Brussels Griffon

This old breed from Belgium worked as a ratter at farms and stables and was originally called the stable griffon. This dog's protruding jaws and rich whiskers give it a humorous, sweet look.


The ancestors of these small, reddish-brown dogs were the terrier-like pest-controllers of the Belgian cities of earlier centuries. Their main role was to destroy the vermin that infested the urban stables, and because of this they were sometimes referred to as the Stable Griffon, or Griffon d’Ecurie. During the day they could often be seen perched on cab-drivers’ seats, attracting attention as their owners plied for business.

The Brussels griffon has been known as an energetic little dog in Belgium since the fifteenth century. Some believe that the affenpinscher, Yorkshire terrier, pug, and ruby spaniel were its ancestors, though details are not known. Today this dog is both a companion and a watchdog. It received official recognition in 1883 from the Belgian Kennel Club, and was exported to England and America in the 1880s.

At first sight, it is mysterious that such an appealing breed has not become more popular worldwide. Why, for example, is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 70 times more numerous in Britain than the Griffon? The answer, sadly, is that because of its genetic history it has accumulated major reproductive problems. Caesarean deliveries have become commonplace. Puppies that are born are often delicate. Often there is only a single puppy, and mortality is high (60 per cent in the first few weeks). This makes the breeding of the Griffon a hazardous business and many people, despite their love of the breed, prefer to turn elsewhere. (It is hard to see how these problems have arisen, because in the 1920s, at the peak of the breeds popularity, it was reported that there were 5,000 brood bitches in Brussels alone, each producing litters of five to seven puppies.)


The Brussels griffon has a small, firm, strong body; a short back; well-developed hindquarters; straight front limbs; strong hind legs; a slightly arched, powerful neck; an extremely short nose; a wide muzzle that arches slightly upwards; a slightly protruding lower jaw that makes the dog look assertive; big black-rimmed black eyes with a sharp expression; high-set ears that are left natural or cropped; and a tail that is docked short. The coat comes in two variations: a straight, hard and smooth coat, and a long, hard, wiry rough coat similar to that of the affenpinscher. The coat color is either reddish brown or black with reddish brown. Solid black is permitted.


Cheerful, independent, and persistent, this dog is a great bluffer who will blatantly bark at a dog ten times its size.

Care and Exercise

The coat needs little grooming. The coat has to be hand stripped by a groomer. It can be clipped, but this may often eliminate its rough feel. This dog does not like to be confined in a small place. It likes to play freely and without supervision, and should be allowed to run in a big fenced area.

Puppies and Training

Females become pregnant irregularly. A litter of one to three puppies is delivered with difficulty, because they have big heads. Newborns are small, and only 60 percent survive after two to four weeks. This breed lives for eight to ten years. The Brussels griffon is often stubborn and hard to train. A potential owner should be loving and tolerant.

Gallery of Brussels Griffon