At less than 20 pounds the Schipperke is a dynamic breed that exhibits many different traits that make it hard to define. Though typically categorized by the American Kennel Club as non sporting and as a companion breed by the United Kennel Club, the Schipperke still finds itself wandering in between the classifications of the spitz, terrier and sheepdog. With a solid balance of appearance, temperament and constitution, the breed wins the hearts of its owners for its ability to combine all the best traits into one package. Individuals looking for a versatile breed with spark and tenacity will find just what they are looking for in the Schipperke.
The Schipperke is a boat dog, most widely known as the Barge Dog of Belgium where all of its characteristics were put to good use. The breed saw its beginnings in the sixteenth century, when terriers were bred to rid barns of rats and other vermin. Small, quick and plucky, terriers were unsurpassed when it came to chasing down scurrying rats and mice. Some were even bred to chase their quarry right into their burrows. With its terrier blood, the Schipperke was very apt at ridding massive barges of rats and mice that often came with cargo. This ensured that the boat and the cargo stayed safe and was not contaminated by infestations.
Even from the Schipperke's beginning, their body shape, coat and curled tail often had them mistaken for a very tiny spitz. Unlike other breeds, their stout framework had them surefooted when a barge or boat was in motion and they did not experience nausea. Yet at the same time, they also exhibited extreme talent for nipping horse heels. Just like the large herding dogs that nip at a supporting hoof to keep from getting kicked, the Schipperke could get towing horses moving with relative ease. When the Schipperke was not ridding boats of vermin or nipping horse heels, they were acting as guard dogs. Their ferocious and disquieting bark protected cargo from the hands of nighttime marauders.
The versatility of the Schipperke eventually caught on and made it a popular choice for everything from store owners to farms. In each setting, they proved extremely valuable for security, herding and even the hunting of smaller animals. Eventually the petite sized breed began to catch on as a companion animal as well, accompanying its owners in the front seats of carriages. When a standard was proposed in the late 1800's there was much debate over which category the Schipperke actually belonged to. Although each kennel club eventually made their decision, those who know the breed agree that the Schipperke is way too versatile to ever belong to just one category.