Showsight Presents the Schipperke

SCHIPPERKE HISTORY

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By Beverly Henry

he known history of the breed begins in 1690when the shoemakers in the St. Gery quarter organized a competitive exhibition of Schipperkes on designated

Sundays on the Grand’ Place in Brussels. Th e workmen exercised their ingenuity by mak- ing 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 ru ff . One hundred and fi fty years later (1830– 1840), the Schipperke remained very fash- ionable in Brussels and, curiously enough, was protected by the disciples of Saint Crispin. Even in this later period, it was still the custom to adorn Schipperkes with enor- mous collars of worked brass that were often real works of art. On Sundays, one could see a shoemaker going out with or without his wife or children but never without his Schipperke. Although he could readily for- get to shine his boots, he would never forget to polish the dog’s collar. During this period of early development, the breed was known by two names, giving rise to controversies on the true origin of the breed. Th e people of Brussels used the col- loquial name “Spitz” or “Spitzke” to describe the small black dog. Th is name sheds little light on the breed’s ancestry because several breeds which are referred to as a “Spitz” in Germany or America are called “Loulou” in Belgium. Th us, no relationship to these breeds is established by the Belgian call name. Mr. F. Verbanck of Ghent, a noted Belgian authority of the breed, summed up his thoughts on this subject when he wrote, “If the Spitz group is composed of all the nordic dogs, the German Shepherd and the other continental sheepdogs of the wolf-type, as well as the Collie and the Shetland Sheepdog, then the Schipperke is also a Spitz. But, if the Spitz is limited

Photo by Rusty Wells

to the group of German Wolfspitz breeds which now includes the Keeshond of Hol- land, then the Schipperke is not a Spitz.” Over the years, various writers out- side Belgium have claimed a Spitz origin for the Schipperke. One well-known dog chart even shows the Schipperke as a direct descendant of the Pomeranian. Victor Fally, a founder of the Belgium Schipperkes Club, debated the possibility of such an origin, writing, “It is true that the Pomeranian and the Schipperke resemble each other just as they resemble the sheepdogs. Th ey belong to the same original stemwhich corresponds to a primitive type spread throughout the regions of the North and Baltic Seas, which is related to the Norwegian, Swedish and even the Eskimo breeds. [But] it is impossi- ble for the Pomeranian, itself, to have served to create the Schipperke because the latter has been revealed to have existed here before the introduction of the Pomeranian. Th e Schipperke has an entirely di ff erent aspect.”

Another interesting point of comparison, which may also shed some light on tracing the ancestry of the Schipperke, is its natural tail carriage. Although most twentieth cen- tury literature maintains that the undocked tail of a Schip is carried over the back like a Spitz, early authorities are in disagreement with this assertion. Some years ago, the eminent Belgian judge, Charles Huge, and Victor Fally wrote that those Schipperkes left with a tail carry it like a Groenendael Sheepdog or Shepherd. For proof, in an ear- lier French dog book by M. Megnin, there is a photograph of a Schipperke with a tail carried straight like that of a sporting dog. Mr. Fally also contended that an undocked Schipperke with its tail curled over the back like a Pug or a Spitz is evidence that there has been crossbreeding in its ancestry, regardless of the names appearing in the pedigree. Some English authorities have stated that the undocked tails of the Schipperke are car- ried in two ways: some are straight like a shep-

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