The History of the Griffon Bruxellois


There are many suggestions of the origin of the Griffon Bruxellois. One theory is, that a Cavalier King Charles, a Pug, a Yorkshire Terrier & a Brussels street dog were the composition of this robust little dog, which was used for ratting. It is strange that we find small dogs, resembling Griffon Bruxellois were featured by artists long before the 19th century. A painting by the artist Jan Van Eyck dated 1434 can be seen in the National Gallery. Entitled The Marriage of Arnilfini Giovanna Cenani, it depicts a Griffon-type dog. During the 16th century Jacope de Empolin also painted Griffon-type dogs, albeit Griffons in need of stripping. In 1870 Renoir painted La Baigneuse au Griffon (The Bather with a Griffon). For a painting to have a Griffon in it's title might make one suppose the breed was already quite well known.

Whatever it's antecedents, whether back to the 15th century or within the last century, it is generally accepted that the breed is native to Belgium, and the first Griffon Bruxellois was imported from there to England.

From the little information available regarding early Griffons in Europe it would seem that, although some of the continental Royal Families kept Griffons as pets, they were much more likely to be found on the waterfronts and in the stables, particularly in the Brussels area of Belgium, where the cabbies kept them as ratting dogs. They used to ride on their masters' fiacres and became well-known for their monkey faces and pert expressions, which endeared them to the passers-by.

In the 1880s the first Breed Standard was dawn up and in 1883 the first breed classes were classified at dog shows in Belgium.

About 1894 Queen Astrid of the Belgians, who was interested in several breeds of dogs, became attracted to the Griffon Bruxellois and started to breed these dogs and improve their quality. As a result of such royal interest, the Griffon in Belgium became very fashionable.

Shortly after the First World War there were about 5000 female Griffons in Belgium, most of them in the Brussels area. It is incredible that, after such popularity, there are not so many in the whole of Belgium today.

Exerts from: The Griffon Bruxellois - by Doone Raynham.




Contact Details

Terri Odell
Glenhaven, NSW, Australia
Phone : 02 9894 4223
Email : [email protected]