Many of today's popular purebred dogs got their start in the royal houses of monarchs around the world. This is especially true of many toy breeds which, being too small to provide any kind of practical use for farmers or other working commoners, found their niche in the laps of the nobility and royalty. However, this is not true of the Brussels Griffon. In fact, he is one of the few dogs of his tiny size that owes his popularity, inclusion, and reorganization in dog registries like the FCI and the AKC to both the royalty and the commoner.
In the seventeen hundreds and eighteen hundreds, the Brussels Griffon became popular not with the royalty but with the common coachman. Because of his small stature and his terrier intellect, the Brussels Griffon made an excellent hunter. But he didn't hunt small game like rabbits or birds. Nor was this hunter taken out into the forests to hunt with a large hunting party. The Brussels Griffon as a hunter did his work in the stables of the cabs and coaches in English towns.
The Brussels Griffon was a rat-catcher. Knowing that rats carried disease and were bad for both horses and people, the coachmen would buy or raise little dogs like the Brussels Griffon to hunt and kill the rats and mice that lived in the stables. The Brussels Griffon, being on average only about 10 inches high, was the perfect size to get into the nooks and crannies where rats and mice lived in the stables. The little dog was relentless with his work - as are many terriers - and this is why they made excellent vermin hunters.
During the nineteenth century, coachmen began breeding the Brussels Griffon with other dogs, many of them imported breeds. The mixing of bloodlines with the Pug, the Affenpinscher, and the King Charles Spaniel created the three varieties of Brussels Griffon we know and love today: the Griffon Bruxellois, the Griffon Belge, and the Petit Barbancon.
After their popularity as rodent catchers grew, the Brussels Griffon's personality took over and they became popular as companion dogs much like they are today. In Belgium, Queen Marie Henriette, a dog lover and frequent visitor of dog shows, became obsessed with the adorable and lovable Brussels Griffon. Soon she was breeding the little dogs and making them popular with the nobility.
It was this queen who inadvertently led the Brussels Griffon to his recognized status as a purebred toy dog. The Brussels Griffon as a rat-catcher was gone, but the Brussels Griffon as a companion dog and a lap dog had been born and flourished. In America, the AKC recognizes all three variants of the Brussels Griffon under the breed standard "Brussels Griffon". The European FCI, however, recognizes each of these variants as separate standards.