The Griffon Bruxellois, Brussels Griffon, or Belgian Griffon is a breed of toy dog, named for the city of their origin, Brussels, Belgium. The Griffon Bruxellois is really three dogs rolled into one, the Griffon Bruxellois, the Griffon Belge and the Petit Brabancon. Identical in standard except for coat and colour differences, in some standards they are considered varieties of the same breed, much like Belgian Sheepdogs.
Brussels Griffon Appearance
All three breeds are generally small, with a flat face, prominent chin, and large wide-set eyes that gives the Griffon an almost human expression. In expression they are sometimes compared to an Ewok or Wookiee from the movie Star Wars. All three breeds are sturdy toy dogs with thick set, well balanced bodies, giving a squared appearance in proportion when viewed from the side. A proper Griffon should be muscular, compact and well-boned, and should not seem delicate, racy or overly cobby. The Griffon will often feel heavier than it is for such a small size. Because they are judged by weight rather than shoulder height, proper proportioning is essential to determine if a dog is too fat, too slim or too tall for their size.
Weight standards, especially upper range disqualification, vary from standards, but the ideal weight is 3.6-4.5 kg (8-10 lb) for both sexes.
The neck is medium length and arched slightly. The chest is deep, and the back level. The tail, either cropped to one-third it’s length or natural in standards than allow for that, should be set high, and when showing, should express the alert, keen demeanor of the breed. Kinked tails are not uncommon in the breed, and cannot be shown unless they can be cropped below the kink to standard.
Brussels Griffon Head
The head is the most important characteristic of this breed, and the most well defined aspect of the standard.
The rounded head should be large to the body, but should not appear to unbalance the dog. Depending on the standard, the forehead will be referred to as “rounded” or “domed”. In either case, the appearance or the skull should be of a circle (minus the features of the muzzle) rather than an oval, and the forehead should not bulge or protrude.
The ears should be high set but well apart, small, and carried semi-erect if natural. They can be cropped; no preference is given.
The dark, wide set, black rimmed eyes are very large and expressive, giving the face its essential human-like qualities. They should be prominent but not bulging.
The nose is broad with wide nostrils, black, and set at the same level as the eyes. There should be a very pronounced stop, and the muzzle between the nose and forehead should not be more than 1.5 cm in length. Many standards prefer the stop to be so strong as to leave no visible distance between the nose and forehead. The nose should angle upwards. The muzzle from nose to chin should not be in line with the face, instead, it should slope towards the skull, giving a turned up or layback look. The broad chin should be undershot and prominent, sweeping up to the lips.
The lips should be black, and close fitting. The top lip is short under the nose, and should not overlap the bottom lip, nor should teeth or tongue should be visible. The upper lips should not be pendulous in any way. The teeth should be strong and straight, with none missing or askew.
Brussels Griffon Coat
In the Griffon Bruxellois and the Griffon Belge, the coat is wiry and harsh. It should be dense, short enough not to disrupt the form of the dog over the body, and long enough to distinguish the texture and type from the Petit Brabancon. Furnishings around the face form a fringe around the eyes, cheeks and chin, but should not be allowed to grow into a long, flowing beard. Rather, they accentuate the natural form of the chin and cheeks. The eyebrow, moustache and beard look is essential to the human-like expression sought after in the breed. There may be some furnishings around the legs as well, though shorter than the head.
In the Petit BrabanÃ§on, the coat is short, smooth, glossy, and flat, rather like a Pug or Boston Terrier.
Brussels Griffon Color
Griffon Bruxellois: Red or reddish-brown; black allowed on muzzle.
Griffon Belge: Black, Black and tan (a black and tan pattern with emphasis on a rich red shade), Black and red (black mixed evenly with reddish-brown hairs). Black and red may have a black face mask.
Petit Brabancon: All colors allowed for the other standards. Until recently, black short may have been a fault, but it is now allowed in all standards. A black mask is expected on the red or reddish brown coat. Grey hair from age is not penalized.
Brussels Griffon Temperament
The Griffon Bruxellois is known to have a huge heart, and a strong desire to snuggle and be with his or her master. They have an air of self-importance. A Griffon should not be shy or aggressive; however, they are very emotionally sensitive. Because of this, they should be socialized carefully at a young age. They will be alert and interested in their surroundings.
Griffons tend to bond with one human more than others, and because of this, along with their small size, may not be suitable as a family pet, especially one with very small children. They tend to get along well with other animals in the house, such as cats, dogs and ferrets, but can get into trouble because they have no concept of size, and will attempt to boss around dogs much larger than themselves.
Having a Griffon means having a true constant companion. They need their favorite person all the time, and will be very unhappy if left outdoors or alone most of the day. A Griffon Bruxellois will want to follow you about the house, on your errands, and to bed.
Brussels Griffon History
For centuries, rough coated, short nosed toy dog breeds have been found in Belgium, but the true history of the Griffon Bruxellois started in the 1800s, not in royal palaces, but in coach houses.
To help keep rats away, Belgium coachmen used to keep small terriers called Griffons d’Ecurie in their stables. These Affenpinscher-like dogs were friendly and popular. At some point in the 1800s, these coachmen bred their Griffons with imported toy dogs, such as the Pug, and the King Charles Spaniel, bringing about the change in coat types that lead to the Petits Brabancon, which was originally a fault of the breed. The spaniels also brought the rich red and black and tan colour of the modern Griffon Bruxellois and Griffon Belge.
The Griffon Bruxellois grew in popularity in the late 1800′s with both workers and noblemen in Belgium. Queen Marie Henriette was a dog enthusiast who visited the annual dog shows in Belgium religiously, often with her daughter, and became a breeder and booster of Griffon Bruxellois, giving them international fame and popularity and indirectly leading to two Griffon Bruxellois clubs starting in England and America.
The First World War and World War II proved to be a disastrous time for the breed. War time is difficult on any dog breed, and the recovering numbers after the First World War were set back by increased vigilance in breeding faults such as webbed toes. By the end of the Second World War, Belgium had almost no native Griffon Bruxellois left, and only through the vigilance of dedicated breeders, in England particularly, that the breed survived at all.
The breed has never been numerous or popular, but had a brief vogue in the late 1950′s, and now is generally an uncommon breed. There has been a recent increase in interest in the United States due to appearance of a Griffon in the movie, As Good as It Gets, and also because of a general increase in interest in toy dogs.
Famous Brussels Griffons
A Griffon Bruxellois can be seen in the film As Good as It Gets (1997). It was played by six Brussels Griffons, named Timer, Sprout, Debbie, Billy, Parfait, and Jill. Jill was the star.
On the sitcom Spin City, Carter’s suicidal dog Rags is played by a smooth-coated Petit Brabancon variety of Griffon Bruxellois called Wesley.
Record label owner and deejay Sarah Lewitinn has adopted a Brussels Griffon named “Monkey” who was named “”Best Dog Owned by a Club Personality” by The Village Voice.