THE TALE OF THE TAILLESS BREED BY DAWN BANNISTER
L ike many breeds, the Schipperke is facing a heated debate about being shown “au natural”, when tradition- ally their tails have been docked. While in some breeds the difference is minor, Schipperkes have made a trademark of being a “tailless” breed, to the point that many exhibi- tors (seeing their tails for the first time), are often astonished to see they even have one. Per- haps some people think this only because the term “tailless” is used in the first paragraph of the Schipperke standard, rather than “docked”; but in truth, there are countless descriptions of this breed found throughout history that do describe this breed as being born this way. And in fact, by tracing back the original articles writ- ten on the Schipperke, one discovers that this is no accident. Even Schipperke fanciers might be startled to learn that this breed was never originally intended to be a docked breed at all! In the 1880s, far from being a prolific breed in Belgium, the early fanciers saw the breed as nearly extinct, though there were quite a few early breeders who knew of legends and gave descriptions of the breed, which had been pop- ular 50 years prior (1830s). One early breeder was a man from England; who, coming to Bel- gium about 1875, began hunting for Schipper- kes to “find out the truth about the little fellows being born without tails”. Early fanciers hunted out examples of the breed that were true to the “old type”, with one early breeder even visiting the Brussels market every Sunday for 3 years before he found his famous Schipperke, who he named “Spitz”. At this point, the breed itself had several names, including Spitz, Old Flemish Spitz, and Schupperke . The official name for the breed came in 1880, when a prominent figure, the Count de Beauffort, created a class for the “Schipperke” at a dog show. His description included “sans queue”, or “without tail”. In 1885, one of the earliest complete descriptions of the breed was published, and it stated that “this dog (breed) is born without a tail”. Another breeder stated that years prior, a Schipperke born with a tail was a sign that they were not purebred. Yet when the first standard was written, they opted to be frank and stated in their notes that “we do not know whether fifty years ago there were more Schipperkes born without a tail than in our own day. Those to whom the tail has not
A top-winning Schipperke bitch in Finland.
A Flemish painting dating to the 1870s. To the right is a small dog with a short tail, carrying something in it’s mouth. Likely an early bob tail Schipperke.
been docked, have it covered with a brush and wear it trumpet (turned up). One out of six of them is born without a tail, according to some, oth- ers not one in twenty-one.” For their standard they chose the description “tail absent”. Some time after this, one prominent fancier suggested that “It shall be proposed to the Club that the member in question undertake to inform the secretary of the date of the breeding of his bitches. In the five days following the birth, it will be noted before witnesses, how many are born within the range of having a small tail, with a full tail, and are born without a tail.” So this was a key component of the breed, though they felt it was important to first establish the old type before selecting out examples that were born tailless; stating, “The tail comes last.”
282 • S how S ight M agazine , J anuary 2019
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