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Pug - History and Health

Source: PetWave, Updated on June 03, 2016

History of Pug

The Pug is an ancient breed with its origin in China sometime before the 6th century BCE. A short description of a dog that resembles the Pug exists in the 6th century BCE writings of Confucius, and sources from the 5th century BCE suggest that dogs of this type were a favorite of the Shang dynasty rulers, who used them as lap dogs and frequently presented them to others as gifts. It is likely that this early Pug is also the predecessor of the Pekingese. From China, the popularity of the Pug spread to Buddhist monks in Tibet. There are also sources that suggest the Pug encountered similar treatment in Japan. While some sources do exist, much of the artwork and writing that described these early dogs was destroyed in the 3rd century BCE by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Accordingly, the exact nature of the Pug’s origin and its spread through Asia is unknown.

By the 16th century, the Dutch East India Company had imported the breed to Europe. In 1572, the Pug emerged as the House of Orange’s official dog, after a Pug named Pompey allegedly saved the Prince of Orange’s life by warning him of oncoming assassins. Accordingly, when William and Mary of Orange ascended to England’s throne in 1688, they brought their favored breed with them. It was during this time that the Pug was bred with the English Toy Spaniel, which had a profound effect on the course of that breed’s history. By the end of the 17th century, the Pug had gained popularity throughout Europe, evidenced by the appearance of the Pug in Spanish and Italian artwork. It Italy, a custom arose that called for dressing a dog of this type in matching pantaloons and jacket. Additionally, some records suggest the use of the Pug as military trackers and guard dogs.

In the 19th century, the Pug continued its relationship with the British monarchy, having gained the favor of Queen Victoria, who kept many Pugs that she also bred. It was Queen Victoria’s involvement with Pug breeding that led to the establishment of the Kennel Club in 1873. The Pug of this era had cropped ears and longer legs than the standard Pug of today. It is likely that the introduction of Pugs imported from China in the late 19th century led to the creation of the breed standard that exists today.

Health Characteristics of Pug

The average lifespan of a healthy Pug is between 12 and 14 years, but the breed is prone to several health conditions that can dramatically affect the life of these animals. The lack of a prominent snout in this breed puts the Pug at risk for several eye conditions and injuries, such as entropion and proptosis. Dogs of this breed that are not given opportunities for exercise and a proper diet have a higher risk of developing obesity than other dogs. Also, the dog’s quintessential wrinkles on its face require special cleaning because of the risk of infection and irritation developing in that region.

There are several hereditary disorders that commonly afflict the breed. A major condition known as necrotizing meningoencephalitis, or NME, commonly presents itself in dogs of this type, and it leads to an incurable inflammation of the dog’s brain. This condition usually shows itself before the dog is seven years old. The Pug is also prone to the development of a condition known as hemivertebrae. It is this property that gives the breed its distinctive screwtail, but it is possible for this curvature to develop in other parts of the spine when a Pug puppy's body is growing.

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