Showsight Presents the Schipperke

shippers, but, when they heard about the prices paid for them, their interest abated immediately and they returned to their crossbreeds at giveaway prices. Th is will con fi rm that Schipperkes have never been used regularly as watchdogs on barges.” Th e little black dogs were found more widely distributed throughout various towns of central Belgium in the homes of middle class business people and among the members of the trade guilds. Th ese people thought of the Schipperke as a diminutive shepherd and believed that the word Schip- perke was derived through a corruption of the word for shepherd, “scheper,” and thus meant “little shepherd.” Impressed with the resemblance in appearance and characteris- tics between the Schipperke and the native sheepdog of Belgium (not to be confused with the Belgian Sheepdog known in the show ring today), these fanciers concluded that the Schipperke is the diminutive of the latter. Many arguments support this theory. For one, there existed an intermediate type of dog, now extinct, which possessed many of the characteristics and the same general appearance of these two breeds. Th is dog, called the Leuvenaar, was frequently seen in the region of Louvain, accompany- ing wagoners and messengers traveling the route between Brussels and Louvain. Also tailless, this dog is described by early authori- ties as an all-black, small-sized dog with a lively and active nature, weighing between 10 to 12 kilograms (22 and 26 ½ pounds). Th is indigenous sheepdog was very common in the County of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant during the sixteenth and seven- teenth centuries. Some were still in existence at the turn of the present century, but they now appear to be extinct. It is believed that the workmen and business people living in the cities of those regions chose the small- est specimens for use as watchdogs and rat- ters, characteristics which are an integral part of our Schipperkes today. One of the early presidents of the Schipperkes Club, who was also a judge, particularly favored these dogs and insisted that this variety should never become lost. He was well known for pre- ferring the largest exhibits when judging, even to the point of awarding fi rst place to dogs whose weight exceeded the maximum limit of the Standard.

A further argument for the relation- ship between the Schipperke and these sheepdogs is in the natural herding ability exhibited by some of the larger Schipper- kes when given the proper opportunity to exercise it. Th us, the Leuvenaar was con- sidered as the missing link, uniting the Schipperke to the sheepdog. After due consideration, the Belgium Schipperkes Club founders accepted, as the most logical explanation, the belief that the Schipperke is a diminutive shepherd and that it was derived from the small native black Belgian sheepdog. Belgian canine authorities consistently supported this ori- gin down through the years. Before learn- ing of the Belgian theory, Dr. Leon Whit- ney, renowned veterinarian and author, placed the Schipperke as a sheepdog. Felix Lese, past vice-president of the Eskimo Sled Dog Club of America, wrote F. Isabel Orm- iston the following statement: “Your claim that the Schipperke is a diminutive Belgian Sheepdog is to me an additional reason to believe that the Schipperke is a member of the Samoyed group, for there again many authorities place both the Alsatian (Ger- man Shepherd) and the Belgian Sheepdog in that classi fi cation also.” A further complication to tracing the breed’s origin is the fact that many old dog books and magazine articles errone- ously designate the Schipperke as a Dutch breed originating in Holland. Th is may be because the Flemish language is a form of Dutch. Hence, the word Flanders has been interpreted to mean Holland instead of the Flemish provinces of Belgium. In addition, Belgium and Holland were united against their common oppressor Spain for a time. Th ey were again one for a few years after the Battle of Waterloo, but by 1815, long separation had aroused cer- tain antagonisms. Th e countries separated for the fi nal time in 1830. Th e elder Louis Vander Snickt, a founder of the Schipper- kes Club and a noted discoverer of Belgian breeds, put the theory that the Schipperke was a Dutch breed to rest when he wrote in 1886, “the Schipperke is, perhaps, the only indisputable Belgian dog that we pos- sess.” It is the hope of fanciers today that the Schipperke breed may always thrive in Belgium, its native home.

Photo by Rusty Wells

herd and others are carried curved over the back. It is believed likely that there has been occasional crossbreeding to some Spitz breed, particularly the Pomeranian, but the possible Spitz-like characteristics resulting from such crossbreeding is not considered evidence of the original derivation of the Schipperke. Th e name Schipperke was apparently introduced and used by boat captains who piloted their vessels between Brussels and Antwerp. According to these Antwerp boat men, the word Schipperke came from the Flemish word for boat, “schip,” and meant “little boat man,” or, as more commonly known in America, “little captain.” It was partly because of possible confusion with the German Spitz breeds that the breed was o ffi cially renamed Schipperke. Despite the o ffi cial recognition of the name, the breed is still commonly called Spitz by the layman in Belgium. It has been suggested that the boat cap- tains were responsible for the elimination of the Schipperke tail, as a dog minus this appendage was less likely to upset goods upon the narrow boat decks. However, there is no proof that the captains created the breed nor even possessed the largest num- ber of them. Th is allegation was partially substantiated in the early twentieth century by Joseph Verbanck, a brother to Florim- ond Verbanck, an avid Schipperke fancier. Prior to 1930, Joseph Verbanck operated a barge line on the Ruhr between Rotterdam and Paris and procured several Schipperkes as watchdogs for his boats. He later wrote, “Let me say that these purebred Schipperkes created surprise and envy among the other

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