There seems to be two main versions of the history of the Griffon Bruxellois. One version is that it is quite an old breed, and point to a picture by Jan Van Eyck painted in 1434 which shows a small reddish dog similar to a Griffon. A second painting, this time by Renoir and dated 1870, is entitled "LA BAIGNEUSE AU GRIFFON" shows a very small black and tan Griffon. The second version is that the breed was not known before about 1880 and was bred from the Affenpincher, the Ruby King Charles Spaniel and the Pug, possibly with crosses with the Yorkshire Terrier.
Around the later part of the 19th Century Griffons were being kept on the waterfronts and in the Hansom Cab Stables of Brussels where they were kept as ratters. They also used to ride on the hansom cabs and became well known for their monkey faces and pert expressions.
The character of the Griffon is very important. They should have a spunky terrier temperament, lively and alert. They are very full of their own importance, very friendly and outgoing. They always act as if nobody has every told them they are small dogs, they are very definitely big dogs in a small package. They are a very intelligent breed and take very readily to obedience or agility training and just love to please you. I personally think that the smooth coats are more outgoing than the roughs, although I am sure many in the breed would disagree.
Syringomyelia and Chiari-like Malformation (CMSM) have been found in griffons. They should also be tested for hereditary cataracts.