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What Were French Bulldogs Bred For?

What Were French Bulldogs Bred For?

French Bulldogs originate from Britain, despite their names. They are one of the oldest and most beloved breeds around.

Widely popular for its bat ears, short legs, and stubborn nature, this breed has become a status symbol that everyone wants to own. However, many people are not aware of the history behind the French Bulldog and what they were previously bred for.

In this blog post, we will discuss their origin story and what they were bred for back in the day.


History Of The French Bulldog

The French Bulldog is a breed of domestic dog, bred to be a companion dog. The breed is a subcategory breed of Bulldogs that originate from the Bullenbeisser, a dog that came from ancient Greece.

The Bullenbeisser was used for bull baiting, which was later outlawed in 1835.

Bulldogs were then crossed with Terriers and Pugs to make the smaller version of Bulldogs we know and love today.

So where did it all begin?

In 1860, lace workers from England brought the Miniature Bulldog across the Channel. The lace workers moved to Normandy, France, searching for better opportunities due to the Industrial Revolution.

Once in France, the Miniature Bulldogs became popular with the locals thanks to their unique faces. This is when the decision was made to call this breed the Bouledogue Francais; in English, this is translated to French Bulldog.

The French Bulldog’s popularity quickly grew during the 19th century as a companion dog among the wealthy upper class. Artists and designers would also use Frenchies to accessorize, so they basically became a fashion statement.

In 1880, the first French Bulldog club was founded in Paris. When the Frenchie was introduced to the Americans in 1885, the same popularity boom occurred. Everyone wanted one for themselves! The Americans were the ones to make the bat ears a breed standard (rather than rose ears), which led to it becoming an even more popular breed.

The breed continued to grow in popularity throughout Europe and America during the early 1900s. In 1903, The English Kennel Club permitted the breed into their roster. The club had to do this as the breed had become so popular.

The name French Bulldogs became official in 1912.

In 1940, the Frenchie was considered a rare breed, even though breeders tried their best to keep the flame alive.

Today, the French Bulldog is one of the most popular companion dogs in the world, and they are known for their kind nature and comical appearance.

But wait, what is bull baiting?

Bull baiting was a blood sport involving pitting a bull against dogs. Baiting apparently improved the quality of the meat.

The first bull baiting event took place in 1209, but there are many rumors about the sport starting way before this period.

The sport finally became outlawed in 1835 thanks to animal cruelty laws…HALLELUJAH!

After dog fighting stopped, Bulldogs were out of jobs, and in the 19th century, they started breeding them for companionship.

So, that all explains why the Bullenbeisser went extinct and we’re left with kind and loving Frenchies today!

Who hurried up Frenchies’ recognition with the Kennel Club?

The Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans, two highly influential French Bulldog owners, hurried Frenchies’ recognition with the American Kennel Club in 1898. Take a look at our French Bulldog temperament guide to find out more about this breed and its fascinating history.


When Did French Bulldogs’ Popularity Decline?

Straight after World War 1, the breed’s popularity started to decline. One contributing factor was the increase in interest in the Boston Terrier. Additionally, the interest in purebred dogs generally declined during the Depression in the 1930s.

The other contributing factor was that female Frenchies struggled with giving birth naturally. The practice of safe veterinary cesareans was not yet a normality in society.

When did the breed’s popularity increase again?

In 1980, Frenchies’ popularity started to pick up the pace again. This shift in choice was noticed by the increase in breed registrations. This was due to the new French Bulldog Club in America, the aptly-named French Bull Dog Club of America.

To put this sudden interest into perspective, in 1980, there were 170 registrations for the French Bulldog breed, and in 1990 there were around 632 registrations. Jumping ahead in time, in 2006, there were around 5500 registrations.

In 2015, Frenchies became the fourth most registered dog in America and the United Kingdom. Soon after, they placed fourth for the total number of registrations in Australia in 2017. In the same year in Australia, they were voted the third most popular dog.


British Breeders Vs French Breeders Vs American Breeders

The Americans liked the dog to have erect ears. The British breeders and French breeders liked rose-eared Bulldogs. This debate was very controversial…with back-and-forth wins for both sides. To settle the debate, a dog show was held in 1897. Rose-eared Bulldogs won over bat-ear Bulldogs (and the judges were non-Americans).

Presently, the AKC does NOT allow rose-eared Bulldogs. Therefore, French Bulldogs without bat-shaped ears will be disqualified when trying to register with the AKC or be a part of any AKC dog shows. The AKC specifically allows for the ears to only be high up on the head and not close together.



What did French Bulldogs look like originally?

They were originally rose-eared rather than bat-eared, similar to the English Bulldog today. French Bulldogs were bred from Bulldogs who were used as fighting dogs, which were much larger and more aggressive than the Frenchies we know and love today.

They had large heads and muscular bodies, and their coat was short and coarse. However, Frenchies weren’t intended for fighting even though they were descended from a fighting breed, so their appearance was soon altered through selective breeding. That’s why they’re much smaller, cuter, and cuddlier!

Why are French Bulldogs so gentle?

These dogs were bred to be lap dogs, so they are willing to please and love human companionship. They are gentle by nature and have a calm disposition. They are not aggressive and are content to lounge around the house or yard.

When were French Bulldogs recognized by the American Kennel Club?

This breed was recognized in 1898 by the AKC. The Americans liked the Frenchie with erect ears. Prior to this, the dog was not formally recognized by any major kennel club.

However, the breed had been gaining popularity in America throughout the 1800s. This is likely because Frenchies were considered fashionable pets among wealthy Americans during this period.

What three countries were involved in the history of French Bulldogs?

America, France, and England all influenced the history of French Bulldogs. In France, breeders developed the smaller French Bulldog. English breeders provided the foundation of the modern French Bulldog, and the American breeders set the standard.


The Frenchie History Wrapped Up

Frenchies have a long and rich history involving three countries, almost 200 years, and a lot of popularity.

They were first bred to be lap dogs, and the modern Frenchie is still doing just that. They are friendly, laid-back, and affectionate, and their small size makes them the perfect pet for those living in small apartments or small homes.

So if you’re looking for a pooch to snore on your couch, visit Barksinthepark and think about bringing home a French Bulldog!