French Bulldog - the Journey

French Bulldog - the Journey

Author WDF Staff


The French Bulldog is a well known, popular dog breed across the World. They have high popularity ranging from Australia to the USA. These little dogs won our hearts with their funny ears and huge personality.

These dogs are the most popular in the UK for the past decade and in the top 5 most popular breeds in the USA for over 15 years now. Although they are one of the best companion dogs in the world, the history and the origin of the French Bulldog is something a bit different.

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Ancestors of the popular Frenchie

These dogs are small and it is quite remarkable that they are the descendants of the ancient Molossian dogs. Molossians were big, muscular and fearless dogs that were mainly used as guardians in ancient Greece. When we think of dogs that are descendants of the Molossian dogs, we mostly think about Mastiffs or other big dogs. The tiny Frenchies are a part of the same family.

A direct descendant of the ancient Molossian dogs are the English Mastiffs and a subbreed of these dogs was the Bullenbeisser, an extinct dog breed that was mostly used for bull-baiting - a blood sport that involves dogs and bulls.

These blood sports were declared illegal in England in the year 1835. and the Bulldogs found themselves without a purpose. They started migrating to a more peaceful life and were taking up the role of a companion dog. People started getting interested in reducing the Bulldog size and started crossbreeding them with ratters - terriers that were used for vermin control and blood sports in the more rural parts of England. That is how the Toy Bulldog came to life.

After the industrial revolution in the 19th century, many of the British workers were left unemployed and some of them moved to the French coast, to be more exact - Normandy. These workers took all sorts of dogs with them and some of them were the Toy Bulldogs.

At this time, the dog exporting started to develop since these small dogs started gaining popularity and the Brits started exporting Bulldogs that they considered “faulty”. Those dogs were too small and had upward ears which are not a traditional characteristic of the English Bulldogs.

french bulldog playing with the ball

Popularity rise

These small dogs started being so popular in France and the demand for them was extremely high the demand was so high that there were only a few left in England. After some time, these dogs were thought of as a separate breed and were given the name Bouledogue Francais.

French Bulldogs soon became one of the most popular dog breeds between the French commons, the regular people. An interesting thing is that these dogs were extremely popular amongst the notorious French prostitutes. A famous French artist by the name of Toulouse Lautrec depicted one of the most famous Frenchies - Bouboule, a dog that was owned by the famous Madame Palmyre, the owner of his favorite restaurant.

Soon, the French Bulldog became one of the most popular breeds in France and the French dog breeders tried to create a dog that was smaller than their English predecessors and with a different, more normal underjaw and either upright or “rose” ears. It can be said that the French are the ones who can be credited for the French Bulldog strong start but the Americans are the ones that made these breeds into what it is today.

The wealthy Americans loved to travel the World in the late 19th century and France with its famous Riviera was one of their favorite destinations. As soon as they started seeing these small dogs they haven’t encountered before, they fell in love with them.

Soon after they took these lovely dogs back to the USA with them and captured the imagination of all Americans with this new dog breed. American dog lovers preferred Frenchies with upright ears and the French, as well as the British, had no problem with that since they prefer the ones with “rose” ears.

French Bulldogs history at the Westminster

The Westminster dog show is up to this day, one if not the most prestigious dog show in the World and it has a long history with the French Bulldogs. These dogs were exhibited at the Westminster dog show in 1896 before they were an officially registered dog breed. What is more interesting is that the following year, they were featured on the front page of the official catalog, again, before the official registration.

Of course, the show did not go without controversy since the judge that was trusted to judge this breed was British, and he only decided to allow the rose eared specimens to enter the show and refused to judge the specimens with upright ears.

The American breeders were completely furious about that and soon after, they organized the French Bulldog breeding club and wrote the new breed Standard that allowed only dogs with upright ears. They decided to “breed-out” the rose ears in this breed and that way demonstrates their defiance and distrust towards the British dog breeders and Standards.

In the following year, the Westminster show featured two classes of this breed, the ones with rose ears and the one with upright ears. Again, the American breeders were furious and decided not to compete and pulled all of their dogs from the show. Even the American judge pulled out of the show.

After that incident, the Club organized its first show only for Frenchies with upright ears and they chose a very special location for their show - the luxurious and historical Waldorf Astoria.

The separation of American breeders of this breed is important for several reasons and the first one is this - after the 1896 Westminster show, they organized the world's first club that was dedicated to the French Bulldog dog breed. Their show at the Waldorf Astoria was the first of many famous French Bulldog Speciality shows under their organization. The winner of that first Speciality show was a brindle dog by the name Dimboolaa.

So if you are looking to get a Frenchie, now you know their interesting and rich but reasonably short history and you can fully appreciate this dog breed.

World Dog Finder team

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