The French Bulldog probably descends at least in part from the English Bulldog – likely from one of the toy varieties which were popular in England around the 1850s and 1860s, especially among lace-makers in the Nottingham region of the English midlands. Eventually, the small bulldogs fell out of favor with the English and were sent in large numbers to France, where they were crossed with assorted other breeds and finally became fashionable among both rural landowners and eventually wealthy women in the cities. Although some authors suggest that the French Bulldog’s original function was the bloodsport of bull-baiting, this is highly unlikely. Evidence suggests that from the moment the Frenchie existed as a distinct breed, it was bred almost exclusively as a human companion and watchdog. It gained its French name when the lace-makers from England moved to France, taking their miniature companions with them. The tiny Bulldogs quickly became enormously popular in France, although European breeders tended to prefer rose-shaped ears rather than the large, erect bat-like ears that mark the modern breed. The bat ears add much to the highly distinctive appearance of the French Bulldog and are a predominant breed feature today.
The controversy over ear type led to the formation of the French Bulldog Club of America in 1897, the oldest organization devoted to the breed. It held a specialty show in 1898 in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom in New York, the first show of its kind. After that, the diminutive bulldogs became all the rage in this country, and registration of Frenchies flourished. In 1913, the Westminster Kennel Club reported 100 French Bulldogs benched at its show. The dog that contributed the most to the breed in America may have been Ch. Nellcote Gamin, imported here in 1904 by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Goldenberg. Gamin helped to cement the French Bulldog’s breed type, making the stock in America among the finest in the world, without need for further importation.
The French Bulldog Club of England was founded in 1902, holding its first show in 1903. The Kennel Club in London gave the breed official approval in January of 1906, as the Bouledogue Francais. In 1912, the English Kennel Club changed the name to the French Bulldog.
Frenchies declined in popularity after World War I, while the Boston Terrier’s popularity skyrocketed. The Great Depression made purebred dogs even less accessible to many Americans. Fortunately, by the 1980s and 1990s, the French Bulldog’s popularity in America took a turn for the better, and the breed’s survival seems assured.
The average life expectancy of the French Bulldog is between 10 and 12 years. This is comparable with the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the French Bulldog are as follows:
- Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
- Brachycephalic Syndrome
- Cataracts: Refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts
- Cherry Eye: Condition in which the third eyelid falls down or slips out of place
- Dermoid Cycsts
- follicular dysplasia
- Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Brain Tumors
- Elongated Soft Palate
- Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
- Invertebral Disk Disease: Neurological deficits caused by degeneration and displacement of the material inside an intervertebral disk
- Stenotic Nares
- Von Willebrand Disease: the most common hereditary blood-clotting disorder in domestic dogs.