FCI standard Nº 83

Pamela Jeans Brown, Raymond Triquet and Dr. Robert Pollet.
Revised by Jennifer Mulholland
Group 1 Sheep and cattle dog (except Swiss cattle dogs)
Section 1 Sheepdog
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Wednesday 27 October 1954
Publication of the official valid standard
Tuesday 28 July 2009
Last update
Wednesday 20 January 2010
En français, cette race se dit
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
En español, esta raza se dice
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd


Small guardian and companion dog.

Brief historical summary

In the Flemish dialect, Schipperke means « little shepherd ». The common ancestor of the Belgian Shepherds and the Schipperke was probably a sheepdog called Leuvenaar, an early breed, usual1y rather small and black. The Schipperke's origins go back to the 17th century. About 1690, the Schipperke was the favourite dog of working people and cobblers from the St.Gery quarter of Brussels, who used to organise competitions to show off the intricately worked brass collars with which they adorned their dogs. Its tail was completely docked, a fashion which seems to have existed since the 15th century. It was renowned as a catcher of mice, rats, moles and other vermin. The Schipperke was shown for the first time in 1882 in the town of Spa. It became fashionable thanks to Queen Marie-Henriette of Belgium.
It was introduced into Great Britain and the U.S.A. in 1887. The first standard was drawn up in 1888 by the breed club, founded that year, which is the oldest breed club in Belgium. Over the years great efforts have had to be made to unify the type. Indeed at that time there was discussion about the different varieties coming from Anvers, Louvain and Brussels.

General appearance

Lupoid. The Schipperke is a sheepdog of small dimensions but very solidly built. Its head is wedge-shaped with a quite well-developed skull, and a relatively short muzzle. Its body is well-balanced, short, quite broad and stocky but its limbs are fine-boned. Its coat is very characteristic, well-furnished and with straight hair, forming a ruff, a mane, a frill and culottes which give it its truly unique outline. The difference between the sexes is evident. Its straightforward morphology, allied to its sheepdog characteristics and temperament, and added to its small size, explains its great popularity which extends well beyond the Belgian borders.

Important proportions

Height at withers equals length of body, hence this is a squarely built dog.
Chest comes down level with elbows.
Muzzle is definitely less long than half the length of the head.

Behaviour / temperament

An excellent small guard dog, an exceptional alarm, bubbling with vitality, aloof with strangers. Active and busy, agile, tireless, perpetual1y interested in what is going on around it, inclined to snap if anyone approaches objects it has been given to guard, very gentle with children, always curious to know what is going on behind a closed door or behind an object which is being moved, showing its reaction by its high-pitched bark, its raised mane and hackles. It is an inquisitive dog which will hunt rats, moles and other vermin.


Cranial region

Lupoid, wedge-shaped, but not too long and wide enough to balance with the body. Brows and cheek bones are moderately arched. Transition from cranial region to facial region is visible but must not be too pronounced.
Quite a wide forehead, narrowing towards the eyes, slightly rounded when seen in profile. The top lines of the skull and the muzzle are parallel. 
Pronounced but not exaggerated.

Facial region

Smal1, nose leather always black.
Tapering towards the nose; well-chiselled, not too long, and not truncated; length approximately 40 per cent of the total length of the head; rectilinear foreface.
Black, close-fitting.
Jaws and teeth
Healthy, well-set teeth. Scissor bite, pincer bite tolerated. Complete dentition according to the dental formula. The lack of one or two premolars 1 (1PM1 or 2PM1) or of a premolar 2 (1PM2) is tolerated and the molars 3 (M3) are not taken into consideration.
Clean, blending imperceptibly into the sides of the muzzle.
Dark brown in colour, small, almond-shaped, neither sunken nor protruding; sharp, lively and mischievous look, black-rimmed eyelids.
Erect, very small, pointed, triangular (as far as possible equilateral), set high but not too close to each other, firm and extremely mobile.


Strong, powerfully muscled and appearing very voluminous because of the abundant hair on the ruff, medium length, well-set into shoulders, carried well and higher when dog is alert, upper line being slightly arched.


Short and wide, therefore cobby, but not overbulky or heavy, ideally fitting into a square; its length from point of shoulder to point of buttock is roughly equal to height at withers.
The topline of the back and loin is straight and firm, often rising slightly from croup to withers.
Very pronounced and seeming even more so because of the mane.
Short, straight and strong.
Short, broad and powerful.
Short, broad and horizontal; the rear section of the croup i.e. the junction between the croup and the point of the buttocks is pleasingly rounded, a shape known as a Guinea pig rump.
Well let down to the elbows; broad in front and also behind the shoulders, therefore having a good spring of rib. In profile the forechest is prominent.
Underline and belly
The underline of the chest well-let down, reaching the elbows, harmoniously and gently rising towards the belly, which has a moderate tuck-up, neither pendulous nor whippety.


Set high. Some dogs are born completely tailless or with a rudimentary or incomplete tail (stumpy or short tail). They should not be penalized for this. At rest a natural tail (reaching at least to the hock), is preferably hanging down and can be raised when the dog is moving, carried in line with the topline, but preferably not higher. A curled tail or a tail carried over the back is accepted.


Fine-boned and set well beneath the body.


The front legs are upright viewed from all sides and are perfectly parallel when seen from the front; their length from the ground to the elbow equals approximately half the height at the withers.
Long and sloping, normal shoulder angulation.
Upper arm
Long and adequately sloping.
Strong, neither turning in nor out.
Straight, quite well-set apart when seen from the front.
Strong and not prominent.
Quite short, seen from the front continuing the line of the forearm, in profile at most very slightly sloping.
Smal1, round and tight (cat feet), arched toes, short, strong nails, always black.


The hindquarters must be placed under the body and be perfectly parallel when viewed from behind.
Upper thigh
Long, strongly muscled, seeming even wider than they are because of the thickness of the culotte.
Lower thigh
Approximately the same length as the thighs.
Approximately in line with the hip; normal angulations.
Rather short; dewclaws not desirable.
Well angulated, without exaggeration.
Hind feet
Like front feet or marginally longer.

Gait and movement

Movement at the trot is supple and firm with a reasonable reach and good rear thrust, the topline remaining horizontal and the limbs moving parallel; the front movement should be in harmony with the rear movement and the elbows must not turn out. At faster speed the limbs converge.


Tight fitting over the whole body.


The top coat is abundant, thick, straight and sufficiently harsh, with quite firm texture, therefore dry and resistant to the touch, forming an excellent protection together with the soft thick undercoat. Very short hair on the ears, short hair on the head, the front part of the front legs, the hocks and rear pasterns. On the body, the average length hair is close-lying. Around the neck the hair is much longer and more off-standing, beginning at the outer edges of the ears, forming, especial1y in the male but also in the female, a wide and very typical ruff (long hair around the neck, in tufts on each side), a “mane” (long hair on the top of the neck, continuing as far as the withers and the shoulders) and a frill (long hair on the underside of the neck and on the chest, stretching between the forelegs and gradually fading away under the chest). On the back of the thighs long and abundant hair covering the anal region, with tips angled inward in a very typical way, form the culottes. The tail is furnished with hair the same length as that on the body.
Totally black. The undercoat need not be completely black but can also be dark grey provided it is totally hidden by the top coat. A little greying for example on the muzzle due to age is tolerated.

Size and weight

Between 3 and 9 kg. An average weight of 4 to 7 kg is sought after.


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

General faults

 Cloddy, lacking substance; too long or too short in leg; long body, fitting into a rectangle.
 Head too long or too short.
 Lines of skull and muzzle not parallel, foxy-faced; too prominent brows or cheek bones.
 Cranial region too narrow, forehead too rounded or domed (apple-headed).
 Muzzle too long, pinched, thick, truncated, convex top line.
 Teeth badly aligned or badly set.
 Eyes large, round or protuberant, light in colour (hazel eyes still acceptable).
 Chest narrow, flat, cylindrical; not sufficiently let down.
 Croup long, sloping, raised, break in the roundness of the rump (transition from croup to back of thighs).
 Limbs too little or exaggerated angulation.
 Movement close-moving, short stride, lacking drive, not keeping correct topline when moving, high stepping front movement, hopping rear movement.
 Hair too short (close to body), too long, too thin, soft or silky, wavy, lying too flat to the body or hanging down; too little or no ruff, mane, frill or culotte (more serious a fault in the male, especially a lack of ruff).
 Not enough undercoat.
 Colour grey, brownish or reddish tones in the top coat and occasionally a few white hairs even on the toes.
 Temperament apathetic or timid.

Serious faults

 Lack of one incisor (1I), of three premolars 1 (3 PM1) or two premolars 2 (2 PM2).

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy.
 Lack of breed type.
 Over- or undershot jaw, even without loss of contact (reverse scissors bite) wry mouth, lack of one canine (1 C), of one upper carnassial (1PM4) or one lower carnassial (1M1) of one molar (1M1 or 1M2 but not any M3), of one premolar 4 (lower PM4), of one premolar 3 (1PM3) as we1l as another tooth or in total 4 missing teeth or more (excluding the four premolars 1).
 Lack of pigment on nose, lips and eyelids.
 Ears falling or semi-erect.
 Coat which is long, soft or silky, ie an obviously “long-haired” type of coat; fringes of long hair on the ears; behind the limbs etc.
; total lack of undercoat.
 Colour topcoat of any other colour than black (except grey, brownish or reddish tones) or with tiny white spots, even on the toes.
 Weight clearly outside the designated limits.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.



Detailed history

Fox muzzle, mischievous eye and ears on the lookout, such is the Schipperke. But who is he, this little black devil, always in action, always on the alert, this goblin without rest? This question, lovers of the race have long asked, because the origins of the little Belgian demon are more than mysterious. His name, even, already offers several interpretations. Formerly, it was thought that Schipperke came from the Dutch word schipper, which means boatman. Rumor had it that these dogs were the companions of Dutch seamen and that they hunted vermin on large merchant ships. Today, this theory is considered purely fanciful. It would be the fruit of the romantic imagination of British breeders who, seduced by the race (the quarantine, instituted in 1901, did not rage yet) but ignorant of all its origins, would have set out to invent a story. This is how a pure product of the Belgian countryside became in the eyes of the world a Dutch marine dog. However, the English did not quite make a fuss: they had seen small dogs on the Dutch ships, but these were none other than Wolf Spits, later called Keeshond, in honor of the Dutch national hero William Kees of Gyselaer. It was not until 1920 that the British understood their mistake.

But where does Schipperke come from? Current knowledge of dog training suggests that it is a very old dog that has been around for centuries in the Leuven region of Belgium. The very first trace of the breed (at the time, one would have spoken of variety) that we know is found in a chronicle of the fifteenth century, written by a monk named Wenceslas, mentioning a small black dog anoure and flemish, considered as the incarnation of the devil.

More precise images are outlined in the 17th and 18th centuries. The eminent Belgian cynologist Charles Huge, a great specialist of the Belgian Shepherds at the end of the last century, claimed that the Schipperke was derived from common dogs in Brabant in the seventeenth century, the Leuvenaars, usually black wolf-dogs, of various sizes. These dogs had always been companions of modest people, employed in different tasks according to their size, and their descendants would have begun to differentiate themselves. The older ones, who were used as sheepdogs or turned a motor wheel among some craftsmen (among others the nailsmen), would be the origin of the four current Belgian Shepherds, Groenendael, Tervueren, Malinois and Laekenois. The smallest of them, who briskly destroyed the vermin in the courtyards of farms, kept the hens and sometimes the houses, would be the ancestors of the Schipperke, which would explain its name: the word Schipperke would probably come from scheper, who wants to say shepherd in Flemish, and thus would mean little shepherd.

These dogs were also called spitzke, because of their pointed muzzle; or moorke which means moricaud, for their color. We know that in the 18th century, a guild of artisan cobblers in the parish of Saint-Géry, in Brussels, often organized competitions of dogs, or rather collars of dogs. The most beautiful of these brass necklaces was the one that, hammered and chiselled with art, presented the most ingenious clasp (not to spoil the mane of Schipperkes, they say). These Sunday meetings were certainly not dog-friendly at the time, but they probably allowed Schipperke to develop further. We can also admire some of these famous necklaces in a museum in Brussels.

The most striking physical peculiarity of the breed, its lack of tail, also comes from the world of cobblers; at least that's what the legend wants, probably invented to make up for the lack of serious explanation. Thus, following a quarrel between cobblers, one of them, no doubt jealous of the success of his antagonist, would have cut the tail of his Schipperke by revenge; the result was far from the expected one, each agreeing that the dog was only better, and since then the Schipperkes have always been amputated from their tails. A controversy is also born on this subject, some claiming that the current Schipperkes are born anoures majority. However, if selection work aimed at making this hereditary trait was indeed attempted, they all failed. Nowadays, almost all Schipperkes babies are born with a tail, which is amputated during the first days of their life.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Schipperkes were very common in Belgium, going to their occupations often in the middle of the street (they did not have to worry about traffic), they were an integral part of The English, passing by, were interested in these funny little dogs, and imported some of them first.The success of these newcomers in Britain was such that a new wave of Belgian buyers bought (often for almost nothing) the local dogs, and the situation finally alarmed some Belgian dog owners, who decided to react in 1888. They formed the Schipperkes Club (1888). transformed in 1933 into Royal Schipperkes Club), and in June of the same year the first standard was born.The concern of these amateurs was, it must be said, justified, because no Schipperke had been presented to the great exhibition of Independence of 1880. Moreover, as early as 1890, a Club of British race was born with almost as many subjects as that of Belgium.

At the end of the century, the type was still poorly defined, and the voracious interest of the English had the merit of encouraging the Belgians to list and select their dogs. Indeed, mixtures with Spitz had been made over the course of meetings, which may explain the appearance of Schipperkes other than black at that time; Queen Marie-Henriette of Belgium herself possessed a Schipperke with a brown dress. It is finally the Antwerp type, medium term between the types of Louvain and Brussels, which was to serve as a standard. The British, meanwhile, applied the Belgian standards until 1920, when they decided to admit the dresses other than black: brown, blond, cream. In 1923, following the merger between the Northern Schipperke Club and the English Schipperke Club (two English clubs), most Anglo-Saxon countries, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in particular, also recognized these colors.

These "exotic" Schipperkes, however, remain very rare, and it was also necessary to wait until 1974 for one of them to receive the title of champion, with his blond dress, the most common among these specimens. Americans, who know how to be purist, have never admitted any color other than black. The Schipperke Club of North America, created in 1929, considers that only the jet dress is correct. Any other tone leads to the disqualification of the subject. France, which had its Club in 1928, adopted the same position concerning color.

If the interwar period was a prosperous period for the race and saw its establishment in many countries, the fifties, they remain characterized by forgetting and the threat of extinction. The fall of demand was general, even in Belgium, and despite the passionate efforts of the Verbanck brothers, also Belgian specialists of their national Shepherd, Schipperke seemed to decline in the seventies.

Fortunately, a fervent admirer of the breed, Mrs. L. Vanhove, decided to take control of her destiny and give it a new image. This is today done. The Royal Schipperkes Club of Belgium has about one hundred members, and the breed seems invigorated. At the same time, and without any interruption, the French selection remained at a high level thanks to the perseverance of two great breeders: MM. Georges Arin and Ernest Robert. France has the best breeders of elite, which have benefited the Belgian breeders for their retempes since all their current champions are of Franco-Belgian origin. The Schipperkes Club of France has 250 members and is in Reunion with the French Club of the Belgian Sheepdog, whose magazine is appreciated worldwide. The Americans, for their part, own the largest livestock in the world, but their dogs are somewhat removed from the original standard: lower on legs, compact, they have a denser fur and evenly distributed throughout the body, while the European Schipperke shows off a clean mane.

If he has not really "knocked", the Schipperke has been rather battered in the past. No doubt his future will be calm. Not very common, filling the amateurs, however, here is a dog to know better, especially since it adapts perfectly to the current life and particularly to the urban environment: a real little shepherd of city, in a way.

"Small, but tender; small, but beefy, "so an advertisement touted the qualities of a candy. This slogan could be applied to Schipperke. Seen from the outside, it looks like a little dog like the others. But those who know him will tell you how misleading this aspect is. More alive than Schipperke, we do not do it. Friend of children and the elderly, he is not afraid of a good walk in the forest, and his masters often get tired before him! Cuddle at his hours, stirring and good guard the rest of the time, he is not the type to hang out by the fireside. That dog is dynamite.

It must be said that he has a strong atavism. First, his nationality: Belgian dogs are not known to be particularly soft, regardless of their size. Not to mention the shepherdish ancestry that Schipperke does not seem to want to forget. One only has to look at it to see in it the sleeping Groenendael. The square structure, the relatively thin frame, the elegant head and the attentive ears, Schipperke shares with its cousins, the "big" Belgians. He seems to have inherited at the same time their lively and indefatigable character.

Despite its small size, dog-lovers consider it one of the best watchdogs ever. Of course, the size of its mouth would not allow it to be really effective, but it remains an "alarm bell" unequaled. Flawless vigilance, the Schipperke only sleeps with one ear. He knows everything that happens in the house, and moves with great speed, which allows him to always be where he is needed. His voice is high pitched and can be heard from afar. Of course, you must not go too far, and a brazen Schipperke will eventually attract the wrath of neighbors. To avoid this, it is enough to curb his vocal enthusiasm, and that from a very young age. One can, for example, allow him to bark twice when someone comes to the door, then order him to shut up. Very soon, he will accept the arrangement and stick to his two barks allowed.

This is another characteristic shepherdess Schipperke: very fond of his masters, he asks only to please them. In the case of large dogs, they are said to be "dressage-resistant", which means that they can be subjected to sometimes restrictive training without ever losing their spontaneity. For Schipperke, it will be said that he is receptive to education. He assimilates the basic exercises almost before we have time to explain them to him. Then, quickly, he learns more complicated. Very intelligent, he is also extremely fine: he quickly grasps what his master wants. In the United States, many Schipperkes are graduating from Obedience, a discipline similar to Agility, a specialty in which France and Belgium already have several patents.

Each race has its anecdotes staging the intelligence and goodness of its dogs. Schipperke is no exception. The story is told of a man who, living in a building where animals were strictly forbidden, had taught his Schipperkes to remain perfectly silent; the dogs obeyed him so that neither concierge nor neighbors knew he had dogs. Another owned two buildings, and often moved from one to the other; his Schipperke's job was to ring a small bell to warn him when visitors showed up while he was in the other building; for years, the dog has fulfilled his role without ever failing. There were Schipperkes who kept young children on the beach to prevent them from entering the water, others who learned in a day to lead the goats when they were raised in the city, others who kept the farm animals. A Schipperke even warned his mistress a little deaf when the phone rang. These are often spontaneous initiatives that characterize Schipperke.

One can not speak of Schipperke without mentioning the passionate love he has for his teachers. Like the Belgian Shepherds, he only feels good near those he loves. Sure of him, he is not shy in the face of strangers, but he does not usually make them party and remains rather reserved overall. His cute sin? Children. With them, he is in harmony. Forcibly, between little devils, we understand each other. Very gentle with the little ones, he shares passionately the games of the greatest. Very energetic, he does not tire before them and takes part in all their pursuits and all their games. Very smart, he will be able to amuse them, by bringing back a ball or doing tricks.

With respect to other dogs, it is sociable, but not good dough. He's nice, but do not step on the pads. His natural vivacity leads him into crazy races with his dog friends. As he is almost always faster than them, he happens to get tired of their company fast enough. As for other animals, we must not forget that the Schipperke was once an excellent vermin hunter: rats, weasels and mice, nothing resisted him. That is why it is prudent to accustom the young Schipperke without waiting to the animals with which it will have to live, such as the cats. If he knows them, he will not hurt them. As for pure hunting, it can be trained to search burrows, hunt rabbits, etc. It is therefore a versatile dog, who will do anything to please his masters, and who will succeed more often.

"Great" sportsman, Schipperke does not support inaction. On the one hand, it would be physically harmful to him, and on the other hand, it would affect him psychically. This is how joggers and athletes will appreciate this dog at its true value. They will find a training partner who will not let them down in the middle of a course. Attached to their strides, the Schipperke will follow them without ever showing signs of fatigue. Running, jumping, swimming do not scare him, he needs it, on the contrary. If it is necessary for him to get as much exercise as possible to make him blossom, it is also to prevent him from growing unwillingly. Obesity is incompatible with his elegant figure and would only shorten his life. In this respect, it should be noted that the Schipperke enjoys a remarkable longevity, since it frequently reaches fifteen years of age and over. A balanced diet distributed in moderation will keep him a "young man" all his life and allow him to accompany his master in his hikes until old age. As for the maintenance, its relatively short hair is easy to maintain clean, by simple regular brushing.

For those who are looking for a small, rustic, intelligent and close to the master dog, the Schipperke seems appropriate. This dog that brings together the bravery and vivacity of the big in a reduced format will only seduce people sensitive to malice, courage and kindness. The Schipperke, mischievous as he is, hides his game well. His size is discreet, but his heart is big.

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