A Brief History of French Bulldogs By Jim Grebe FBDCA Historian I n discussing the history of the French Bulldog, we should note the importance of three countries: England, France and America. England provided the foundation for our modern ness. Th ese were quite popular with work- ers in the English midlands, in particular the artisans in the lace-making industry around Nottingham.
a dog with a compact body, straight legs, but without the extreme underjaw of the English Bulldog. Some had the erect “bat ears” while others had “rose” ears. Wealthy Americans traveling in France fell in love with these endearing little dogs and began bringing them back to the USA. Th e Yanks preferred dogs with erect ears which was fine with the French breeders as they preferred the rose-eared specimens, as did the British breeders. Society ladies first exhibited Frenchies in 1896 at Westminster and a Frenchie was featured on the cover of the 1897Westmin- ster catalog even though it was not yet an approved AKC breed. At that show, both bat-eared and rose-eared dogs were exhib- ited but the English judge put up only the rose-eared specimens. Th is infuriated the American fanciers who quickly organized the French Bull Dog Club of America and drew up a breed standard allowing only the bat ear. At the 1898 Westminster show, the Americans were outraged to find that classes for both bat-eared and rose-eared dogs were to be shown despite the fact that the new breed standard allowed only the former. Th ey pulled their dogs, the American Judge refused to participate in
When the Industrial Revolution closed down many of the small craft shops, these lace-makers emigrated to the North of France—and they took their little Bull- dogs with them. Th e popularity of these little dogs spread from Normandy to Paris and soon the English breeders had a lively trade, exporting small Bulldogs to France where they began to be called Bouledogues Français . Th ey were favorites of ordinary Parisians such as butchers, café owners and dealers in the rag trade and became notori- ous as the favorites of the Parisian street- walkers, les belles de nuit . Th e famous artist Toulouse Lautrec depicted in several works “Bouboule”, a Frenchie owned by Madame Palmyre, the proprietress of a favorite res- taurant, “La Souris.” Society folks noticed these cute little Bulldogs and before long they were a la mode . Most of the British wanted noth- ing to do with these French Bulldogs so it was the French who were guardians of the breed until later in the 19th century. Th ey developed a more uniform breed—
Frenchie: the old Bulldog. Breeders in France developed the smaller Bulldogs into a distinctly “French” type and American breeders set the standard that prescribed the all-important “bat ears.” We begin with the Bulldog in England, where so many of our AKC breeds originat- ed. Th e ancestral type was not our modern Bulldog, but was the Bulldog of 150-200 years ago: a strong, athletic dog, high on leg, and capable of being used in that bar- barous activity called “bull-baiting.” Many English Bulldog breeders began to change the breed around this time to a bigger, heavier dog with exaggerated fea- tures. Others crossbred them with terri- ers resulting in the bull-and-terrier breeds used for dogfighting, ratting, etc. Another group of breeders developed a smaller, lighter “toy” Bulldog, around 12-25 lbs. in weight, having either upright or rose ears, round foreheads and short under- jaws—and perhaps a touch of terrier liveli-
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