THE FRENCH BULLDOG
What has the English Industrial revolution to do with French Bulldogs? A great deal, for it’s our starting point. From about 1850 to 1860 the English textile and clothing industries were in turmoil. Machinery was replacing man. Cottage industries in the English Midlands were being abandoned. The lacemakers of Nottingham who worked by hand no longer had jobs.
The Nottingham lacemakers were welcomed with open arms by the French to the coastal towns of Normandy and in particular to Brittany and Calais where the old traditional work continued.
By the 1850s – 1860s Nottingham in England was a great centre for British Bulldogs, including the toy or miniature bulldogs. The emigrants from Nottingham took their miniature bulldogs with them because of the dogs’ size, companionship and being good ratters. (Living conditions were cramped in the apartments and small houses in which workers lived.)
the 1860s the export of miniature or toy bulldogs from England to France
was so great that they practically became extinct in England. Here is a
quotation from an article published in England in 1899:
The miniature bulldogs are thought to have been crossed with terriers and pugs and the French Bulldog evolved. Lack of records has so far frustrated researches of breed historians and it seems unlikely that more will emerge.
French Bulldogs became popular among the ladies of the night of Paris and then became a status symbol of French society. Artists, businessmen and aristocrats owned Frenchies. Toulouse Lautrec and Degas painted pictures, which included French Bulldogs. Colette wrote stories about her beloved frenchies.
The French Bulldog is one of only a few breeds, which owes its existence to the efforts of breeders in different countries – France, America, England and Germany. Certainly the continuance of the unique bat ears at the turn of the century was due largely to America and there was immense popularity for the frenchie in America from a century ago and continuing for at least thirty years. Even today far and away the best frenchie breed magazine is American. The French Bullytin is about to celebrate its twentieth year of publication. It should be on the subscription list of every french bulldog breeder and owner.
The Chincha Bulldog and the frenchie. The Chincha Bulldog was attributed to Peru at least from 1100 to 1470 AD. Dr Dieter Fleig in his Fighting Dog Breeds (don’t be put off by the title) (TFH 1996) pointed out that "in many places in the world dog breeds have arisen completely independently of one another, purely on the basis of their utility." Professors Max Hilzheimer and Richard M. Wegner in 1937 studied these mummified dogs and excavated skeletons. They discovered that the Chincha Bulldog’s skull shared a wealth of similarities with the French Bulldog skull of the twentieth century. It did not stop there, for there were also similarities between the entire anatomies. "On the basis of all artwork and skeletal finds, this Indian dog in ancient Peru resembles the French bulldog to a striking degree" Dr Fleig states. The two portraits in his book of the bat-eared Chincha are well worth a look, and so is the prose.
The Dogue de Bordeaux and the frenchie. A 1625 bronzed plaque was discovered which showed the head of a dog and the inscription "Dogue de Burgas Espana". This was the main basis for the argument that these dogs migrated to France and "they bantamised the breed to the modern toy bulldog". (George R. Krehl London Stockkeeper 1900).
However this theory was firmly put to bed in 1926 (The French Bulldog History of the origin of the breed, its cultivation and developmented. O.F. Vedder). A picture of the Dogue de Bordeaux was reproduced. "The illustration, herewith presented, of the Dogue de Bordeaux ought to be sufficient to make absurd any claim that could be advanced that this type of dog could have any part in the creation of the French bulldog … No one who has even made a superficial investigation of this subject now seriously contends there is the least ground to suppose that the Spanish bulldog figures in the creation of French bulldogs." Yet the argument still emerges from people who should know better (e.g. Nicholas French Bulldogs 1989 pp 6 to 9).
Breed books are of course valuable for facts about breed origins. Since the French Bulldog breed began there have only been seven frenchie breed books published in the English language: the 1926 book (ed. Vedder) referred to above, Pronek (1965), Hickman (1986), Eltinge (1988), Nicholas (1989), Lee and Dannel (2000). All of these were published in America. It’s a sad commentary that no frenchie breed book has been written and published in England. This is despite the historical background, knowledge and importance of English frenchie breeders. (A pamphlet The History of the French Bulldog by W.J. Stubbs was "printed for private circulation" in England in 1903. (The French Bulldog Club of England reproduced it in facsimile in April 1979.) A 1906 pamphlet published in England by F.W. Cousens for private circulation does not even seem to have survived. An authoritative French Bulldog breed book from England with a comprehensive history of the origin of the breed, is long overdue.
The Present. Because of easier air travel, less severe quarantine restrictions and vastly improved communications, it is much easier than before to have access to good stock and lines and to consider importing fresh stock after careful and thorough research.
"… it is certainly a matter for congratulation how the popularity of these small dogs has increased by leaps and bounds during the last few years". This was written at the turn of the century (Bulldogs and Bulldog Breeding by H. St. J. Cooper & Carlo F.C. Clarke – Jarrolds 1905). However it is probably true today and increases our responsibilities not to be kennel blind, to do our homework and to breed carefully and responsibly.
of our forebears in the bulldog world had a lot of wisdom. "I have often
been asked which is the best way to start forming a French Bulldog kennel,
but the answer must be controlled by the amount in the purse. To the slender
purse I always advise the purchase of a bitch puppy … the beginner would
be wise to get only the best and a few … In selecting a sire it is just
as well to bear in minds that it is not always the biggest prize winner
who sires the best puppies. The great characteristic of a French Bulldog
in my opinion, is erect ear carriage, and so I always advise the using
of the stud dog who has the reputation of siring dogs with good ears. The
beginner should strive for compactness … and should train his puppies for
the Show ring and get them to show bright". (Bulldogs and all about them
by F. Barrett Fowler – Jarrold 1925).
better description comes from an old Belgian dog journal Journal Chasse
et Pêche "There is no dog in the world which is more "Eyes and Ears"
and at the same time a little athlete than the French bulldog … He has
a serious expression, but laughs with all his body and is always gay. He
is a clown under the robe of a philosopher. Always ready for tricks, and
yet full of dignity while at rest. Made of contrasts, yet very agreeable
and well proportioned. Of great vivacity, and yet full of gravity, he accepts
patiently immobility. Quiet in his basket, he does not lose a word of the
conversation … He is indeed most desirable and in him are combined all
the virtues of the house dog."