History of the French Bulldog

French Bulldog History

A story involving the Greek, the industrial revolution, the French, and bull-baiting. The history of French Bulldogs is quite exquisite!

Their name, “Bulldog”, doesn’t seem that friendly, although they’re affectionate with their companions. These muscular dogs don’t even really look “french”, so why are they called so? And how did they end up being the adorable companion dogs they are now?

Their Origin

The French Bulldog’s ancestor, like that of many other breeds, is the Molossus breed. These gigantic dogs were bred by the Greek Molossians tribe.

Thanks to their large size, they were fighting dogs and were bred mostly for labor or war. Sometimes, they were used in fighting sports or hunting.

Later on, multiple sub-families diverged from the Molossus breed and gave rise to newer breeds such as St. Bernards, Rottweilers, Newfoundlanders, Pitbulls, and most importantly, the Bullenbeisser.

The Bullbenbeisser breed is what resulted in the modern “Bulldog” breeds, including English and  American Bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogges and, eventually, the French bulldog.

Miniature Bulldogs

Before going extinct, the Bullbenbeisser was mostly used for bull-baiting, a sport involving the dog’s bloody attempts at pitting a bull. The dog would usually lay low and creep till they could bite down the bull’s nose.

After the certain and inevitable outlawing of this bloodbath in England in 1835, these dogs were literally unemployed. People quickly started to breed the massive Bullbenbeisser with other breeds, like pugs, giving way to smaller breeds.

Around the 1850s, London became the home of the new miniature bulldogs, called “Toy English Bulldogs”, which hardly resembled their ancestors. They were now companion dogs, and the only trait that remained from their fighting days was their broad muzzle faces.

The Industrial Revolution

In the early 1860s, toy English Bulldogs were exhibited in various do shows across England, where the best were chosen to breed more desirable traits.

However, the English found them to be smaller than the required standards and disliked the pricked ears. In fact, they considered the toy English Bulldogs a threat that could terminate the older breed.

By the mid-1860s, numerous workers had lost their jobs due to the technological advancement that led to the industrial revolution. This led lace workers to leave the English city of Nottingham and settle in Normandy, a French region near the English channel.

They resumed their trade and brought along their companion dogs, which were mostly miniature Bulldogs. That was when the French fell in love with these breeds.


The English didn’t want the threatening miniature dogs while the French adored them, especially for their small size and pricked ears, so it was a win-win deal.

As a result, they sold them to the French, and these breeds instantaneously became the fashion highlight in Paris. The new fashion icons were renamed “Bouledogue Français”, sometimes dubbed “Frenchies”.

Other features like the round eyes and pointy ears began to flourish more as they were bred with pugs and terriers. While the toy English Bulldogs sadly becoming scarce, they were becoming extinct in England around the first world war.

Coming Back Home

The Bouledogue Français breed came back to its original home in England in 1893 but was also not welcomed due to not meeting the English Bulldog standards.

Consequently, supporters of the Bouledogue Français started their own kennel club in 1902. Finally, in 1903, the English Kennel Club included the Frenchies to their list, thanks to their growing popularity.

Entering the US

Accompanied by wealthy Americans returning back from Europe, the Frenchies were introduced to the US in early 1885.

The Breed was favored by many of the elites, and its first club in America was established in 1897. It was founded by wealthy women who wanted to set the right breeding standards.

Moreover, it became a nationally recognized breed when the Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans acknowledged the breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1898. The dog’s name was eventually changed to French Bulldog in 1912.


Whether you’re fond of this breed or not, you have to admit that this dog does have quite an impressive past. A history that features traveling all the way from ancient Greece, to England, France, and getting smaller and smaller as it went by.