Toward the end of the 19th century, on a fine day, a phaeton drawn by two high stepping horses could be seen promenading along the Champs Elysees, driven by a no less elegant dandy in top hat, black coat and checked trousers.
His liveried groom, with leather trousers and boots, shone like the varnished carrriage.
Between these two a pied Frenchie with a black patch covering one eye and one ear sat, proudly supervising the pageant.
All the caricaturists of the day limned this legendary trident.

Emblem of the Palace of Dogs. Paris 1900

                                                                                      Emblem of The Palace of Dogs. Paris 1900

 The Origins of a Breed

A person chooses an animal that he likes owing to a given peculiarity. He takes greater pains in crossing this animal with another of similar characteristics and so obtains something close to the desired objective.. These animals slowly spread throughout the local environment. Can they be called a separate breed? Who remembers these animals? This can be said of the majority of breeds at their beginning. They seem to hold little interest other than for a small group of enthusiasts. Such was the case with the French Bulldog. It would be difficult to give an exact date for its appearance. These dogs originate through the choosing of animals with special characteristics that were later crossed.. The results of these crosses were again selected, and in turn bred from.
In principle it is not in dispute that the breed emerged from a cross of Terrier and English Bulldog. Not the large bulldog of today but his much lighter ancestor of the 1840's that can be seen in some engravings along with terriers.( was this intentional?) However our type of French Bulldog and his distinguishing characteristics ( bat ears, amongst others) that played such an important part in his development, are the result of the careful and laborious work of the early breeders. They had a perfect ideal of the dog they wanted to create . The Americans were surprised that a breed of such recent origins and notable development had no authoritative eyewitnesses that could testify to its origins:
" This proves , they said, that the origins of this breed raised no interest in France worthy of consideration, and that the development of the breed was left to chance, indifference and even abandonment".
It may be said that this "butchers' dog" as it was called by the French canine society of the day, was in fact disdained by the greater public. The fashion was for Poodles, Bichon, Toy Teriers etc. The parisian dog enthusiasts of the time were unable to see the beauty of this rough little monster with his proud, cocky air. He was tolerated if at all in the stables as a ratcatcher. In fact he has never got further than the stables, but a mere twenty years later he was to become the " chouchou" of choice of the ladies.
The Americans on the other hand, lovers of the breed, found it hard to accept that the F.B could be undervalued in such a way. They had no doubts that men in their 60's and 70's could give them the imformation that they had been seeking in vain.

Early Breeders of the French Bulldog

These fanatical early breeders had no need for publicity and little interest beyond the purely local. As such they didn't get out much. Humble workers in their majority, breeding French Bulldogs was for them a favourite pastime, a way of relaxing and a source of pride. No effort was too great when looking for the type of dog that they most desired. It can't be said too often that they were a small group of modest artesans and tradesmen who gave rise to the small F.B.,wine sellers, shepherds, butchers cheesemakers, rag and bone men... With little money or resources, but with a clear idea of what they wanted, these genuine fans brought the breed to a point where it caught the admiration of those who love dog breeds from all parts, and would later make the fortunes of some foreign breeders.
" This little dog, despite all that has been said and written, came from us, the workers of France.That is why people from many countries come to us who gave rise to the breed.
It is possible that this dog has sprung from a Terrier or an English Bulldog, it even seems probable, but the FB as we have him today, with erect ears and his agile and joyful manner resulting in a definite breed, this is our work."
The words of M. Charles Roger, one of the most valued and oldest breeders. An expert in the breed, he was a judge for many years in the dogshows of Las Tullerias who had his first FB in 1870 at 14 years of age.
However, there was another theory put forward by Americans and English. The idea was that of M. Krehl amongst others and said that the FB was a direct descendant of the Dogo de Bourdeaux. This opinion was shared by the French SCC and by the English writer J. W. Stubbs. Apart from the fact that the Dogo de Burgos (and therefore the Dogo de Bourdeaux) were the great ancestors of all the bulldogs of the time how many years would have been necessary to reduce the size of the Dogo de Bourdeaux to that of a Frenchy?

Back streets of Paris

The origins of the French Bulldog may be simpler than at first appears.
By the late 19th century a small dog ran the streets of Paris together with the butchers of La Villette above all those of "Fort de la Halle" a dog that had replaced the "Doguin". A group of fans took the dog up and began to cross them according to their idea of the dog they wanted to create.
M Charles Roger said at the time that these dogs had no well defined form. They looked like the ratting dogs, Terriers, small Bulldogs.
A closer look reveals that they were a mix of all these and were descended from English dogs.
At the same time in England there existed a not insignificant number ofEnglish Bulldog 1800 "small Bulldogs" (according to contemporary accounts a cross between English Bulldogs and Black and Tan Terrier). It is possible that these dogs crossed the English Channel with the Nottingham lace workers around 1848.
Exported from England to France a great number bred at random with no thought of pedigree. It was this type of bulldog, more or less established in head type or body that gave rise to the breed we know today.
The exodus of this small Bulldog to France in the 1860's was such that it almost disappeared in England.
In France things took a different turn. Mr. Charlton Jemmett Browne, an English dog journalist became interested in the new breed in 1908 ( he published in England and the USA where he worked on The French Bulldog magazine which appeared in 1913) and said " these dogs , who had no club to fly the flag for them, not even in high society frequently bred as they would and did not regain popularity until the "cocottes" went crazy for them and made them fashionable".
M. Charles Roger confirmed the role of "las cocottes". He said that they had been the salvation of the French Bulldog. They got to know of the French Bulldog through their lovers who sometimes bred them or knew where to find them.
These " sugar daddies" brought French Bulldog from shows or from breeders. They bought them and as a result the French Bulldog became " The king at the side of the lovely courtesan, in the carriage or in the rich hotel or sumptuous apartment". In this way the breed climbed the social ladder.
Under the pename of PB in 1896 we find more testimony of the exodus of English Toys to France: " This type of dog caused a sensation in Paris and the English breeders made their fortunes with this trade. Mr Fred Hinks said that his father, owner of a bitch named Nell, had a standing order to send to France all the small bulldogs under 20lbs that he could find."
Lady Kathleen Pilkington, one of the most respected and knowledgable lovers of the Toy Bulldog breed in Europe at the time and to whom the French Bulldog in England owes so much ,wrote in The Tatler on 18 June 1906, " This is no more than the rennaisance of the breed. The Toy Bulldogs have been known in England for 60 years or more among the lace workers of Nottingham. But they fell out of favour and were exported mainly to France and almost disappeared from England. During their stay in France it cannot be said that they improved. They returned in 1893 with a perfect French accent and excellent manners but also with monstruous bat ears and a great need for an undershot jaw".
These examples were sold in general with no pedigree. They still did not carry the name of French Bulldog and when imported to England were called Toy Bulldogs. In shows those with erect and shell ears were entered in the same class. While the Americans imported dogs with erect ears the English preferred to buy those with the shell ear.The English disdained this " stable dog" as they called it. However the breed existed. Without papers or standard... but there it was. This originated the confusion about its exact beginnings. But on the other hand, how could we expect the humble working class to worry themselves about the beaureaucrats?
After all they had their small club , friendly meetings and a constitution. Although they were out of the limelight for many years, their enthusiasm for the dog never waned.


Taken and adapted from: "Le Bouledogue Francais". W. Comminges 1933




Last edited: 2010-08-11