Small, short face, rough coated dogs of Affenpinscher type have existed since at least the sixteenth century and were illustrated in the woodcuts of Durer. They were valued as stable and farm dogs and selected for their vermin catching abilities rather than their looks. Gradually they were encouraged into the house to kill vermin and the ladies of the day, amused by their comic antics, allowed them to become lapdogs, acting as hot water bottle and mouser at the same time.
Affenpinschers are comical and comical tales of their origins abound – a monkey and a dog mating to produce the breed is one! Another that cats had been banned in an area of Germany, subsequently over run with rats so the breeding of Affenpinschers was encouraged to control the vermin is equally fanciful.
In the nineteenth century as interest in breeding dogs of a recognisable type developed the Affenpinscher, in common with other breeds, became more standardised. There is evidence from accounts of German dog shows in the 1870s and 1880s that the breed was well established in Southern Germany, particularly around Frankfurt and Munich. Kennel Club records here detail a few Affenpinschers being shown, some with foreign owners, towards the end of the nineteenth century.
By the close of the century the Affenpinschers shown in the 1880s and 1890s had disappeared from the British show scene. Presumably these dogs had been cropped and became victims of the new law banning their exhibition. It was more than half a century later in the 1950s before Affenpinschers appeared again in Kennel Club records and another 20 years before the imports arrived that were to lead to the establishment of the British Affenpinscher.
In the 1970s Wendy Boorer (Furstin), Jeni Wiggins (Scapafield), Betty Hargrave (Shelbor) and Toni Teasdale (Tonsarne) decided to pool their resources to import Affenpinschers and sought breeders in Germany and America. Am Ch. Balu’s Schwarz Furstin was the first to arrive, followed later by Balu’s Schwarz Gaba and Am. Ch. Balu’s Schwarz Liebchen all from the American kennels of the late Lucille Meystedt. More imports were to follow and gradually other owners became interested in importing the breed.
The Affenpinscher Club was registered in 1982 following an initial meeting of enthusiasts at UK Toydog Ch. Show in 1981. Miriam Dickinson was the first Secretary and after her death in 1985 Toni Teasdale, then Treasurer, took over that position.
As the Import Register did not exist in those early days, various Toy Dog Societies were able to schedule breed classes. In 1979 UK Toy Dog was the first Ch.show to schedule Affenpinschers and Bath was the first general Ch. show to do so two years later. 1992 was a landmark year; we had our first set of CCs at Crufts and ran our first Ch. Show judged by Ann Argyle – sadly the last show she would judge.
Only two of the original syndicate remain but both are still very active in the breed. Fortunately, we have several excellent breeders and exhibitors with quality stock who have the breed’s best interests at heart and, hopefully, more will join us in the coming years. The relaxation of quarantine laws has helped and co-operation with other countries can only improve the gene pool. Currently British Affenpinscher registrations need to improve and that is the challenge for the future.