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Blumoon Schipperkes

History of the Schipperke

I am Belgian, small, faithful, intelligent, courageous and black

A wonderful slogan and a complete description of the Schipperke.

The Official Book of the Schipperke states that:

 “Mr. Victor Fally, one of the founders of the Schipperke Club (Belgium), wrote a story of a dog without a tail appeared in the chronicles of the monk, Wenceslas, written in the 15th century, thereby establishing that the tradesmen guilds of Brussels possessed a house dog without a tail which could have been no other than our Schipperke.  This is claimed to be the earliest written mention of the breed.

Then, there is the story handed down about William of Orange (William the Silent: 1533-1584), national hero of Holland and Belgium, whose life was saved at one time from a would-be assassin by two jet black dogs without tails. There are also believed to have been Schipperkes.

Legend says that one day two shoemakers quarreled because of the unwanted visits form the dog of one to the house of the other and one of them avenged himself by cutting off entirely the tail of his neighbor’s dog. Fanciers observed that the little animals were better looking without their caudal appendage and so established the custom of the tailless Schipperke.

The known history of the breed begins about the year 1690s when the shoemakers in the St. Gery quarter organized a competitive exhibition of Schipperkes on designated Sundays on the Grand Place in Brussels.  At this time, workmen often exercised their ingenuity by making collars of hammered or carved brass for their Schipperkes. Always kept gleaming, these collars were worn only on Sundays and were fastened in a manner designed to pull out as few hairs as possible from the ruff. During the decade of 1830-1840s, the Schipperke was very fashionable in Brussels and, curiously enough, was protected in particular by the disciples of Saint Crisping. Even in this later period, it was still the custom to adorn Schipperkes with an enormous collar of worked brass which often was a real work of art. On Sundays one could see a shoemaker going out with or without his wife or children but never without his Schipperke. He could readily forget to shine his boots but he would never forget to polish his dog’s collar.

In the early nineteenth century, the Schipperke was widely distributed throughout the towns of central Belgium and was practically the only house dog known there until around 1880.

In 1880, a group of hunting dog fanciers led by Belgium fanciers declared that the Schipperke is their “national” dog and in fact the first club for the Belgian breeds was the Schipperke Club. Every year they proudly wear number 1 and celebrate their centennial since March 1888.

The Schipperke originated from the heart of Belgium and has as its capital, the city of Brussels.  The “Leauvennaar”, a mid sized dog that was tailless, followed the wagons between Brussels and Lauvain.  He weighed between 22 and 26 pounds and was considered the missing link between the Schipperke and his cousin, the larger Belgian Sheepdog we know today, or the Groenendael.  In Belgium, the Schipperke still today is in the Herding Group with the other Belgium Sheepdogs.

Brabancon mini-Shepherd, some say is their true origin. Spitz is a common name in Europe for all small dogs with pointed ears and noses.  During the three years we were in Germany, they called my Schips a “Spitz” every time.  Expressing my frustration to a German friend, she finally told me all small pointed ear and nose dogs were called that as anyone here would generalize “horse” for all breeds of horses. The Schips certainly do not look like the Spitz breed, and the word “Spitz” was around long before the breed was.

The origin of the name has been described as “Schaap” = sheep; “Schaper” = shepherd; “Scheper” = same, dialect form; “Scheperke” - same, diminutive form; “Schieperke or Schipperke” = same, variations …therefore, Little Shepherd dog.  Yet most romantically associated the breed with barges or boats “Schip” and boatman = “Schipers” unfortunately.

Mr. Reusens was a Schipperke breeder who ran a freight boat line between Brussels and Antwerp.  He is called the “father of the Schipperke” because of his promotion and enthusiasm of the breed.  His Schips are about the only traceable history of the Schipperke being barge dogs since most of the Belgians could not afford the prices the dogs fetched at that time.

Mr. Reusens also owned a dog called Franz who was the model pretty much for the Belgian standard.  In 1880, they formed a group to list characteristics they felt should represent our breed.

The Official Book of the Schipperke goes on to explain:

“These fanciers discovered that they had a group of dogs not all uniform in type. These differences are described in an article by E. R., Spalding printed in the American Book of the Dog (G. O. Shields, editor) published in 1891. Herein, Mr. Spalding quoted a letter written by John Lysen of Antwerp (a recognized authority on English Setter and other English bird dogs) in which he described three different types of Schipperkes existing in Belgium at that time. Apparently, the breed varied according to the locality. 

The three varieties described are the Antwerp, Louvain and the Brussels types. The Louvain type had a smooth, shiny coat with little ruff and a longer head with tall narrow ears, sometimes described as terrier-like in appearance.

The Brussels type had a much shorter head with large eyes, broad forehead and unusually large ears set far apart and low on the head.  With this type there usually went a fair, hard haired ruff and good coat; but unfortunately, also, all the dogs of this group were much out at the elbows which, added to their square short head, seemed to indicate a Bulldog cross.

The Antwerp type was between the other two and was the most attractive and most popular. This was a thickset dog having a distinct ruff and culottes or long hairs with shorter hairs on the sides of the body and on the legs.  These dogs were also characterized by a long mane (jabot) extending down between the forelegs back to about half the body. The standard clearly described the Antwerp type as it was the one developed by the Schipperkes Club.

Schipperkes came into the United States in different ways, but Miss Isabel Ormiston did the most to promote our breed. In the early 1920’s, she became interested in the breed through Belgium friends and in 1924 she visited Belgium, studied the breed and selected her first breeding stock. Nearly all Schipperkes today trace their ancestry to her stock.

Miss Ormiston also founded the Schipperke Club of America and AKC adopted the Belgian standard. It is hard to understand why we are not in the Herding Group as the Schip is in Belgium.  Perhaps it was because the Non-Sporting Group was being formed by AKC about that same time.

The Belgians have always insisted the Schipperke is a diminutive shepherd and that he was derived from the small, native black Belgium sheepdog.  Belgium canine authorities have consistently repeated this origin down through the years. 

Again, as noted in The Official Book of the Schipperke, a Belgium judge of some years ago

Charles Huge and Mr. Victor Fally have written that those Schipperkes left with a tail carry it like a Groenendael Sheepdog or shepherd. For proof, in an earlier French dog book by M. Megnin, there is a photograph of a Schipperke with a tail which is carried straight like that of a sporting dog. Mr. Fally and other have said that an undocked Schipperke with its tail curled over the back like a Pug or Spitz if evidence that there has been crossbreeding in its ancestry regardless of the names appearing in the pedigree. Some English authorities state that the undocked tails of the Schipperke are carried in one or two ways, some will be carried straight like a shepherd and others will be carried curved over the back.

The elder Mr. Louis Vander Snickt, one of the founders of the Schipperkes Club and a noted discoverer of Belgian breeds, wrote in 1886 that “the Schipperke is, perhaps, the only indisputable Belgian dog that we possess.” We of today add the hope that the Schipperke may always thrive there, his native home.

In Belgium, Schipperkes are invited to their herding trials. It isn’t unusual to see the Schipperke show his abilities for herding, hunting pheasants, rabbits, moles or mice. They are good watch dogs, extremely quick and can be good in obedience, agility, and earth dog trials. Schipperkes also have courage, longevity and love to travel.  They should be a loyal companion and love the people they take care of. They should be a natural, hardy, sturdy, all around busy little dog.  Temperament is considered important in judging a Schipperke. He must have “pep”.