Description & History

The Schipperke (pronounced "skip-er-kay") originated in Flanders.

The breed, one of the smallest in the Spitz group, is thought to share its ancestry with one of the shepherding breeds. A Belgian sheepdog, the Groenendal, is very similar in appearance to the Schipperke, although larger. Both are black, have the same body line and shortish erect ears. There is one difference - the Schipperke is tailless.

How far the breed's history goes back is not known. However, by 1690 when it was first exhibited by craftsmen in Brussels, the Schipperke appears to have been well established.

The Schipperke's real job was not as a showman but as a guard dog and ratter and it was greatly valued by bargees as they travelled the waterways throughout Belgium - Schipperke is Flemish for "little boatman".

The breed was introduced to England in 1880 and the first known dog to arrive in England was called Drieske. He became a British champion and is recorded as the first sire in many pedigrees. The first recorded bitch, called Flo, was brought over from Belgium in 1887.

About the time of their arrival in England, the Belgian Kennel Club was formed and the breed was given the name Schipperke. Until then they were called Spitz.

The breed which was popular with royalty, was also favoured by the wealthy and the merchants of Flanders. In the seventeenth century William of Orange kept Schipperkes and in 1885 the breed became fashionable after Leopold II's wife, Queen Marie Henrietta, acquired one of these small dogs. Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, was also known to be attached to the breed and kept two during the first part of the First World War.

The breed is suitable for town or country living.

Rosamund Walters.

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