When it comes to our canine companions, a dog’s physical size and its sense of self can often seem disproportionate.

Large dogs are often gentle giants, content to go through life as living, breathing throw rugs. On the other hand, small dogs with no shortage of self-esteem often manage to govern everyone around them with absolute authority. They simply impose their rule through sheer force of will.

Of all the diminutive breeds blessed with an ample ego, perhaps the most autocratic of all is the Miniature Pinscher.

The Min Pin, as the tyrannical breed is affectionately known, hails from Germany, where it is one of several breeds known by the name, “Pinscher.”

Small dogs similar in appearance to the modern breed appear in late Renaissance paintings, however, the Min Pin’s exact origin is unknown. It is generally accepted that it was developed from various crosses of existing breeds, including the Smooth Dachshund, Italian Greyhound and German Pinscher.

Developed to rid stables of rats and other vermin, the breed was officially recognized in Germany in 1880. It was then known as one of four varieties of German ratters, along with the Standard Schnauzer, the Affenpinscher and the German Pinscher.

In 1895 the German Pinscher-Schnauzer Club was formed to define the varieties and to promote each as a distinct breed. Crossbreeding of the two coat types, smooth and rough, was discontinued at this time.

The Miniature Pinscher is referred to as the Zwerg, or dwarf, Pinscher in its homeland. It is classified by the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) in Group 2, where it competes with other German breeds such as the Boxer, Great Dane and Rottweiler.

By the turn of the last century, the popularity of the breed began to expand beyond Germany into Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. In 1919 the first Min Pins were imported into the United States. Registrations with the American Kennel Club began in 1925. The breed was named “Pinscher (Toy)” at this time and placed in the Terrier Group.

A parent club, the Miniature Pinscher Club of America, was formed in 1929, and the breed was reclassified by AKC as a Toy the following year with the name “Pinscher (Miniature).”

The breed’s name was officially changed to Miniature Pinscher in 1972.

The Min Pin has remained a popular favorite in the hearts and homes of American dog fanciers for nearly a century. In 2011 AKC registrations placed the breed at number 42 of the 173 recognized breeds.

Fanciers of this small but fearless breed are quick to point out that theirs is decidedly not a bred-down version of the Doberman Pinscher. Although both likely share a common ancestry through the German Pinscher, the Toy dog is by far the older of the two recognized breeds.

The Miniature Pinscher possesses a fearless animation. Photo by Dan Sayers.

King of the Toys

The prevailing nature of the Miniature Pinscher has earned it the title, “King of the Toys.” Although the phrase is not part of the official breed standard, it aptly describes the tiny tyrant’s fearless spirit.

A self-possessed sense of pride is the breed’s birthright. Both the General Appearance and Temperament sections of the AKC breed standard describe a “fearless animation, complete self-possession and spirited presence” that govern the Min Pin’s every action.

The audacious personality of the Min Pin is impossible to ignore. Like most monarchs, the tiny king is territorial and will happily enjoy a life without boundaries if given the chance.

Ever alert, the long-lived Miniature Pinscher reigns over its domain with a delightful curiosity. Like Tutankhamun, this Toy breed is a child-king, royal playmate for the young and the young at heart.

A Hackney-Like Action

The Miniature Pinscher is described by its standard as “a well-balanced, sturdy, compact, short-coupled” dog with shoulders that are “clean and sloping with moderate angulation coordinated to permit the hackney-like action.”

The movement of the Min Pin is a breed-defining characteristic.

According to the standard’s section on Gait, the breed’s hackney-like action is “high-stepping, reaching, free and easy.” The term hackney refers to a breed of horse developed in Great Britain for carriage driving.

The Hackney horse trots with an exaggerated action of the knee and hock joints. The front legs reach up high, knees bent and stretched forward to cover ground. Hind legs move with similar extravagance. The movement is intended to be elegant, and a distinct moment of suspension of each limb adds dramatic affect.

Miniature Pinschers move with similar exaggeration. Despite its moderate front angles, the forelegs move out straight forward, with feet bending “at the wrists,” according to the standard. Proper shoulder angulation and length of upper arm are necessary for the Min Pin to exhibit its characteristic hackney-like gait.

Of course, rear angles must be balanced with those of the front. A correctly angulated pelvis, “well-defined” stifles and short hocks achieve proper balance. Good muscling is essential for a strong-driving rear.

The correctly angled Miniature Pinscher moves with head and tail held high and in perfect rapport with the breed’s high-stepping gait.

The ‘Reh’ Pinscher

The coat of the Min Pin is described by the standard as “smooth, hard and short, straight and lustrous, closely adhering to and uniformly covering the body.” It is seen in several acceptable colors: solid red, stag red, black with rust-red markings and chocolate with rust-red markings.

Markings should be sharply defined and according to the standard should appear “on cheeks, lips, lower jaw, throat, twin spots above eyes and chest, lower half of forelegs, inside of hind legs and vent region, lower portion of hocks and feet.” Black pencil stripes should also appear on the toes of black dogs, with brown pencil stripes on the toes of chocolates.

The rich, vibrant color of the solid red and stag red dogs should be a medium to dark shade. Stag red dogs – those with an intermingling of black hairs throughout the coat – were once called “Reh” Pinschers, named for the German forests’ Red Deer that they resemble.

Any color other than those listed is a disqualification. Likewise, white on any part of the dog exceeding one-half inch in its longest dimension, or a patch of black or chocolate hair on the front of the foreleg between the foot and the wrist, known as a “thumb mark,” is cause for disqualification from the conformation ring.

Fearless animation, a high-stepping gait, and rich, vibrant coloring are just a few of the exceptional qualities bestowed on the diminutive “King of the Toys.”