. The Brussels Griffon was found mainly in urban areas such as Brussels, where the most devastating fighting has been observed. By the end of World War II, brussels griffon were essentially considered extinct in their homeland and most of continental Europe. Fortunately, a significant number of this species survived the war in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and to a lesser extent in the United States of America, and the Belgian and European populations used these dogs as pets.

The current position of the Brussels Griffon and the appearance in the US cinema

Brussels Griffon as a pet

Since the AKC club first recognized the species in 1910, the species has grown slowly in America. In 1945, the American Brussels Griffon Association (ABGA) was founded. Ms. Donnel became its first president. The breed was first recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1956. Although the number of Belgian griffons in the United States grew steadily, these dogs never really gained popularity in the country.

In 1960, black smooth and brussels griffons were disqualified from the American Kennel Club (AKC) events. Despite this, the ban was subsequently lifted in 1990. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many representatives of the Brussels Griffons appeared repeatedly in American films and television programs. Most brilliantly, six different breed individuals played the character of the pet named "Verdell" in the film "It Can't Be Better," starring opposite actors Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. The presence of the species in this film is even mentioned on the AKC breed's web page.

The Brussels Griffon has also appeared in the films Gosford Park and First Women's Club. Perhaps the most notable television appearance of the Brussels Griffon was in the comedy television series Spin City, where Wesley the Petit Brabancon played Rugs, a suicidal dog. Unlike many varieties, which have seen a significant leap in popularity after appearing in highly acclaimed motion pictures and television shows, brussels griffons have achieved only modest attention at best. But, and for this, the majority of lovers and admirers of the breed are very grateful.

Although more recently the number of Brussels Griffons in the United States of America has increased as a result of the appearance in the cinema and the general increase in interest in toy species in general, these dogs are still far from being rare. In 2010, brussels griffons ranked 80th out of 167 complete breeds in terms of AKC Kennel Club registration.

Despite the fact that the Belgian Griffon was developed as a rat killer, and many breed members are still quite capable of doing this kind of work, few of them remain engaged in such activities. Recently, some owners are finding that this energetic and athletic dog can compete successfully in agility and obedience competitions. But, brussels griffons have not yet won the famous championship titles in competitions for canines. Most likely, almost every such pet kept in modern families is either a companion or a show dog.

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