It is difficult to say definitely which of the toy breeds where the absolute first to appear, but there is convincing evidence that Affenpinschers were among the first. Unfortunately, the real story of the Affenpinscher's beginning has been lost, but we can say that a dog very similar to today's Affepinscher in appearance was known to have existed as early as the 17th century. Prized for its natural hunting ability, this ancestor of the Affenpinscher was slightly larger that today's toy dog and varied in coat colors, including grey, fawn and red in addition to the more common black that we associate with the Affenpinscher today.
These forerunners to the Affenpinscher worked mostly in stables, granaries and barns to help control the vermin population. Meanwhile, vermin were also a problem in homes and soon work began to try to develop a dog that would be suitable for living inside the home that would have the same kind of hunting ability as the dogs that were prized for working around the farm. The earliest record we know of a breeder working towards the development of the Affenpinscher is in 1750.
Herr Hans-Jochen Kossman was a breeder working in Lubeck, Germany that was working towards developing a dog that would be small enough to be comfortable inside in the home with minimum problems for the family that would also have a strong hunting instinct that could help the household with any kind of a vermin problem. In order to diminish the size of the dog and encourage positive characteristics during the development process, Kossman probably crossed several different smaller breeds in addition to the ratters that were similar in appearance to today's Affenpinscher. These breeds included Mini Schnauzers and German Pinschers. Other breeders were using similar combinations and eventually these breeders joined together in an effort to preserve the prototype and conform the breed, so their outcomes would be consistent to each other.
The efforts of Kossman and his colleagues were an outstanding success and these small mousing dogs soon became very popular in their native Germany. Soon the dogs were prized as loving pets as well as for their hunting abilities, and there is considerable evidence that early Affenpinschers became the preferred pets for nobility and wealthy families. Today, many examples of early Affenpinschers can be found in paintings featuring the wealthier families of Europe with their pets, painted by prominent artists of the 18th and 19th centuries.
With such a rich and long history, it is no wonder that many people believe that the Affenpinscher is the most ancient of all the toy breeds. While we may never know if this is really the case, the evidence certainly points us in that direction. Whether or not they are the first, it is clear that the Affenpinscher has been a beloved pet for over two hundred and fifty years!