||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2007)|
|Other names||Spitzke (until 1888)
|Country of origin||Belgium|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
A Schipperke (//; 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.
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 longer fur on their hind legs called culottes. The breed is black, and the coat is shiny.
Dogs of this breed usually weigh 3–9 kg (7–20 lbs). Puppies are born with tails in different lengths. In Canada and the United States, the tail is usually docked the day after birth. In countries that have bans on docking, Schipperkes display their natural tails, which vary in type.
Known for a stubborn, mischievous, and headstrong temperament, it also chases small animals. 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, and are not necessarily the proper dog for a first-time dog owner. Schipperkes require training and a secure, fenced-in space to run. They are formidable barkers and can be aggressive with other dogs. Otherwise they are all over good dogs, and their personality is a matter of how they are raised, and who they are around. They often have a high prey drive, focusing on rodents and small animals, and can excel at obedience and agility competitions.
The Schipperke has no particular health problems, and individuals often reach the old age of 17 or 18 years. The UK Kennel Club survey puts the median lifespan of the breed at 13 years old. Of the 36 deceased dogs in the survey, the oldest dog lived to 17 1/2 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 Orthopedic Foundation For Animals found the median age of life span to be 10–15 years (19%). Skipperke's primary orthopedic problem tends to be luxating patella and Legg-Perthes syndrome. Some Skipperkes have demonstrated tendencies to epilepsy, although there are no tests: these seem to be related to genetic transmission.
The one caveat to the Schipperke's good health is MPS IIIB, a genetic mutation that occurs in at most 15% of the total breed population. It only occurs in Schipperke's and it is the only known auto immune disease occurring in companion animals The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a test for the disease and began accepting samples in April 2003. Clinical signs appear between two and four years of age, and there are no known cures or treatments. The disease affects balance, negotiation of obstacles (such as stairs), and is similar to such lysosumal storage diseases in humans as Tay Sachs disease and Gaucher disease. The Schipperke is also prone to some other physical problems as reported by the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals.
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 boatman". In the 1920s, however, the people of Belgium decided they wanted the name to be a corruption of the Dutch word "Shapocke" or "Scheperke", meaning "little shepherd", because they noticed resemblance to the Belgium Sheepdog (Groenendael). This idea was first presented in an article in 1894 in the Chasse et Peche, where a Belgian man wrote, "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 boatman), you could have written “scheperke” (little shepherd)." 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, this, however, has been disproved by the actual historical records. 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", although there may be no relationship to the Spitz-type breeds. It is thought that the name change was to distinguish it from the German Spitz. Schipperkes are widely referred to in the United States, albeit erroneously, as "Belgian barge dogs" or "Belgian ship dogs." Apparently, however, their history dates to a seventeenth century black shepherd dog commonly called the Leauvenaar, a 40-pound dog often found in the Louvain region of Belgium and employed to guard flocks and transport. These dogs are apparently the foundation breed for both the modern, and smaller, Skipperke and the modern, and larger, Black Belgian Shepherd Dog, also known as the Groenendael.
Beatrix Potter, English author of the Peter Rabbit books, created a story called The Pie and the Patty Pan, in which a Schipperke named Duchess receives an invitation to tea. A Schipperke is also intermittently featured in the tiger-centric movie Two Brothers (2004).
See also 
- Belgian Shepherd Groenendael, also known as the Black Belgian Shepherd.
- Belgian Shepherd Laekenois
- Belgian Shepherd Malinois
- Belgian Shepherd Tervuren
- Schipperke Club, Club Flyer AKC, Sept. 2008.
- "Individual Breed Results for Purebred Dog Health Survey".
- Skipperke Club, p. 2
- University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Mucopolysaccharidosis IIB (MPS IIIB), 2008
- University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, "New DNA-based Test for Inherited Diseases in Schipperkes." The Bellweather 56:Sept. 2003, pp 7, 9.
- Schipperke health survey. Orthopedic Foundation For Animals. offa.org
- American Kennel Club, History of the Skipperke, AKC, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Schipperke|
- Schipperke breed standard at the official American Kennel Club website
- Schipperke at the Open Directory Project