The exact origin of the breed is unknown, although popular theory places it in 17th century Germany; it is possible that the Affenpinscher originated much earlier than this as it appears in a 15th century woodcut. Alternatively named the 'Black Devil,' the Affenpinscher is the oldest of the toy breeds in Europe. Its name, meaning 'Monkey Terrier,' reflects its distinctive facial appearance. Traditionally used as a farm dog and vermin hunter, the early Affenpinscher was larger than today, and was utilised in protecting the farmer's winter food from the interference of rats. The breed evolved its miniature proportions in the 18th and 19th centuries, making it a popular ladies' companion and house pet.
Its miniature, 'toy' build is characteristic of the breed, despite having been initially bred much larger. The Affenpinscher is often likened to a monkey because of its prominent eyes, pronounced muzzle and long facial hair. It is further characterised by a wiry coat, common in colour variations of black, tan, silver grey and red. Despite being an illegal practice across Europe, the process of tail and ear 'docking' is often undertaken in the breed. The general look of the Affenpinscher is conjectured, with some suggesting it is a descendent of the Nordic breeds, and others recognising a likeness with the Asian pugs.
A functional size, the Affenpinscher is suited to town or country living, requiring little in the way of exercise. The breed is both highly trainable and adapts well to domestic living, making it the ideal choice for families or the dedicated sole owner. Whilst being typically gentle, affectionate, loyal and mannered, the Affenpinscher is highly vigilant to threat, making it an efficient watch dog. The average Affenpinscher will weigh 3-4 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when cared for properly. It is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy, with documented cases of Affenpinschers living to 20 years old.
Whilst being generally healthy and long-lived, due to its reduced size the Affenpinscher is susceptible to various breed-specific ailments. These include orthopedic problems, with luxating patellas being common amongst the smaller breeds, as well as skin allergies and sensitivities. Additionally, behavioural problems are prevalent amongst the 'toy' branch of canines, so firm leadership and obedience training is essential from an early age.