Breed Standard - as explained by Marjorie Cousens

  Griffons Bruxellois – by Marjorie Cousens

The Breed Standard Explained  By permission of Foyles

As so often happens when a breed becomes fashionable, exhibitors of other varieties became interested, and started to work on the Griffon – efforts were made to gild the lily by introducing crosses of various kinds. The main cross of the time was with the Pug which produced many of the breed’s present day good points – the large heads and eyes, the cobby bodies and wide deep chests. At the same time it brought the black colour and smooth coat, and also improved the texture of the rough coat. At first smooth pups were discarded, but when it was discovered what excellent qualities these smooths often had, it was decided to recognise them as a separate variety, under the name of Griffons Brabançon. Later still, blacks were recognised as Griffons Belges, and later, Black and Tans.

At an even later date, there was a good deal of crossing with the Ruby Toy Spaniel, which introduced the very flat noses, and the lovely red colour, but at the same time it brought the domed skull, the large ears. The so called web foot which, though there have been no Toy Spaniel crosses for at least twenty years, unfortunately still crop up now and again.

The official Standard, as amended in 1959 is given in italics.


There are two types – the Griffon Bruxellois which is rough, and the Petit Brabançon which is smooth. The Griffon is a small dog with a Terrier-like temperament.

Barring coat, there is no difference in any other way between the two varieties.


Well balanced, cobby body, intelligent expression, lively and alert.

This description is somewhat meagre – it really gives no idea whatever of the appearance of the dog, and it might apply to any breed, large or small. I quote from an earlier standard: “….. a lady’s little dog, intelligent, spritely, robust, compact appearance, reminding one of a cob, and captivating the attention by a quasi-human expression.” The words “quasi-human” expression could well have been left in the modern standard, and it was the greatest pity that the words “reminding one of a cob” were deleted, as they are so descriptive of the dog. Stout square little cobs are what Griffons should be, not rangy little race-horses. I am happy to say that the words “Terrier-like temperament” have at last been included, as the Griffon is full of terrier attributes.


Head should be large and rounded, but in no way domed, and should be wide between the ears. Hair on the skull in the rough variety, should be rather coarse. Nose always black, as short as possible, with large open nostrils, high set and sloping back to the skull. Wide muzzle with good turn-up ; chin prominent and slightly undershot without showing teeth, and (in the rough variety) furnished with a beard.

The term rounded is a difficult one to explain. Viewed from the front, the top of the head should be only slightly rounded – that is not flat as in the Pekingese, nor domed as in the King Charles Spaniel. On the other hand the forehead should be rounded – the French term “bombe” describes it well. all the head hair should be coarse, with the exception of that on the ears, which should be smooth and velvety. A silky topknot, which is generally light in colour, is a fault, though the texture of this can be improved by a continual plucking from an early age.

Noses are generally black – the breed does not suffer much from poor pigmentation; occasionally the state of health of the dog (or a bitch’s season) may cause the nose to go off –colour in the centre. Even the weather may be a cause – the real reason is not known, but a course of iron will often put the matter right.

  1. EYES

Large round black or nearly black with black eye rims.

There is a modern tendency to lose the large eyes, and eye rims are not always black especially in dogs of the clear fiery red colour which is so much admired. Dogs of this colour also tend to have eyes to match, also like toenails. In the ordinary way however, neither the colour of eyes or eye rims are usual breed faults. The term black maybe misleading as regards eye colour. No dog has really jet black eyes and “very dark brown” would be nearer the mark as ideal.

  1. EARS

“Semi erect high set smaller the better”

By this is meant of course, ears standing a little above the level of the top of the skull with flaps falling neatly forward to cover the erect portions. In other words fox terrier ears are the ideal – but in modern practice it is acceptable if the fall of the flap comes in line with the skull, as long as the ears are small. If the ear is large however, it will look far worse if it hangs level with the skull than if carried high and neatly.

This large low set ear seems to me the worst possible variety as it totally alters the expression giving a depressed “hang dog look”, where as if carried high even if large the dog still has the typical gay look.

In her book published in 1926 the late Mrs Parker-Rhodes gave three very good sketches of ears – the ideal, the next best and the bad. The one she called the next best was of small ears carried high but with the flap falling sideways. This type of ear is still to be seen and still gets by – but I feel of over thirty years have elapsed since the publication of Mrs Parker-Rhodes book, it is time her “next best” should be forgotten and that only the ideal and the modern next best should be admissible.

  1. MOUTH

Slightly undershot, and teeth regular.

The undershot mouth has already been mentioned. As to the regularity of the teeth, this is an ideal which is seldom reached in Toy dogs of any variety, and judges, rightly or wrongly, do not pay much attention to this point in Griffons. They generally just look to see in the jaw is correctly undershot. The top teeth are in fact generally regular enough – it is only the lower teeth that sometimes become crowded, and so irregular. Care, during teething, to remove baby-teeth as the new ones appear, will help this.

  1. NECK

Of medium length and slightly arched

‘On the thick side’ could have been added here with advantage, and ‘definitely’ rather than ‘slightly’ arched. We do not want long reachy necks as in the Fox Terrier, nor short ones like a Bulldog. The stress should be on the word medium. The neck should spring from well laid back shoulders, and slope forward. If the shoulders are upright, the neck will also be so, which spoils the general outline.


Chest rather wide and deep ; legs straight, of medium length with good bone.

The wide deep chest is a special point in the Griffon. We do not want ‘two legs out of one hole’ but dead straight legs, set some distance apart, with the brisket well let down. Again there must be no exaggeration. The chest should only be rather wide, as too wide a chest will spoil front action. The elbows, not mentioned in the standard, should be tucked in, level with the body, viewed from the front. The dog should not be down on it pasterns, and the feet should be turned neither in nor out.

  1. BODY

Short back, well sprung ribs and shoulder well laid back. The back should be level from point of shoulder to tail ; it should not be roached, nor should it dip to the shoulder.

This is self explanatory, but could go further. There are Griffons, whose backs are neither roached nor dipped to the shoulder, but are still wrong because they dip from shoulder to tail. The ribs should be well extended towards the tail, leaving a short strong loin.


Strong and muscular, thighs of medium length, hocks well bent.

The hind legs from the hock should be straight viewed from behind, though the standard does not say so.

  1. FEET

Small cat-like feet with black toenails.

By cat-like feet the standard means round feet, with thick pads, and well arched knuckles. Large splayed feet with spread out toes are not desirable. Feet can be improved by keeping the nails well cut during puppy hood, and worn down later by road exercise, or play on concrete, brick or gravel runs. Black toenails are much prized, and fairly usual, except in fiery red dogs, in which, as I have said before, all the points are inclined to tone with the body coat. Black nails tend to go lighter with age.

  1. TAIL

Roughly two-thirds docked, set on high.

New Standard:  Either docked or natural.
If docked, docked short, high set, emerging at right angles from the level topline.
If natural, high set, emerging at right angles from the level topline. Of moderate length, curved gently over the back when moving. 

As the length of tails varies very much at birth ‘two-thirds’ is not really a safe guide when docking. A tail of about 1 ½ inches long on a grown dog of medium size is ideal, but it is better to dock too short than too long, as a tail spoils the outline and nothing can be done about it – whereas if the tail is too short it can be improved by leaving a little more hair on the end of it. The all important point is that the tail should be set on high and carried correctly, though, providing the set-on is correct, the angle at which it is carried does not matter so much, so long, of course, as it is not too gay, nor down. Taking the face of a clock as a standard measurement (with the back as a line between the nine and the centre, and the minute hand as the tail) – from 12 o’clock to ten past the hour is the ideal – three minutes to twelve is admissible, but five to, and 12.15 are not really good, and anything over, either way, definitely bad!

  1. COAT

Roughs – harsh and wiry, free from curl. Smooth – short and smooth.

The texture of the coat varies very much, it is seldom as wiry as in a Fox Terrier, but it should be as harsh as possible. Curls are not allowed but an extra wiry coat with a dense undercoat will sometimes tend to wave (or rather, to have tight ripples down the back) and this is now admissible though the old standard said ‘free from curl or wave’. In practice, a coat which is quite straight as it comes through, may tend to wave as it gets older, so the dog should only be shown when the coat is the right length. Though the standard does not mention it, there should be a thick undercoat – a thing which is often missing, more particularly in blacks.

The best coats often come from fairly strong admixture of smooth and rough blood, and a strain which throw poor soft coats can often be improved by a smooth cross. There is a danger here, however of producing a semi-smooth, or ‘non-strip’ coat, which is an extra thick smooth, with a good deal of longish hair on throat and legs, and a small straggly beard. Coats of this variety are impossible to deal with, and the dogs cannot be shown. The coat of a smooth should be very smooth indeed, lying very close and flat. It should not be silky.


Clear red, black or black and rich tan.

The term ‘clear red’ is really not sufficiently explicit. There is a great variation in reds, from deep mahogany, through the fiery red I have mentioned, to the clear reddish wheaten which at one time was most admired of all. Fawn without a tinge of red is frowned upon, also brindle – otherwise, the actual shade of red does not matter much. In blacks however, rather unfairly I always think colour is all important, and a rusty black or a black with a preponderance of white hairs is penalised. Some blacks, though they have a good black top coat, have silvery or bluish undercoats with which sometimes goes a soft silvery top knot. In such a case it is as will only to show the dog when the top coats is well through. In black and tans, the tan should be (but often is not!) a rich tan, appearing in the beard, on the legs, chest and breeching, and stomach. White patches are a fault but practically never appear now, except occasionally in blacks in which they take the shape of a white of grey beard.

Blue and chocolate puppies sometimes make their appearance, but ineligible for the show ring and should not be bred from. Though quite attractive, they are happily rare.

The standard does not mention that the reds may have black beards, and that the ears are generally darker than the body coat.


From 2.2 - 5.0 kg (5 – 11lb) Most desirable 2.7 – 4.5kg (6 – 10 lb)

Many feel that this of far too wide variation, and, as size is very difficult to gauge by weight, there have been sereval outcries during recent years for a height standard.


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