Black, Smooth, and Once DQ’d

The “Street Urchin of Belgium,” aka the Brussels Griffon (known in Belgium as the Griffons Bruxellois) comes in a rough coat and a smooth coat, and allowable colors per the current AKC standard are red, black and tan, “belge” (black and reddish brown mixed),  and black.

In 1960, however, black smooth Brussels Griffons were disqualified from AKC events, though the ban was subsequently removed in 1990 and black smooth Brussels Griffons were allowed back in the show ring (as an aside, a reformatting of the breed standard in 1959 combined the two-part standard, Griffon Bruxellois and Griffon Brabancon).

Why was the coat and color variety ever deemed a DQ, and what changed the minds of those in the parent club in 1990?

At this point we freely admit to not having definitive answers to either question, and we invite breed veterans or experts to give us their insights. For now, what follows is a theory.

In 1889, the Club du Griffon Bruxellois was established in Brussels, and it was at that time that the smooth was recognized as a separate variety under the name, “Griffon Brabancon.”  It is a stated fact that the smooth-coated variety was a direct result of the introduction of the Pug, and perhaps more specifically, black Pugs (among others) bred with a Belgian stable dog known as Griffon d’Ecurie.

In an article written by back in 2018, the author does a lovely job of explaining that certain traits are determined to be faults when a particular feature is a throwback to one of the older foundation breeds used to create the breed in question. She cited as an example the disqualifying white spot or blaze on a Brussels Griffon. She wrote: “This trait is difficult to erase once embedded in a breeding program. It hails from the English Toy Spaniel, and possibly from an English terrier, two breeds that were behind the creation of the Brussels Griffon. While the English Toy Spaniel may have contributed mightily to the characteristic dome of the head, breeders must be careful not to allow the white of the Blenheim or Prince Charles to re-enter the gene pool, along with the dome.”

We’ve read that in some countries, “true” Brussels Griffons are regarded as only those that are red rough coats, the black rough coated version considered to be Belgian Griffons, and all smooth-coated varieties being deemed Petit Brabancons. Perhaps in 1960, the black smooth coated Brussels Griffon was thought to be a little too much of a throw back to the black Pug, but if so, what happened in 1990 to change anyone’s mind? When we asked around, there was speculation that fanciers with all black Griffs pushed for a standard change. Perhaps enough time had passed when an atavistic throw-back was less likely?
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Image: Black smooth coated Brussels Griffon puppy by ©Willeecole/

4 thoughts on “Black, Smooth, and Once DQ’d”

  1. The quick answer is that Dawn Vick Hansen and Terry J Smith recognized a truth in Brussels Griffon genetics: the smooth gene is recessive, and the black gene is dominant. It is perfectly reasonable to breed to rough parents yet get smooth pups if both carr the smooth gene. Terry had done just that, and the pick of one litter was a black bitch who happened to be smooth (her call name was Iris, but that’s another story). Incensed that she could not be shown, Terry asked Dawn what could be done to redress this unfortunate situation. I’ll cut the story short by noting that by 1989, Terry had become Secretary-Treasurer of the Parent Club. AKC had instructed all Parent Clubs to rewrite their standards following a common format. Terry and Dawn saw an opening. At the Annual Meeting, a group of supporters of the black smooth passed a resolution to put the disqualification to a vote of the membership. As I recall, the tally was 125 in favor of dropping the disqualification to 26 for keeping it. So the revised standard dropped the disqualification. Ironically, in the time between that meeting and the vote, on the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Terry and this wife Lorene helped a litter out of two black roughs (I co-owned the dam). Both pups ultimately proved to be smooth as well as black. The male, Ch Wisselwood Karma Disk Jockey, was the first Black Smooth shown after the new standard went into effect (judges would check their standard to verify that he was legal) and the first to finish his Championship. Handled by Karin Jaeger, he would rank in the top 10 Griffons for three years and win two Toy Groups.

    • A fabulous comment, Mark, and a wonderful insight into the topic. You’ve helped shed light on something that had puzzled us.

  2. Here’s a photo of Karin and DJ [Ch Wisselwood Karma Disk Jockey]. The first Black Smooth AKC Champion to finish after to 1990 change in the standard.

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