The affectionate, easygoing French bulldog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Known for their smushy face, bat-like ears, and chilled-out disposition, you’ll find Frenchies on social media, on TV, and in the movies.
But mostly, you’ll find them on their owners’ laps or their owners’ beds snoring. Officially recognized by the AKC in 1898, the breed developed gradually over the 19th century.
The French bulldog was developed to be a companion dog breed. Initially, they were bred down from English bulldog. The modern Frenchie traces its history through three countries.
He was developed in Europe between England and France and came to the United States as he gained popularity in the late 19th century.
The Frenchie descends from the British bulldog, one of the most popular dog breeds in England for many centuries, but in the early 1800s, in the English midlands, a fad arose for breeding smaller, toy-sized bulldogs as companion pets, or lap dogs.
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French Bulldog Purpose!
The Frenchies sole purpose was to be a companion. And that’s what he does best. The smaller dog shared the bulldog’s distinctive shortened, or brachycephalic, muzzle and its arched back, or roached topline.
But its temperament was much calmer and more affectionate. They were particularly popular around Nottingham, England, with artisans who worked as lacemakers.
How French Bulldogs Came to The United States
During the Industrial Revolution, many of these English craftspeople lost their work to machines, so they moved to France, where their skills were still in demand, and they took their lap-sized bulldogs with them. In France, the little bulls were crossed with some terrier breeds.
They acquired the name “bouledogue Francais” and became immensely popular. In Paris, the toy-sized bulldogs gained an exciting reputation.
It’s often said that they were bred to be companions to, how shall I put it, ladies of the night. And you will often see that they wore very fancy collars with a big ruff around them that was made from real badger fur.
Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed such French bulldogs in his drawings and paintings of the Parisian Demimonde. Soon, wealthy Americans visiting Paris also became enamored with the bouledogue Francais.
Society ladies began importing them to the US, where they were bred and shown under the re-Anglicized name they still carry — the French bulldog. So this dog breed was now a favorite of New York’s most progressive social circles.
French Bulldogs and The Westminster Dog Show
The French Bulldog was known as a high-society dog. French bulldogs were first exhibited at the Westminster Dog Show in 1896.
And a Frenchie was featured on the cover of the 1897 Westminster catalog, even though it was not yet an approved AKC breed.
French Bulldog Ear Conflict?
1897 was an important year for the French bulldog. Up to then, some Frenchies were bred with erect and wide-set bat ears, while others were bred with soft, folded rose ears.
At the 1897 Westminster show, both types were exhibited, but the English judge approved only the rose-eared specimens.
This approval infuriated American financiers who preferred the bat ear. They quickly organized the French Bulldog Club of America and drew up a breed standard allowing only the bat ear.
The next year, they held their show for bat-eared dogs exclusively. The national specialty shows were held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, in the ballroom. And it was a very grand affair.
The ladies were in full ball gowns with ostrich-feather hats, and the gentlemen were in tuxedoes and top hats and tails. The winner of that first-ever specialty in 1898 was a brindle dog named Dimboola.
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Enter The “Bat Eared” French Bulldog
Later that year, in line with American breeders’ wishes, the AKC officially adopted the bat-eared standard for the French bulldog puppy.
It’s still the look we know and love today. -We can thank the breeders of the United States for that. The size and the shape of the ears of the French bulldog really add to his expression.
Sometimes I think his expression is a cross between intelligent and comical all at the same time. The ears are an essential part of the breed standard, but they’re not the only thing that’s unique.
That Cute Little Face!
The heads are very different between a French bulldog and an English bulldog. While the Frenchie has the same brachycephalic muzzle as the English bulldog, it has a very different forehead — half domed, half flat.
French Bulldog Colors
The French bulldog breed standard also calls for a particular range of coat colors.
There are three primary colors in the French bulldog — brindle — all shades of brindle from an almost-black brindle to almost a reverse, or tiger-stripe brindle — then you have cream and fawn.
Again, they can be in various shades of the gamut. And then you have what’s called pied, which is a mainly white body with brindle patches.
Fawn with a black mask is also a good color category. But if you are offered a Frenchie in any other color, be aware that it does not meet the accepted breed standard.
Unfortunately, one of the huge issues facing the French bulldog today, due to its popularity, is unscrupulous breeders breeding disqualification colors that are not recognized in our breed standard.
The Snoring! Oh, The Snoring!
And though it’s not an official part of the breed standard, we have to mention another very typical breed characteristic — snoring.
Each one has a different snore. They’re very individual, just like people. After their first rush of popularity, French bulldog numbers declined during World War I and the Depression.
American Kennel Club (AKC) Registration
By 1940, only about 100 were registered with the AKC, so they were a rare dog breed. But a few breeders kept them going. One in particular, Amanda West of Detroit, helped spur the French bulldog comeback.
Starting around 1950, she began showing her fawn- and cream-colored Frenchie to phenomenal success, tallying over 500 group wins, 111 Best in Show awards, and 21 consecutive breed wins at Westminster.
Slowly but surely, the French Bulldog resurgence began. It picked up steam in the 1980s with a new generation of breeders. And by 2017, French bulldogs were among the top five most popular breeds in America.
If you decide to get a French Bulldog of your own, finding a reputable AKC-affiliated breeder will help you avoid health problems and disqualifying characteristics.
Of course, with this breed being massively popular, quite a few celebrities have been French bulldog fans, from Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920s to Mary-Kate Olsen and Martha Stewart right now.
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Unlike breeds that were originally developed for jobs like hunting, tracking, guarding, herding, or vermin control, the Frenchies purpose today is exactly what it was when it was first bred — to be a friendly, happy companion for humans.
Living With A French Bulldogs
They’re lovely to live with. They are easy to take care of with their smooth coat and bat ears. You don’t have any clipping or trimming or anything like that.
And they lend themselves very well to apartment living. These French Bulldogs are very gregarious and outgoing.
They’re small in size, but they are not like what people think of a small dog. They’re like big dogs in a little dog’s body.
Do French Bulldogs Require A Lot Of Exercise?
Though French bulldogs only require moderate exercise, some have become excellent competitors in organized activities like agility and flyball.
It’s really, really nice to see them compete with different dogs of all breeds, and they represent the breed very, very well. But one place where the french bulldog does not compete is in the water.
Being dense, top-heavy, and short-legged, they’re more likely to sink than to swim. It would be best if you never left a french bulldog unattended near the water, even with a life vest.
Popular Little Fella’s
Of 192 breeds officially recognized by the AKC, the French bulldog is, as of 2018, America’s fourth-most-popular, and it’s no wonder because from their very beginning, these genial, intelligent, happy little dogs were bred to keep company with humans and show us the best part of ourselves.
I think there are some life lessons that we can learn from the French bulldog. They’re very joyous. They’re very gregarious. And they take everyone at face value, and they treat everyone the same way.