The Frenchie is derived from Britain’s native bulldog, which was much bigger and used for bull baiting! Now when this was banned in the 1830s, instead of disappearing, the Bulldog was kept for it’s companionship. But over the years they changed from a dog that was able to grapple with a Bull to the compact, squashed face companion we are so familiar with today. They had to adapt to being miniaturised so that they took up less space and didn’t need as much food to be attainable for the low-wage mill workers. For an unknown reason, they were extremely popular with the female lacemakers, whilst we’re not sure of the reason why, who could blame them??
They began to grow in popularity in the lace making industry hub of Nottingham but after the collapse of the Industrial Revolution, this loyal little dog was taken over to France with workers. Their popularity travelled from Normandy to Paris and continued to grow! In France they became known as the ‘Bouledogues Francais’. These lively little dogs made their way into all walks of Parisian life, from café owners and rag traders to ladies of the night! The French then became guardians of the breed and cultivated the compact body and straightened legs whilst ridding them of the underbite of the old English Bulldog.
Now, whilst Frenchie’s have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, they were so popular back in the 1800’s that the ‘French Bulldog Cub of America’ was actually formed before the American Kennel Club even recognised the breed. The original constitution of the FBDCA was written in 1897, but the AKC didn’t acknowledge the French Bulldog as we know it until 1898.
The founding of the FBDCA was all down to a dispute about ears! American breeders were infuriated that an English judge had put a rose-eared Frenchie in a competition at Westminster. Most British and French judges favoured the rose ears but there were no published breed definitions of the French Bulldog and so the Americans took it upon themselves to create one! Which is now why the Frenchie has the comical bat ears we are all so familiar with today! Whilst this was met with fierce criticism from England and France, the Americans dug in their heels and so today the bat ear is a universally recognised trait of a Frenchie!
Moving on, whilst a Frenchie may love a paddle in a kid’s paddling pool on a warm summers day, they are actually terribly inefficient swimmers! It isn’t just the Frenchie’s, but all bulldog breeds are generally bad swimmers. They just aren’t built for the water! They’re top heavy and have flat faces, meaning that they can struggle to keep their noses above the water. Of course, there are always exceptions. Younger, more agile French Bulldog’s may enjoy a bit of a doggy paddle in a pool with you, but you will need to supervise them regardless of how well you think they can cope. You should never leave a Frenchie alone with deep water about, research suggests that once they go below water, they will sink quite quickly and be unable to get back up. The curse of being dense and compact! Even if you get them a lifejacket, please still be wary of them in the water. Even if they stay buoyant, if they inhale water into their lungs, it can cause them to choke and panic or even trigger pneumonia. Basically, you want to treat a Frenchie the same as a toddler around any body of water!
Sticking with the water theme, there was actually a Frenchie aboard the Titanic! Of the 3300 people that were aboard the Titanic, only 12 dogs were permitted! They all belonged to high class passengers that had to pay a fare for their four-legged travelling companion that cost the same as that for a child. Of the 12 dogs onboard, one of them was a French Bulldog. The Frenchie in question was Gamin De Pycombe and he was a brindle pup owned by US banker, Robert Daniel.
He was a champion French Bulldog, his father being CH Charlemagne of Amersham who was the UK’s first pied champion Frenchie! Gamin’s owner had paid £150 for his high-class pup, which equates to around £11,000 if you were to buy him today! Unfortunately, little Gamin didn’t survive the sinking of the Titanic, the only documented dogs to have made it were a couple of Pomeranians and a Pekingese (which were probably smuggled onto lifeboats, concealed by their owners big winter coats!). Even though he met an unfortunate end, Gamin lives on in James Cameron’s film. The director honours the pup by adding in a scene where you can clearly spot a little brindle French Bulldog being walked along the deck. Keep an eye out next time you watch it!
It seems as though the French Bulldog has always been a part of the privileged lifestyle, they’ve made a name for themselves from wealthy New York socialites in the 1890’s to some of the biggest celebrities of the 21st century!
Some of the more notable names include; Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who adopted two Frenchie’s, endearingly named Hobbs and Brutus in 2016. Unfortunately, Brutus went over the rainbow bridge a few months after being adopted. The Rock still pays homage to Hobbs’ brother, and continues to give Hobbs all the experiences any one of us would be jealous of! Hobbs even has a cameo role in his dad’s blockbuster, ‘Hobbs and Shaw’!
Carrie Fisher is also a big Hollywood name that adored her French Bulldog. His name is Gary Fisher and he was actually a service dog for her, he helped her cope with her bi-polar disorder. She was open about her mental health and praised the emotional support and stability that Gary provided for her Upon her passing, he was taken in by Carrie’s assistant but he now enjoys retirement in Florida with the actresses daughter, Lourd. He even has his own Instagram for any Star Wars fans out there!