FRENCH BULLDOG HISTORY DEEPDIVE
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In the 1800s in England, the French Bulldog first started on the path to becoming the breed it is today. But, the story begins with a more gruesome beginning. The sport of bullbaiting was seeing a downfall and many of the breeds, and subbreeds, of bulldogs used for this sport, were in crisis. Some legislation was starting to make the rounds through Parliament, and it was beginning to seem like the sport would be abolished. Fanciers of the Bulldog had to get creative to save the bulldog classification. While some went on to participate in dogfighting rings and were inevitably outcrossed with terrier breeds, others were starting to be repurposed with the intent to turn them into companion animals.
One particular recreation of the breed that surfaced in the early 1800s was a minute bulldog. Popular among the lace makers of Nottingham. So, famous, that one of these "mini-bulldogs" became the lace makers' official mascot. But as the industrial revolution in England started to gain traction, the lacemakers had begun to feel somewhat uncomfortable and like their trade was being threatened. So, they packed up and relocated to France, where they continued their art.
The miniature Bulldog became incredibly popular in the French countryside. Over decades, other small breeds were mixed with the breeding population, which led to the creation of a more reminiscent dog of the French Bulldog today. These little dogs eventually made their way to Paris, and here they boomed in popularity.
By the close of the 19th century, the French Bulldog had made its way outside France. It rose in popularity in both the United States and Europe. Though the breed was not as welcome in the UK since the Bulldog was a national symbol and many Englishmen were off-put that their old French rivals had manipulated it.
The war of ears:
Originally, two different types of ears were accepted in the French bulldogs. The erect, bat-like ears we know on the breed today and a "rose-ear" are similar to the ears on an English Bulldog. In the late 1800s, Americans who came to France fell in love with the little breed and preferred the erect ear. In contrast, the French and English preferred the rose-type ears.
This led to something of a dispute. When Americans took their dogs to the Westminster show ring- the English judges would only select the rose-eared dogs. Not the American's preferred erect-ear type. The American's were infuriated, and this led to the formation of the first Frenchie breed club. The French Bulldog Club of America. The Club was the first to draft up the standard for the breed, and within it, they excluded the rose-ear type and only allowed those with erect ears.
When the Americans returned to the Westminster show 1898 they were again enraged to find a class for both the rose-ear and bat-ear type for Frenchie. This led to all American participants pulling their dogs from the show and the American judges also refusing to participate. Upon returning home to the states and the Club arranged their own show. The first winner of this bat-eared only event was a brindle Frenchie by the name of, Dimboolaa.
Frenchie in trouble:
The French Bulldog was an immensely popular breed. However, the breed started to decline before WWI. Some assume it was due to the rise of the Boston terrier. And also, because the French Bulldog had significant problems trying to whelp puppies naturally and c-sections performed by a vet were still very far off. The breed took another massive hit after WWII and during the time of the great depression, and by 1940 only about 100 individuals of the breed were present in the United States.
A few passionate breeders in the United States and Europe managed to keep the breed from going extinct. The breed did not make a comeback until the 1980s when the French Bulldog Club of America turned their small shows into significant events. The breed had made a significant comeback since then, and as of 2020, the French Bulldog holds the spot of the fourth most popular breed in the United States.