Get to Know the Brussels Griffon: The Grumpy-Looking Gremlin


It is impossible to look at a Brussels Griffon without smiling. With their comical face and tough-dog attitude, it’s as though the breed’s creators set out to fashion a dog simply to make people laugh. But in reality, the breed started from utilitarian roots. Sort of.

Brussels Griffon by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Bussels Griffon

  • The Brussels Griffon is a product of Belgium.
  • Its forebears were probably the Affenpinscher and a Belgian street dog, the Griffon d’Ecurie (Stable Griffon), or the Smousje, a small rough-coated terrier-like dog kept in stables to eliminate rodents.
  • The breed gained favor as a guard of horse-drawn cabs in Brussels, where its cocky but comic demeanor was probably more effective at attracting riders than dissuading robbers.
  • In the late 1800s, this mixture was then crossed with the Pug, which was at that time extremely popular in neighboring Holland. The Pug crosses account for the brachycephalic (flat-faced) head type and for the smooth-coated individuals of the breed.
Smooth Brussels Griffon by Shutterstock.
  • Around this same time, there is some suggestion that additional crosses were made with the Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, and Ruby English Toy Spaniel in efforts to improve coat texture and decrease size.
  • By 1880, the breed was sufficiently established to be recognized at Belgian dog shows. The first one was registered in 1883.
  • Queen Mari Henriette became enamored with the breed and bred and promoted them. This boosted their popularity greatly within Belgium and also led to Griffons being exported to England and other countries.
  • By the early 1900s, the little street urchin had risen to the heights of popularity in Belgium and found himself in great demand by nobility.
  • AKC recognized them in 1910. They are a member of the Toy group.
Brussels Griffon by Shutterstock.
  • Although its numbers were decimated by World War I, the breed recovered largely due to British breeders and has since gained ardent admirers around the world.
  • In some countries, only the red rough-coated dogs are called Brussels Griffons. The black rough-coated ones are called Belgian Griffons, and the smooth version is called the Petit Brabancon. The AKC groups them all together as one breed.
  • The breed is known as the Griffon Bruxellois throughout much of Europe.
  • The Brussels Griffon may be confused with the Affenpinscher, but the Griffon tends to have a neater coat, heavier beard, flatter face, rounder head, heavier bone, and shorter tail, and is more often tan or red. It is also smaller. Also, the Brussels Griffon, unlike the Affenpinscher, can also come in a smooth-coat variety.
  • The breed usually has a docked tail and may or may not have cropped ears in the United States.
  • The breed was probably at its most popular in the 1950s. It is currently the 136th most popular AKC breed, slightly up from 143rd five years ago.
Brussels Griffon by Shutterstock
  • A rough Brussels Griffon (actually, six of them) played the role of Verdall in the movie As Good as It Gets. A Brussels Griffon was also featured in the television show Spin City.
  • A Brussels Griffon named Champion Cilleine Masquerade won the Toy group at the 2009 Westminster dog show.

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