Showsight Presents the Schipperke

PROPOSAL TO REVISE THE SCHIPPERKE FCI STANDARD

directly from the shepherd, miniaturized, made smaller […] as a result of long residence in the unhealthy towns” (a letter from Th. Delame, published in Chasse et Péche , September 30, 1894). What then started as a hypothetical and rather wishful idea (“if the little dog had not always been and was not still currently the watchdog of the boats from which he gets his name of ‘schipperke’ (little boat- man), you could have written ‘scheperke’ (little shepherd)”) soon became a dogma for some, though with meager empirical support. Inventing a pastoral origin was a highly ideological way to purify the breed, in line with the ideals of National Romanticism. 3. There was a wish to link the Schipperke more closely to other Belgian breeds, including the Belgian Shepherd dogs (BSD), in a nation-centered spirit, according to which all Belgian breeds should be closely interrelated. One can fully understand the national pride of identifying the Schipperke as a true Belgian breed, but that pride should not allow anyone to misrepresent the well-documented genetic and ethological character and the social and cultural history of this wonderful breed. Against such Romanticist temptations, we must consider the genetic and historical evidence; it is important to accept the mainly urban heritage of the Schipperke, as well as its close transnational interrelations with Dutch and German breeds like the Pomeranian and the Spitz, in accordance with the recently reconstructed genomic indicators. Today, DNA research offers a welcome way to finally decide which genealogical heritage should be given most credence. To conclude, these cultural and historical considerations are thus clearly supported by the scientific evidence from current genomic research. Today’s Schipperke dogs have generic traits that reflect this combined genomic basis and cultural history. These observations make necessary for the Belgian Kennel Club and the FCI to correct the Schipperke Standard, so as not to contradict undeniable genetic facts and correctly represent the true character- istics, history, and behavior of this wonderful Belgian dog breed. The current FCI Standard, formulated in 2009 by Dr. Robert Pollet et al. ( www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/083g01-en.pdf ), should be revised to a standard that more closely resembles the 1988 FCI Standard, leaning on a tradition dating back to 1888 when the original points of the breed were recorded. Several 2009 formulations mistakenly link the Schipperke to Belgian Shepherds, and this should be corrected: General Charles Lee and his dog: This sketch dates back to 1770, and the dog in question was said to be from “Pomerania” but could easily have been purchased from people who traveled from the Belgium region. The sketch is a “caricature,” meaning certain characteristics were exaggerated. Yes, this dog contains many classic Schipperke breed traits: the ruff, the culottes, square body, head type, upright, prick ears, and body type. It shows a tail type found on the majority of undocked Schipperkes today.

Two important points can be read into this last comment. First, that the Schipperke was “still currently” a boat dog, which can be considered a personal testimony, and second, that the idea of the word “scheperke” was an invention, created in 1894, and it was distinguished from Schipperke—and Schipperke was still clearly defined as “little boatman.” The Chasse et Péche article that speaks of the origin of the name was published March 13, 1892, and says, “The honor to have given a name to the Schipperke and to have highlighted it belongs to Mr. Le compte of Beauffort, which alone in 1880 on the occasion of the great exhibition canine international de Bruxelles, created the class...” Before this time, the breed was known by many names (skupperke, Chasse et Péche , February 7, 1892; spits; Lysen, The American Journal , February 23, 1889; Old Flemish Spitz, Edwin H. Morris, Popular Monthly , 1890). After speculations of a shepherd lineage turned up in the 1890s, these competed with the boat dog theme. This theory was primarily supported by the linguistic similarity of the Flem- ish words for “little boatman” (schipperke) and “little shepherd” (scheperke). Different authors chose either interpretation, and in the FCI Standard of 2009, the latter won and eradicated all traces of the former. Even though this pastoral idea contradicts factual evidence—including the recently discovered genetic relations—it gained support for multiple reasons: 1. One input was the coincidental linguistic similarity between the Flemish words for skippers and shepherds, which made it pos- sible to construct an imaginary identification of the Schipperke as a herding breed, though, in fact, it never did, and still does not, possess the typical characteristics of such a breed. 2. There was evidently a misguided desire to create a rural origin of the breed, as this may, for some, have been seen as more noble than the practical urban contexts in which it actually had thrived. One of the first historical sources to suggest a shepherd lineage typically had a rather Romantic argument that the Schipperke “…descended

244 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, OCTOBER 2021

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