The charming French Bulldog looks back on an eventful past. Today the crunchy little Molossian with his trademark, the erect bat ears, is one of the most popular family dogs.
The Phoenicians brought Macedonian mastiffs with them to Great Britain, which in turn descended from the Asiatic mastiff. The development of today’s French Bulldogs therefore began in Great Britain. Direct forerunners were the larger English bulldogs, which had to attack a tethered bull in bloody exhibition fights in order to tear it to pieces during so-called bullbaiting. The breeding goals of that time were aimed at successful fighting machines, which should primarily have a fearless and aggressive character.
With the nose set back, the snout short and the lower jaw protruding, the attack dogs were able to bite into the soft bull’s muzzle and, due to their heavy physique, finally pull the animal to the ground, which meant victory.
In 1802 this cruel public amusement was forbidden by law. Instead of hunting bulls, they began to fight pure dog fights with bulldogs. Since the massive bull biters were too immobile, the breeding goals shifted towards a slimmer build. Among other things, Spitz, Terriers and Pugs were crossed, which brought both a more peaceful character and a downsizing. Dog fights were also banned in 1835, but unfortunately continued undercover. Fortunately, there were now just as many lovers of the so-called “terrier boules” and this new breed found just as lively interest among French and Belgian hunters who brought toy bulldogs with them as pack dogs. The breed weighed around 10 kilograms and mostly had brindle fur.
At the time of the industrial revolution, the little bulldogs were a popular pet of lace makers and weavers, especially in Nottingham and the eastern parts of London. The first recognition of the as yet unguided breeding activity took place in 1836 at a dog show. With the invention of the spinning machine and the mechanical loom, many British workers in this branch emigrated to France in Normandy at the beginning of the last century, where large lace factories were established in the area around Calais. They took the little bulldogs with them to refine the breed and to generate a second income through the puppy trade. A first breed club was founded in 1880 and an official stud book was opened five years later. Another three years later, in 1888, the first definition of the breed standard followed. The current standard dates from 1932 and was last revised in 1994. In Germany, the breeder Max Hartenstein from Berlin wrote breeding history together with the Club for French Bulldogs (IKFB). The French Bulldog was recognized by the FCI in 1987.
The most noticeable influence from France was shown by the upright bat ears, which were very popular in the USA and triggered a real boom. In the daily newspapers, illustrated import lists appeared in advance, according to which puppies were bought up on a large scale all over Europe, which fetched enormously high prices of up to 5000 dollars. The first American club for French Bulldogs was founded by breeders in New York in 1896. The reception in Great Britain, however, was completely different. When the breed came back to the island around 1900, the dogs only earned ridicule and malicious friends because of their standing ears. In spite of everything, the breeding was continued, whereby the shape of the ears was not yet uniform. The male is called “Loupie” as the progenitor of the French Bulldogs with today’s appearance. His name appears in almost all British pedigree charts. The owners of this breed mostly belonged to the lower social classes. That only changed after King Edward VII got a white French bulldog with a kinked tail and curved forelegs.
The French bulldog is a typical Molossian with a relatively large, square head. The arched forehead goes into a pronounced stop and a blunt saddle nose covered with skin folds. The muzzle with the thick black lips is very expansive, with the lower teeth lying in front of the upper teeth (overbite). The straight bat ears are open to the front, wide at the base and rounded at the tips. Large round, slightly protruding eyes, the kinked or curled tail and the fine fur are obviously the legacy of the crossed pug. The short, thick neck merges into a heavily muscled, stocky body with a barrel-shaped chest. The hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs, so the back line rises slightly and falls off at the croup. The round front paws are turned slightly outwards, similar to cats. The short-haired, dense fur comes in two brindle variants: fawn / black or black / fawn (shades of brown from red to coffee with milk) with smaller white markings on the chest. In addition, the colors white / brindle, completely white and piebald white are allowed.
The small dog with its friendly and playful nature is an ideal family dog who also feels comfortable in a smaller apartment. His cozy appearance may hide the urge to move, the “Bully” loves his daily walks. When meeting other dogs, his fearlessness, which shaped his past, can come to light. He even shows no respect at all for a much larger counterpart. The protective instinct is great, but the courage to defend yourself must not be confused with aggressiveness. Early contact in a puppy group and later on the dog meadow promotes socialization in the long term. The owner should also take into account the proverbial stubbornness of his French Bulldog in the upbringing. He is gentle with children, older people also appreciate his sensitive manner. He needs a lot of attention and is very affectionate.
French Bulldogs are sensitive to cold and even more so to heat because of their thin coat. In extreme temperatures, walking should be limited to what is necessary in order to keep audible breathing problems due to the short and too narrow nose and too long soft palate to a minimum. Daily care Nose folds are necessary because deformation of the tear ducts or a prolapse of the nictitating gland (cherry eye) causes a constantly watery “dry eye” to cause skin inflammation. A little cream can be used as a preventive measure. Furthermore, misalignments of the jaw, hip dysplasia (HD) and degenerative disc disease can occur. The damage mentioned can be traced back to questionable breeding goals, which are exaggerated to extremes, especially with fashion dogs. Buying a French Bulldog from conscientious breeders is therefore highly recommended.
The French Bulldog at a glance
Origin: France FCI Breed Standard 101, Group 9, Section 11: Great Dane-like dogs, smallSize: mediumWeight: 30 – 35 cmWeight: 8 – 14 kg active, uncomplicated health risks: breathing difficulties, sensitive skin and eyes, food allergy, life expectancy: approx. 12 – 15 years
Image: © Depositphotos.com / Ryhor