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French Bulldog History: What Were They Bred For?

French bulldogs are the perfect companion dog, and that is their purpose in life. Their lineage dates back to the 1800s when a toy version of the English Bulldog was first introduced in England. From the charming hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris to your backyard, the French Bulldog has come a long way to become your best friend.


As already mentioned, the French Bulldog descends from the English Bulldog. At the time, these much larger Bulldogs were much more aggressive and a popular competitor in bull-baiting, where the dogs were basically set to fight a bull. This ‘sport’ was banned in 1835 for being inhumane, and the Bulldogs made their way to the show rings. Here, they were divided based on their size, and that is where the English Toy Bulldogs came from.

Around the same time, the highly skilled lacemakers from Nottingham were being replaced by lower-wage workers or laid off due to the Industrial Revolution. The Toy Bulldogs caught these village artisans’ fancy, who probably liked how these dogs could easily fit into their tiny living quarters. So, once they started immigrating to Normandy, France, due to their poor condition in England, they brought along their little furry friends.


The Toy Bulldogs gained such popularity here that the English breeders started trading them to France, along with other Bulldogs that they thought to have other faults, like erect ears. Almost all the Toy Bulldogs in England had arrived in France by 1860. They were considered a unique breed and Christened the Bouledogue Francais.

They became one of the most sought-after dogs, especially among the ladies – whether they were society ladies or Parisian prostitutes. They quickly gained popularity among artists, writers, and designers, both men and women. The small Bulldogs even appeared in famous paintings by French artists Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The 1890s Onwards

The French kept caring for the dogs and created a more uniform version of the breed that started looking more like today’s Frenchies, with compact bodies, straight legs, and slightly less pronounced underbites than the original English Bulldogs. Even the famous bat ears already existed, though some also had rose ears.

Around this time, Americans traveling to Paris were captivated by these cute little dogs, and some of them brought them back to America. And eventually, in 1885, Americans started breeding them, where the dogs with erect bat ears were more popular.

The French Bulldogs had also started making their way back to England, where they were first displayed at a Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1896 by some society ladies. In fact, a French Bulldog made it to the cover of the Westminster catalog in 1897, even before AKC recognized it.

The Westminster show displayed a partiality to the rose-eared Frenchies, which was unacceptable to many participants, mainly from the US. Then a group of ladies established the French Bull Dog Club of America and developed a preliminary breed standard, which standardized the signature bat ears. Soon after, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club. It started appearing on lists of the most popular dogs as early as 1906 when it featured in the 5th position.

So, here is a dog that was originally bred mainly to keep their human company and entertain them with their lovable yet goofy personalities. And they do excel at what they were created for.

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