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Schipperke: Wikis


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Other names Spitzke (until 1888)
Spits(until 1888)
Spitske(until 1888)
Country of origin Belgium

A Schipperke (English pronunciation: /ˈskɪpərkiː/, Dutch: [ˈsxɪpərkə]) is a small Belgian breed of dog that originated in the early 16th century. There has been a long informal debate over whether this type of dog is a spitz or miniature sheepdog.




Appearance and Temperament

Their small, pointed ears are erect atop the head. Schipperkes are double coated with a soft, fluffy undercoat that is covered by a harsher-feeling and longer outer coat. One of the breed characteristics is a long ruff that surrounds the neck and then a strip trails down towards the rear of the dog. They also have a longer coat on their hind legs called culottes.

Dogs of this breed usually weigh between 3 and 9 kg (7 to 20 lb). Puppies are born with tails in different lengths, and in Canada and the United States, they are usually docked the day after birth. In countries that have bans on docking, Schipperkes display their natural tails which curve over the back of the dog (if the dog is happy and the tail is long enough).

Known for a stubborn, mischievous and headstrong temperament, the Schipperke is sometimes referred to as the "little black fox", the "Tasmanian black devil", or the "little black devil." They are naturally curious and high-energy dogs, and require ample exercise and supervision. Schipperkes are very smart and independent, and sometimes debate listening to owners, instead choosing to do whatever benefits them the most. First-time dog owners would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with the breed prior to purchase. Schipperkes require training and a secure, fenced-in space to run.


The Schipperke has no particular health problems, and individuals often reach the old age of 17 or 18 years. Nonetheless, inactivity, lack of exercise and over-feeding are very harmful, and can lead to joint and skeletal problems and tooth, heart, lung or digestive conditions.

The one minor caveat to the Schipperke's good health is MPS IIIB, a genetic mutation that occurs in at most 15% of the total breed population. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a test for the disease and began accepting samples in April 2003. Their website at has more specifics. If you seek to acquire a Schipperke be sure to ask the breeder if they have tested for the condition. A large effort is underway by many responsible breeders to eliminate this fatal and debilitating disease from the population.


The Schipperke does not need expensive or excessive grooming. This breed is a moderate shedder, however. A brush that can reach the undercoat is the best. Regular weekly brushing is usually enough to keep the coat in good condition. There is no need for cutting or trimming and the ruff (hair around the neck) fluffs up naturally.

Schipperkes can "blow" their coats up to several times a year, and usually females more frequently than males. When this happens, they lose their undercoat. Owners typically find warm baths helpful during this time to remove the undercoat, rather than getting fur all over the home. Blowing their undercoat can last several days or weeks, and can take up to 2–3 months for schipperkes to grow back.


Schipperkes were first recognized as a formal breed in the 1880s, their standard being written in 1889. Much of what is known of their origins and early history comes from Chasse et Pêche (French for "Hunting and Fishing") magazine, articles of which were translated into English and published by the English magazine The Stockkeeper. The breed name of "Schipperke," officially taken in 1888, in English-speaking nations to mean "little sailor". In the 1920s, however, it was revealed that in Belgium the name was actually a corruption of the Dutch word "Shapocke" or "Scheperke", meaning "little shepherd". Their resemblance to the Belgium Sheepdog (Groenendael) is unmistakable. It has been suggested that the idea of "little sailor" was an invention of the English, who mistook the Schipperke for a Dutch barge dog. With Belgium too often being mistaken for Holland which is in the Netherlands, not Belgium, some reports say they were found frequently as working dogs aboard barges in the canals, with three jobs onboard: security (barking vigorously when anyone approached the barge), keeping the barges free of vermin, and nipping at the towing horses' heels to get them moving to tow the barge. Due to their bravery and adventurous character, not to mention low center of gravity, Schipperkes are to this day known as excellent boat dogs, and are often found cruising the world aboard sailing yachts and powerboats. They are not prone to seasickness. Before the name "Schipperke" was officially taken, the breed was also known colloquially as "Spitzke". It is thought that the name change was to distinguish it from the German Spitz. Schipperkes are widely referred to in the U.S.A., albeit erroneously, as "Belgian barge dogs" or "Belgian ship dogs." It is often said that Schipperkes live up to their name. In World War II, the Belgian Resistance used the dogs to run messages between various resistance hideouts and cells, and the Nazis never caught on.

Beatrix Potter, English author of the Peter Rabbit books, created a story called The Pie and the Patty Pan with a Schipperke named Duchess, who receives an invitation to tea.

A Schipperke is also intermittently featured in the tiger-centric movie "Two Brothers."

Similar Breeds

As the Schipperke are a very ancient dog type, many smaller types of Spitz resemble each other. Medium to small sized breeds similar in appearance from various places in the world include the Wolfsspitz (Keeshond), Großspitz, Mittelspitz, Kleinspitz, Zwergspitz (Pomeranian), Samoyed (dog), Schipperke, Norwegian Elkhound, Volpino Italiano (Italian Spitz), Laika (Russian Spitz), Finnish Spitz, Indian Spitz and Japanese Spitz.

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