French Bulldog History

vintage photo of lady with bulldog

The history of the French Bulldog spans 3 centuries and 3 countries to bring us to the French Bulldog we know today: a delightful, happy companion dog with a funny, flat face and a stocky, bully body.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution in England, Nottingham lace makers chose to keep the smallest puppies from a bulldog litter to breed smaller dogs that would easily fit on their laps and keep them company while they wove lace at home as what was truly, at the time a cottage industry. vintage photo of lady with bulldog

During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century, when things made by independent craftsmen were progressively being made by machines, the Nottingham lace makers moved to Brittany on the coast of France to continue to work in their age old way, taking their funny little dogs with them.

The funny little dogs continued to be reduced in size, while maintaining their bulldog look. At that time the signature French Bulldog “bat” ears were not often seen, but gradually they became a trademark of the breed by the 20th Century.

Eventually in France, the little bulldogs caught the eye of the “demi-monde”, and the ladies of the evening kept them as companion dogs. Gradually, perhaps because some of their rich admirers took a liking to the funny little dogs, French Bulldogs became the “dogue de jour” of the well-to-do. Frenchies clearly kept good company!

King Edward VII had a favourite brindle French Bulldog, and the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II adored one, too. Toulouse-Lautrec painted them, Colette, the avant garde author had many of them in the course of her lifetime, and author Radclyffe Hall bred them with her partner.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, American visiting Paris became particularly enamoured of the breed, ad began buying them when they returned home from their travels. In fact, sadly, a prize winning Frenchy, bought by an American millionaire went down with the Titanic.

Over the next few decades, the Americans led the world in establishing consistent breed type and in fact, American French Bulldogs were exported to England and France as well as other countries to form the foundation of our modern French Bulldog today.

Now, the French Bulldog of the 21 Century is the healthiest and mostly “typey” (consistent in appearance and character) version of the breed. A universally beloved breed, the French Bulldog has gone from lap warmer, to little play thing of les belle de nuit in France, to the coveted treasure of the rich and famous, including Tsars, Kings, artists, artistes, authors and the rest of us who adore them. vintage photo of lady with bulldog