The origin of the French Bulldog is not very old. It only dates back to the 19th century. But to understand its history we have to go back to 326 BC. More precisely at the time when Alexander I of Epirus (nicknamed the Molosser) offered Alexander the Great a dog named Péritas considered later in history as a Hound of Epirus.

These dogs described as excellent hunters, guardians and even combat auxiliaries are actually the ancestor of the bulldog itself a parent of the French bulldog known as Frenchie and bouledogue francais also. It is immediately clearer that even if the breed is relatively young, the traits that characterize it actually come from a long and old line.

The Hound of Epirus

It is difficult to find a description of the physical appearance of the Hounds of Epirus. Nevertheless in a British museum is exposed a statue of dog (Jennings dog) identified as being the representation of a hound guard dog which we can suppose that it resembles Peritas, the hound of Epirus of Alexander the Great.

The Jennings Dog exhibited at the British Museum of London representative of the mastiffs of Epirus. Photo Jastrow

According to Pliny, these mastiffs were intended to attack big game. Indeed, he tells in his book that Alexander the Great had already had a first dog that he would have killed under the pretext that the animal did not move in front of a traditional game, as a result of which his uncle Alexander I of Epirus would have given him another dog, suggesting that he test it against a lion or an elephant. What he did, and the reaction was final, the dog tore the lion into several pieces and made the elephant fall and won the respect of his master who ordered the construction of a city (Jhelum) in his honor.

To understand the rest of the story, you should remember that Alexander the Great (also called Alexander III of Macedonia) is one of the most famous figures of Antiquity and king of Macedonia. His desire to conquer the world, and in his approach he took from the western part of Asia Minor.

Later, during Roman times, these hounds were still used as fighting dogs until fight in the arenas with the Gladiators.

It was undoubtedly during his conquest that the mastiffs gained territory to arrive among the English where the bull dog was born after various crossings.

The bulldog

We will not go into the details of the origin and evolution of the bulldog here (also called bull dog or English bulldog). Nevertheless a minimum of explanation because our dear French bulldog comes from the English bulldog. Although some authors maintain that the breed was created in France and Paris, it is nevertheless from the strains of the English bulldog that it was born as well as a mixture with the mastiff , the Doguin and the Alans of the Middle Ages all from the Molossians of Epirus.

In other words, from the birth of the Hound of Epirus in 326 BC until 1885 when dog fights were abolished, the Hounds, Mastiffs and their descendants were all destined for one thing: to oppose in a fight to the death against a lion, an elephant, a bear or a bull. Its morphology has been gradually worked on so that it is faster, more agile, that it has more grip and strength – forgetting in passing the aesthetic side of the dog.

The bulldog (English) also called bulldog. Smaller and more compact than the one we know today.

But when dog fighting was banned in 1835, two types of bull dog began to appear, one small in size, and another larger. While some continued to use the bull dog for dogfights – on the sly – until the practice was completely abolished in 1885, others strove to give the bull dog a second life by removing it from the over selections all forms of aggression.

“Specialized for battle, his instinct for sociability was slowly erased in him, and his intrepid courage quickly degenerated into ferocity. The drawing (of the two types of bulldog) gives only a half idea of the differential dimensions that can be observed between the large and the small, between the giants and the dwarves of the groups of mastiffs and bull-dogs combined. I do not know what is the maximum weight of the hounds, but, at the other end, it is not uncommon to meet individuals who weigh no more than 4 kilograms. In his classification, the editor of the 1865 dog show program had established two sub-divisions, as specified:

  • Bull-dogs over the weight of 6 kilos The cubs
  • then called the Toy Bulldogs were used to hunt pests in homes, businesses and premises and eventually as a companion dog, because they were small and space-saving. 

Between 1865 and 1880, led by the industrial revolution, some lace-makers from Nottingham, driven by unemployment, moved to the north of France accompanied by their Toy Bulldog. (6)

Birth of the French Bulldog

The birth of the French Bulldog is targeted soon after the arrival of the Nottingham lace-makers. At this time, the Toys Bulldogs were haphazardly bred by local dogs. Among other things doguins, terriers and maybe even Pugs.

They are quickly appreciated by the French to the point that the English breeders were very happy to export them in large numbers as the British had abandoned this small breed. This is how the Toy Bulldog becomes the butchers’ dog.

“The Alan Vautre of medium size (from where comes the term of wallows, crew credited on the boar) is used for the catch of the boar before the killing with the spear. The butcher’s Alan pushes the animals into the rooms before slaughter. An old tradition was that the house (before the 14th century it was the name of the butcher, it means “slaughterer or skinner”) had the bull slaughtered after it had been fought by the dogs.
An ancestor of the boxer, the bulldog, the dogue de Bordeaux and all Hispanic catch dogs have these common origins (cane de presa canario, Mallorcan ,.). “In Paris, butcher’s dogs, also called doguins, were used in slaughterhouses. A high historical place was the slaughterhouses of La Villette where” the little mastiffs or doguins “of La Villette still existed alongside the beef tappers that were the beaucerons. ”

The doguin, ancestor of the bulldog and the French bulldog Photo Ethnozootechnie

The slaughterhouses of La Villette in Paris, precisely represent the place of origin of the creation of the Frenchie. At this time, the Toy Bulldogs were crossed with other slaughterhouse dogs.

The masters did not care about fashion and criticism of their dog. Most of them are modest people, butchers, wine merchants who when they met, compared their dogs to each other in an attempt to cross them and empirically create a morphological unity of their dog. This is how it is assumed that the Toy Bulldog was crossed with the Doguin and short-faced rats called Terrier-Boule as well as other breeds like Alan or Pug. These crosses helped to change the morphology of the Toy Bulldog to give it a short-faced head with straight ears.

In 1880, these people gathered around a friendly club, bringing together 47 members and eight years later gave a first draft of the French Toy Bulldog standard later called the French Bulldog.

Although dogs with broken ears are still accepted, their main focus was on having short-faced, straight-eared dogs.have short-faced dogs with straight ears.have short-faced dogs with straight ears.

A story of fatherhood

In 1893, a British breeder named Krehl imported French Bulldogs into Great Britain, which he presented to the Kennel Club. Immediately, a quarrel over the paternity of the race broke out. The British believe that the breed comes from them and that the French did not know how to respect the standard by transforming its ears and muzzle.

On the other hand, it is estimated that the French would not have presented a breed to the garden of acclimatization if they had not felt that it was theirs.

Thus, for the English Bulldog Club, it was out of the question to admit the French Toy Bulldog in the studbook, claiming that it did not keep the purity of the original breed until-in 1899 where he reconsidered his decisions and finally accepted the French bulldogs alongside the English bulldogs.

Ultimately, the French will keep the parternity of the breed, and as Mme Girard Françoise says so well in her book on the French bulldog, “the British provided the main ingredients but it was the French who established the final recipe that resulted than French Bulldog as we know it. “

The emergence of the Bulldog’s success

In the meantime, in 1898 a few French Bulldog enthusiasts have just grouped together under the title of “Réunion des Amateurs de Bouledogues Français”. Placed under the aegis of the Société Centrale Canine, they propose to encourage by all possible means the breeding of the French Bulldog. The type they recommend will be published shortly: it is the little “straight-eared” Bulldog.

The Committee is. thus composed: Honorary President: M the Prince of Wagram. Chairman: Mr. Gordon Bennett. Vice-Presidents: MM. Menans de Corre; Prudhommeaux. Secretary: MJ Bontroue. Members: MM. the baron de Carayon La Tour, baron Berthémy. Count of Montauzon. Renevret, Gh- Roger. (8) If all of these names mean nothing to you, you should know that he is actually a rich American patron with a passion forinvention and novelty of all kinds (Mr Gordon Bennett) surrounded by breeders and members of the French aristocracy, all passionate about the French Bulldog. At that time, they fixed a crucial point of the standard, from now on only Bulldogs with straight ears are allowed!

Nested French Bulldog at the London competition

The french bulldog or as known as Frenchie now days landed in the United States in 1896 through Mr. Phelps, one of the first American enthusiasts of the breed. During a first three-year stay in 1886, he got to know the breed. He was so charmed by this little ball of fur that when he returned to France in 1896 he decided to bring back some “Boules” with him to design his own breeding ground. And it was an immediate hit with the American people!

As the French tried to revive a breed neglected by the British, they began to see wealthy Americans arriving in their homes willing to pay a fortune to acquire a French Bulldog. Naturally, the low prices of puppies soar from 650Fcs to 6,000Fcs.

Even today,it is estimated that the success of the French Bulldog is largely due to the fad that generated the Americans, who moreover strove to rigorously respect the standard of the breed.

Barely a year later, in New York, under the presidency of Mr. W Watrous, a French Bulldog Club was created, intended to preserve this breed in its primitive purity. The Club has thus decided on the main points that the dogs will have to achieve to be admitted: smooth dress, so-called “bat” ears, wide at the base, elongated, rounded at the end placed high on the head, but not too much. close to each other. 

Shortened tails, mutilated or worn ears automatically resulted in the subject being disqualified. The French Bulldog also had to be small in size, compact with strong musculature. 

He had to be strong, have a lively pace, intelligent air and his weight should not exceed 22 pounds for the male and 20 pounds for the female.

The Bulldog becomes a star

Our French Bulldog will have come a long way, and yet he is far from stopping. After leaving the British where he was neglected to settle in France, he traveled to the USA where his success will explode.
After which, the French Bulldog will make itself known in Austria in 1888 through Prince Cobourg who will bring back the first bulldogs from England. In 1900, Bulldogs were so popular in Austria that it was necessary to breed locally.

That same year, Bulldogs from France made a name for themselves in Germany. Nine years later, a breed club will be founded by four rather unusual amateurs. All of them live in Germany but none of them have German nationality except one! Indeed, there are Ms. Muller (Austrian), Mr. Blacker (Spanish), Mr. Langford (English) and Mr. Knotz the only German of the club! Anyway, the four of them founded the “Internationaler Bouledogue Français Klub”. It is easy to understand why Internationaler! (the nationalities of the members for those who would not have followed). This club wants to be dynamic and of good quality!

During this time, England which had disputed the paternity of the race with the French and which had rejected the French Bulldogs, ended up accepting them in 1902, year when they founded the club intended for the race. But it will not be until 1911 that the Kennel Club will adopt the French standard of the breed.
Later, Switzerland was also charmed by the French Bulldogs and founded a club there in 1924, followed by Belgium in 1937.

Unfortunately as for many dog breeds, the world wars caused the loss of notoriety of the French Bulldog, it is only from 1980 that we begin to see admirers of the breed again. Later, he will be a victim again, but not in the sense that one might think.

From the 1990s, pseudo-breeders who were careless and respectful of the work done on the breed and attracted by the profits from the sales of puppies, managed to acquire puppies at low prices and found a breeding on strains lacking in characteristic type of breed. We are then witnessing the emergence of French Bulldogs which either do not totally correspond to the standard of the breed, or are more genetically fragile.

It is difficult to come to the end of this kind of breeding, the future masters ignorant for the most part, prefer to go at the least expensive thinking to have a LOF dog when he has nothing or almost nothing!
What does not change that they always remain a good breeder approved by the Central Canine Society to whom you have to turn when you want to acquire any good quality breed!