The breed is German in origin and dates back to the seventeenth century. Its name is derived from the German Affe (ape, monkey). The breed predates and is ancestral to the Griffon Bruxellois (Brussels Griffon) and Miniature Schnauzer.
Dogs of the Affenpinscher type have been known since about 1600 but these were somewhat larger, about 12 to 13 inches, and came in colors of gray, fawn, black and tan, gray and tan, and also red. White feet and chest were also common. The breed was created to be a ratter, working to remove rodents from kitchens, granaries, and stables.
An Affenpinscher generally weighs 6.5 to 13.2 pounds (2.9 to 6.0 kg) and stands 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm) tall at the withers. It has a harsh rough coat when it is not groomed and if groomed soft and fluffy, and a monkey-like expression (Affe means monkey in German). Its coat is shaggier over the head and shoulders forming a mane, with shorter coat over the back and hind quarters. It is harsh and wiry in texture. The FCI and KC breed standards specifies that the coat must be black, but the AKC also allows gray, silver, red, black and tan, and belge (a mixture of red, brown, black and white hairs); other clubs have their own lists of acceptable colours, with black being the preference. The Affenpinscher has a shaggy, wiry-type coat.