The Griffon Bruxellois
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 first breed standard was drawn up in the 1880s and breed classes were first scheduled in 1883. By 1890 they had become all the rage in Belgium and were taken up by Queen Astrid of the Belgians. The first imports into this country were around 1880 and first registered in 1894 when several were imported. The first two champions came around the turn of the Century with Bruno, a Belgian import, and then Mousequetaire Rouge, bred in this country. The first club set up in this country was the Griffon Bruxellois Club established in 1897, our centenary was held in 1997 with a weekend get together, seminar and Championship show held at a Hotel in the midlands with Griffon enthusiasts from around the world attending.
In this country we have one breed, the Griffon Bruxellois. Under FCA rules in Europe there are three separate breeds which are shown separately. The Griffon Bruxellois, a red rough coated dog, A Griffon Belge, a rough coated dog other than red (Black, Black and Tan, or Black and Red mixed) and thirdly the Petit Brabancon, a smooth of red, black, black and tan or Black and Red mixed. The coats and colours are inter bred in this country, some of the experts say that using smooths in their breeding plans improves the quality of the rough coat. In this country we do only accept the three colours of red, black or black and tan, the black and red mixed coat is not considered acceptable.
The Griffon Bruxellois is a small cobby dog, heavy for size weighing between 6 and 11 lbs. It has a large wide head, with large quite prominent dark eyes and a very short nose, which slopes back to the skull. It has a very prominent chin and an undershot mouth. The rough coats should have very harsh coats and full beards. These are probably the ones most people think of when they think of a Griffon Bruxellois and tend to be the ones illustrated in books. The smooths have a short tight coat and do not have beards. They should have a wide deep chest, medium legs and short level back. The tail is customarily docked and should be carried high, emerging at right angles from a level top line.
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.
The smooths take little grooming, a brush and comb used regularly will keep them looking smart. The roughs are more difficult. It takes a lot of hard work to keep a rough looking smart and with the correct harsh coat. The coat should be hand stripped and this is an ongoing task which some might find very difficult. Some people have them clipped rather than going through the hand stripping. This keeps them smart but they lose the harsh coat that they require in the show ring and they also the coat looks much lighter when clipped, not the deep clear red, black or black and tan that they should have. The beards need to be regularly groomed as they can easily collect food and dirt.
The Griffon can manage on much less exercise than many other breed and will be content with short walks if that is all you can manage. However they are a sturdy little dog and will cope with as much as you like and will happily walk all-day and still be ready for more. It is quite a healthy breed although you should ensure that your pup comes from stock free from patella problems.
Is a Griffon for you ?
If you want a very intelligent, friendly, outgoing little character to share your life then a Griffon might be for you. However, getting hold of one may well be very difficult. Numerically it is a very small breed with only about 200 puppies born each year and most breeders have far more enquiries than they have puppies. Many people have had to wait for years to find a Griffon, particularly if they want a black and tan which is the rarest colour in this country. If you are lucky enough to find one then you will not be sorry, they are a totally loveable dog with a character all of their own. It is amazing how many exhibitors of other breeds have one Griffon as a pet. One warning, Griffons are addictive. Almost everyone who starts with one Griffon ends up with 2 or 3 or ..........