Other names: Brussels Griffon, Griffon, Belgium Griffon
Did somebody order an Ewok ? This tenacious but loveable little character may weigh little more than a large watermelon, but he has a whole lot of substance inside. While he may be a little delicate for more rambunctious human youngsters, the Griff will make a warm and enthusiastic addition to most family-types or for individuals who are able to give him the contact time he requires.
Key facts about the Griffon Bruxellois
Origins and history
This Belgian toy-terrier can trace his lineage to the “Smousje,” a common hunter in the Brussels area from where the Griffon takes his name. The Smousje was cross-bred with such unlikely suiters as the Affenpinscher, Ruby King Charles Spaniel and the Pug, and the keen dog observer can spot elements of each of these distinguished dogs in today’s Griffon.
Developing as an ardent rat-catcher, the Bruxellois found work with the common people and the aristocracy alike, where his fine character and peculiar looks won him favour; Queen Marie Henriette was a particular fan, and took to breeding the little dogs and distributing them across Europe. He arrived in England in the 1890s, where he quickly won over small bands of enthusiasts, and indeed he has the British to thank for his survival through two world wars, when his numbers were decimated.
Of late he has achieved some considerable celebrity, appearing in the paintings of Mary Cassatt, films such as Gosford Park, Sweet November, The First Wives Club, and Teaching Mrs. Tingle; his cousin, the Petit Brabançon, played Carter’s morbid dog in the sitcom Spin City; and the Ewok connection is no coincidence, since George Lucas was an owner, and the Star Wars design team drew inspiration from the short fellow.
But the Griffon Bruxellois received his greatest popularity boost following the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets: six Griffs - Timer, Sprout, Debbie, Billy, Parfait, and Jill – took it in turns to play Verdell, the dog of Greg Kinnear’s character, Simon Bishop. So adorable was their collective performance, the ripples of demand were felt by Griffon breeders across the movie-going territories.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 3 : Small Belgian Dogs
Physical characteristics of the Griffon Bruxellois
Female : Between 8 and 11 in
Male : Between 8 and 11 in
Female : Between 7 and 13 lb
Male : Between 7 and 13 lb
Red or red-black, sometimes with black areas.
Type of coat
The Griffon Bruxellois hair is medium length, rough coated with an undercoat.
Very dark brown.
This small, keen, bearded dog doesn’t just look intelligent: he looks like an academic. He’s very small, but very sturdy considering he’s attributed to the toy genre of dog. His head is relatively large compared to the rest of his body, and arresting in its human-like countenance. His snout ends abruptly, although his jutting jaw gives it something of an epilogue. His ears flop forwards, and are absolutely adorable – but live somewhat in the shadow of that formidable beard, which is his defining feature. His back and legs are subtly muscular, his tail high and erect. His hair is wiry, rough, and more or less straight; it may be wavy, but never curly. The Brussels is a beige-ish red, with more or less blackness to it, while his cousin the Griffon Belge is black and tan.
Good to know
Griffons are very difficult to breed and many perish during childbirth or during puppyhood. Amateurs should not encourage procreation among their pets.
The Griff forms a strong bond with his family and illustrates this with the warmest affections.
This dog was once a worker, and retains the energy and enthusiasm of his working generations. Although he is strong for his size, he is too fragile for tussling.
He’s not the calmest of fellows, since his high energy levels drive him to constantly seek stimulation. He’s not neurotic, but may become barky or mischievous if neglected.
The Griff is a clever fellow and gives every impression that he would devote himself to building model aeroplanes if left to his own devices. However, this is not the case and this little dog should not be trusted with glue.
His rat-catching instincts may not have fully-subsided, so he should always be chaperoned in the company of the family hamster.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This Bruxellois is generally warm towards people he doesn’t know, although it varies from dog to dog and early socialisation is essential. His ancestors were used as guard dogs, although due to his size he is more of an alarm function than a physical deterrent.
The Griff requires the close company of his family and soon becomes unhappy without it; however, he is a free-thinker, and may act stubbornly or bring his own ideas to the table if not well-disciplined.
Behaviour of the Griffon Bruxellois
This dog does not like being alone. He will demonstrate his displeasure with small and ingenious acts of protest.
Easy to train / obedience
His intelligence and sociability make the Griff a good subject for education; however, his wilfulness and sensitivity may inhibit his progress if he is treated too harshly or pushed beyond his comfort zone.
He is quite a barky one; he will let you know when someone’s at the door, or he’s happy, or he wants your attention. Anti-bark training is recommended.