Griffon Bruxellois and Peitit Brabancon

Griffon Brabancon and Griffon BruxelloisGriffon Brabancon and Griffon Bruxellois

The Toy breed popularly called 'the Griffon' comes in three varieties, the rough coated Griffon Bruxellois, his smooth coated counterpart the Petit Brabancon and the Griffon Belge which come in colours other than red. But because all three are combined here in Australia as Griffon Bruxellois, they are considered here together. The rough coated Griffon Bruxellois historically had its origin in Belgium but looks remarkably similar to the Affenpinscher which had its origin in Germany. So a detailed comparison of these breeds is presented below.

The History of the Griffon Bruxellois

Amolfini Portrait 1434 ADAmolfini Portrait 1434 AD

In 1434 AD, the famous Amolfini Portrait (left) featured a small rough haired terrier painted in the Belgium town of Bruges. So a small type of terrier similar to the Griffon Bruxellois we know today, has existed in Belgium for centuries.

But it would be 1880 before somewhat recognisable Griffon Bruxellois made their first recorded appearance. These were a group of 5 small long-haired terriers (under 3 kilograms) which were exhibited at the first all-breeds show held in Brussels to mark the 50th Anniversary of Belgium independence. Two of these were the sire and dam of 'Fox' owned by a coachman named Notermans. 'Fox' became an acknowledged founder of the breed with many pedigrees recording they still go back to him today.

The Griffon Bruxellois becomes a Pure Breed

Griffon Bruxellois and Petit BrabanconGriffon Bruxellois and Petit Brabancon

In 1882, the Griffon Bruxellois appeared in the first volume of the Belgium Stud Book as 'small hard coat terriers'. In 1884 and 1885 the name 'Affenpinscher' was added because they had a 'monkey head' similar to the German breed. But by 1886, the 'Affenpinscher' name was dropped, the name 'Griffon Bruxellois - little red-haired Griffon' was created. In 1888 when a Club was formed, the draft Breed Standard was approved with red being the only allowable colour. The following year, the short haired Petit Brabancon was also recognised. By 1905, 'Griffons of all colours' were included under the name of 'Griffon Belge'. But the 'all colours' only included black, black and tan and black and rust, with white being a disqualification[3].

Griffon Bruxellois c 1907Griffon Bruxellois c 1907

During these early days, the Belgium Queen Marie Henriette was a great supporter of all the Belgium breeds and was undoubtedly responsible for popularising this attractive small hard coated terrier with the monkey face. By this time trade between Belgium and England had already been commonplace for at least a century. So the fame of these little ratting dogs had already spread to the UK where they were instrumental in establishing the Norwich and Norfolk Terriers. In England, progeny of 'Fox' were entered in the 1896 English Stud Book but appeared in the 'Foreign Dog' section until 1899 when they appeared under the separate heading of 'Griffons Bruxellois'.[4] 

Griffons Australia 1978Griffons Australia 1978

History of Griffon Bruxellois in Australia

In Australia one Griffon Bruxellois and one Petit Brabancon was introduced in 1910 where they were listed separately in Australia's first Stud Book 'Tyzack's Annual'[1]. But it appears that Griffons were not imported into Australia in any numbers until 1933. Significantly, Mrs Elizabeth Collins exhibited her first Griffon, 'Mr Wylde of Moerangi' in 1937 and became very prominent in the Toy Group in Victoria with a trophy awarded in her honour for 'Top Toy' for many years[6].

Griffon Bruxellois Agility dog!Griffon Bruxellois Agility dog!

In the 1950's and 1960's Peggy Crawford imported Griffons into NSW, Mr Phil Cunningham to SA, and who could forget that delightful character, Madge Sheehan who imported them into Victoria[2]. Additionally with Australia's easy access to New Zealand where Mollie Grocott brought in a significant number of top winning Griffons from UK, her Moerangi prefix became very well known by the number of quality imports she sent here to Australia. So Griffons of both coats and all colours have always been in excellent hands here as showdogs, pets or participating in action sports like Agility.

Griffon BrabanconGriffon Brabancon

The Griffon Bruxellois Today

While smooth and rough coat Griffons can occur in the same litter, both compete in the same classes in Australia under the name Griffon Bruxellois. But it is more technically correct to call rough coats Griffon Bruxellois, smooth coats Petit Brabancon and those with colours other than red, Griffon Belge.

Griffon BrabanconGriffon Brabancon

The Griffon is a cobby square little dog with the disposition of a terrier weighing from 3.2-5kgs (7-11 lbs). He has a fairly large rounded head in comparison to the body but the skull should never be domed. He has a definite stop and a relatively short wide muzzle with a prominent turned up chin. This means the mouth is slightly undershot. The eyes are round and the ears should be semi-erect.

He has a short body with a rather wide and deep chest, a level topline and a high set tail. His straight forelegs with medium bone and well muscled hindquarters and short hocks enable him to move freely with good drive from the rear.

Griffon Belge (Black & Tan)Griffon Belge (Black & Tan)

Griffons most commonly come clear red with a darker shade on the mask and ears. The Breed Standard is quite specific in that each hair should be an even red from tip to root. But in some countries Griffons that come in black or black and rich tan without white markings are called Griffon Belge.

How the Affenpinscher differs from the Griffon

Because both the Affenpinscher and Griffon should have monkey like expressions, they may look very similar in body proportions and general balance. But the Affenpinscher differs from the Griffon Bruxellois in the following ways:


  • It only comes in one coat type -a rough coat which should not be trimmed
  • It only comes in one colour - black although grey shading is permissible
  • The head should be smaller in comparison with the body
  • The forehead should be less domed
  • The stop should be less defined
  • The muzzle should be longer
  • The ears may be either dropped or erect whereby the Griffon's ears must be semi-erect
  • The neck should be shorter
  • The chest should be not as deep or wide
  • The Affenpinscher has only a height in the Breed Standard: 24-28 cm (9.5 -11 ins) whereas the Griffon has only a weight: Weight: 3.2-5kgs (7-11 lbs)

Comparison between Affenpinscher and Griffon Bruxellois

Affenpinscher Griffon Bruxellois
Country of Origin Germany Belgium
Size Height: 24-28 cm (9.5 -11 ins) Weight: 3.2-5kgs (7-11 lbs)
Colour Black Clear red, black or black and rich tan without white markings.
General Appearance Rough coated and sturdy with mischievous monkey-like expression A cobby well balanced, smart with a terrier disposition. It can be either rough coated or smooth.
Affenpinscher wikiAffenpinscher Griffon headRedDavidGriffon Bruxellois (Red)
Skull Head fairly small in proportion to body; domed forehead, broad brow.. Nostrils large and open. Chin prominent with good turn up. Distance between eyes and nose forming an equal sided triangle. Head fairly large in proportion to body, rounded but in no way domed, moderately wide between the ears. Chin prominent, in roughs furnished with a beard.
Stop Marked, but not indented Definite
Muzzle Muzzle blunt and short with prominent chin Muzzle relatively short and wide. Chin prominent with good turn-up.
Nose Black Black, with large open nostrils
Eyes Round, very dark, medium sized Round, very dark, not too large
Ears Small, set high, either drop or erect. Small, set high, semi-erect
Mouth Slightly undershot Slightly undershot
Neck Short and straight Medium length, slightly arched
Chest Chest deep Chest rather wide and deep
Feet Small, round and compact with dark pads and nails Small, thick, cat-like with black toenails.
Topline Straight sloping slightly to tail
Affenpinscher Gesh LargeAffenpinscher Griffon BrabanconGriffon Brabancon
Body Back short and straight. Back short and level from withers to tail root
Tail Set high and carried high High set at right angles to the topline.
Gait A lively, strutting movement. Free with good drive from rear

References and Further Reading

[1] 'Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T.W.Tyzack and C.S. Turner published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912, printed by Bellmaine Bros., Printers 66 - 70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Australia, Page 25

[2] 'The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' published by OzDog Newspaper 1997, Griffon Bruxellois by Joy Seymour Page 173

[3] Jean-Marie Vanbutsele, 'History of the Griffon Bruxellois, Griffon Belge & Petit Brabancon', translated by Valerie Brideau & Elise Bernatchez, published by Belgium dogs Publications 20012 ISBN 978-0-9879857-0-5 'The Origin of the Small Griffon' Pages 13-21.

[4] Marjorie Cousens, 'Griffons Bruxellois' published by W & G Foyle Ltd, London UK 1960 Chapter One 'Origin and History' Page 20

[5] Jerome Cushman, 'Affenpinscher' published by 'Kennel Club Books' LLC USA 2006, ISBN 1-59378-335-3, History of the Affenpinscher Page 11

[6] Griffon Bruxellois Club of Victoria 40th Anniversary Year 1975 - 2015 Published by Eureka Publishing Pages 15 - 16