What is a French Bulldog? – The History of the French Bulldog
To answer the question “What is a French Bulldog?”, we will first have to look at what The history of a French Bulldog tells us. It all started when the lace makers of England first bred the French Bulldog in the eighteen hundreds. It was bred as a small domestic dog which was exported to France during the Industrial Revolution.
It is said that the French Bulldog is descended from the Molossus which originated from the Molossis people in the mountains of ancient Greece. The Molossus breed was generally a large species of dog.
The three countries most closely involved in the history and breeding of a French Bulldog are England, France and America in that order. The French Bulldog comes originally from the old English bulldog. In France the smaller bulldog was developed into a distinct French type, while in America the standard was set with the bat-ears.
At this time the breeders in England started to focus on changing the bulldog breed into a heavier dog with larger features. Others concentrated on breeding smaller dogs used for ratting and the dog-fighting business. This is how the bull terrier breeds originated.
The French Bulldog weight ranges from about twenty to twenty eight pounds and it was developed as a friendly, fun loving and cuddly in-house pet. This new species was very popular with those involved in the lace-making trade, specifically in Nottingham in the midlands of England.
As a smaller house dog was sought after, the French bulldog breeders crossed the bulldog with terriers and pugs and the Toy Bulldog became very popular by the year 1850 in England. Around 1860 when conformation or breed shows became popular the Frenchie, became a popular and regular participant. Classes for Frenchies weighing less than twelve pounds were also introduced.
Many small craft shops in England closed down during the Industrial Revolution causing many lace-makers to emigrate to Normandy in the North of France, taking their little bulldogs with them. The dogs’ popularity spread right down to Paris and with it the breeders in England found they had a thriving new export trade flourishing under the name “Bouledogues Français”.
Specialist dog exporters saw an opportunity and were exploiting the market to such a degree that by the year 1860 there were very few miniature bulldogs left in England. They became favourites to the ordinary Parisians, like dealers in the rag trade, cafe owners, butchers and so on. They were notorious favourites among the streetwalkers who were called “les belles de nuit”. Madame Palamyre, the proprietress of “La Souris” which was a favourite restaurant, had a Frenchie which was depicted as Bouboule in several works by the artist Toulouse Lautrec.
A breed of it’s own was developed…
Gradually the smaller type of Bulldog developed into a breed of its own, and was known as the “Bouledogue Francais”. This French version of the English name is the joining of two words, “boule”, (ball), and “dogue”, (mastiff). These dogs were well sought after by both ladies of society and the prostitutes of Paris alike, as well as being very fashionable with the creative set of artists, writers and fashion designers.
Unfortunately, as the breed developed away from its original Bulldog ancestry, records of these changes were not kept. Different strains of dog such as the terrier and Pug may have been introduced, so altering the breed’s long straight ears and the roundness of their eyes.
A New breed of Bulldog arrived in England in 1893 for the first time
English Bulldog breeders were very unhappy as the French imports did not meet the standards that were in place at this time, and they wanted to prevent the English stock being bred with the French. They were at first recognized by the Kennel Club as a subset of the existing English Bulldog and not as a completely different type of breed. Some English breeders tried to resurrect the Toy Bulldog breed at this time.
In 1885 an American-based breeding program was introduced.
Then in 1896 a French Bulldog was first exhibited at Westminster by Society Ladies. The Westminster Catalogue of 1897 had a picture of a French Bulldog which as yet had not been approved by the American Kennel Club. At the show both the bat eared and the rose eared species were presented but the judge, a Mr Sven Feltstein, only acknowledged the rose-eared ones. This upset the American attendees who in turn arranged an exhibition allowing only the bat-eared dogs to participate.
The Rules were Changed Again.
At the 1898 show in Westminster the Americans were dismayed to find that somebody had again changed the rules, without them knowing, and both the bat-eared and the rose-eared dogs were going to be present. They refused to compete and withdrew their dogs and the judges also refused to participate.
The American Kennel Club arranged to have their own French Bulldog show at the Waldorf-Astoria, a luxurious location. Bulldogs have been very popular in Western Europe in the earlier years, the English Bulldog being one of its ancestors.
Although the Americans had been importing French Bulldogs in the past. The dogs at that time were mostly owned by society ladies, who would display them at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1896. The ladies then began the formation of the French Bulldog Club of America, and the standard was set for the first time that the “erect bat ears” was the correct type.
In the early part of the 20th Century,
French Bulldogs remained fashionable with the high society set, dogs were being sold for as much as $3,000 to influential families such as the Rockefellers and the J.P. Morgans.
In 1902 a meeting was held at the house of Frederick W. Cousens, in order to set up a breed club which would gain individual recognition of the French Bulldog. The standard of breed they adopted was the same one currently in use in America, France, Germany and Austria. Although this was opposed by the Miniature Bulldog (the new name for the Toy Bulldog breed), and Bulldog breeders, the policy on the breed was changed by the Kennel club in 1905, and French Bulldogs became recognized as being separate from the English variety. Known initially as the Bouledogue Francais, the name was changed in 1912 to the “French Bulldog”.
The French Bulldog in America…
The American society was immediately drawn to this very cute and lovable little French Bulldog which quickly became a fashion statement. The British in general wanted nothing to do with French Bulldogs and left the breed to be tended by the French until the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The breeding incorporated some drastic physical changes…
Both the bat-ears and the rose-ears survived. When some wealthy American travelers reached France they could not resist taking some of these very lovable little bulldogs back home with them. They, in general, preferred the erect bat-ears while folk in France and in Britain preferred the rose-eared ones.
After the breed club was formed the breed was quickly recognized by the American Kennel Club and by 1906 the French Bulldog had achieved the status of being the fifth most popular breed of dog in America. This ranking fell to 54th place by 2003 but rose again to 11th place in 2013 as the dogs once again became popular.
The French Bulldog, was the first dog in the world to have a breed club dedicated to it through the French Bulldog Club of America.
The Decline in Popularity of the French Bulldog…
Among the East Coast Society people the Frenchie became more and more popular but this began to decline after the First World War and continued to do so for the following fifty years. The growing popularity of the Boston terrier seems to have contributed to the diminishing demand for the Frenchie.
Because of the rather large size of the head of the Frenchie, the mothers had trouble in natural whelping. Only in later years did more veterinarians become experienced in safe caesarean sections.
The summer heat and lack of air conditioning coupled with the depression in the nineteen thirties caused a major decline in interest in the purebred Frenchie and by 1940, with only 100 registered with the American Kennel Club the breed was classified as rare. World war two just made matters worse for the Frenchie and in Europe many dogs died from starvation.
In 1980 a magazine called The French Bullytin, focusing mainly on French Bulldogs, was born in America. It recorded the rise in French Bulldog registrations that was attributed to the new French Bulldog Club of America which encouraged younger breeders.
The French bulldog specialty shows that were held every year were transformed into Major events. By 1990 the breed registrations had risen to 632 which was a notable rise from the 170 of 1980. By the year 2006 the registrations had risen dramatically to well over 5,500.
The Frenchie has become so popular that today he is visible in cinema shows, advertisements and often seen in the company of celebrities. This alarming increase in demand is rather disconcerting when one realizes that many importers and breeders will complicate matters of pure bloodlines and healthy animals as greed sets in.
If someone was to pose you with the question “What is a French Bulldog?” after reading this page you would be able to answer the question quite well.
The new “Frenchie,” as they were now called, was a marvelous companion dog that gave much love and loyalty in an affectionate and playful manner to its owner. A French Bulldog makes an excellent companion which rarely barks unless it wants to draw attention.
Your French Bulldog is a very affectionate, patient, cuddly and loving animal who loves children and will easily adapt to other animals in the house if introduced properly.
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