French Bulldog Origins

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Frenchie History 101

The history of French Bulldogs dates all the way back to the 1700s… from England to France and around the world— Frenchies have taken the world by storm!

Since then, Frenchies have slowly evolved into the breed we all know and love today.

Let’s now explore the history of Frenchies.

French Bulldog Historical Timeline

Here are some important Frenchie milestones.

Origins of French Bulldogs

The original ancestral type of the current version of the French Bulldog can trace its lineage back to England between 150-200 years ago.

Yes, that’s right… Frenchies aren’t originally from France.

Bull Baiting

The ancestor of the modern-day French Bulldog was a robust and athletic dog used in the activity of bull-baiting.

Bull-baiting was a popular sport in medieval times and is the practice whereby dogs are encouraged to harass and attack a tethered bull.

Late 1800s

The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s created stable jobs and better economic conditions for many people.

Now, people could care for pets as animals, rather than just owning them for agricultural reasons.

Industrialization also led to many small craft shops in England being forced out of business.

These British craftsmen left their native country and headed to Northern France, where they’d be bringing their newly bred version of the toy bulldog.

Meet the “Bouledogue français” (French Bulldog)

It was here in France where the breed got the name “Bouledogue français” or “French Bulldog” in French.

It wasn’t long before the French Bulldog gained popularity among the social elite of Paris.

1896 — Westminster

At this point, the English wanted nothing to do with the new “French” version of their Toy Bulldog. They preferred their version of the bulldog over the French one.

Frenchies Debut at Westminster

Frenchies first exhibited at Westminster in 1896, despite not being an American Kennel Club (AKC) approved breed.

Westminster is “an all-breed conformation show, traditionally held annually at New York City’s Madison Square Garden”.

The first Westminster dog show was held in 1877!

To America we go!

Affluent Americans visiting France quickly fell in love with the Frenchies and brought them back to America with them.

1897 — The Ear Debate

On April 5th, 1897, the French Bulldog Club of America (FBDCA) was formed after much debate over whether the Frenchie should have “bat” ears or rose-shaped ears.

The Americans believed all Frenchies should have bat-ears— just like the Frenchies we all know & love today.

1898 — Frenchie Drama

At the Westminster Dog Show of 1898, both bat-eared and rose-eared were shown. This was highly a controversial move at the time as rose-eared French Bulldogs were not recognized by kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club.

Let the Frenchie drama begin…

The Americans were having none of it— they protested the show by pulling their dogs out! An American judge even refused to participate!

The Americans believed that Frenchies needed bat ears to be considered a Frenchie (bat ears are the classic Frenchie ears you see today!)

1898 — Waldorf Astoria

In 1898, the first French Bulldog specialty show was held at the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria hotel in NYC.

This was also the first time the Frenchie received serious media attention! This high profile event led to a sharp increase in Frenchies’ popularity, especially among East Coast US elite.

1913 – Westminster Kennel Club

In 1913, the French Bulldog entered the Westminster Kennel Club with an entry of 100.

1950s — Frenchies on the Decline

At this point, Frenchies were losing a bit of the spotlight they previously held after the Waldorf Astoria event.

Frenchies looked a bit different

During this time, most Frenchies were Brindle, followed by Pied & White Frenchies.

A breeder named Amanda West from Detroit began showing her Cream Frenchies— they were a huge success. Amanda went on to win over 500 group wins, 111 ”Best in Show” awards, and over 21 consecutive wins at Westminster!

1960s — Frenchie Extinction?!

Despite the newfound success Frenchies found at shows, their population continued to struggle & the total number of Frenchies registered with the AKC just was around 100.

In fact, this was so alarming that the AKC Gazette published an article expressing their concern over the extinction of the breed!

There are many advantages to owning a dog of this breed but there are very few bred and very few exhibited. If the trend keeps on, eventually the breed will become extinct… No one wants to see the breed overpopularized but certainly the breed deserves to be known and appreciated by the public.

Why Are Frenchies So Scarce? (AKC Gazette)

1980s — A turn of events

Renewed attention was given to the breed through the French Bull Dog Club of America in the 80s. While some breeders were focused on evolving the Frenchie through careful breeding, others were working on growing the shows & exhibitions around French Bulldogs.

During this decade, the popularity of Frenchies grew more than they had ever before!

Frenchies Today

The resurgence Frenchies experienced at the end of the 20th century has certainly carried over to the 21st century.

In 2006, over 5,500 Frenchies were registered— but the breed’s popularity hasn’t stopped growing. In 2010, Frenchies won ”Best in Group” at Westminster Dog Show!

French Bulldog popularity over time

YearAKC Ranking
20149
20156enogs
20166
20174
20184
20194
20202
20212

Frenchies & Celebrities

Similar to their entrance into Parisian society in the late 1800s, it is not uncommon to see Frenchies in the arms of Hollywood celebrities.

It seems like a Frenchie is seen in every movie & TV advertisement today too!

There’s no doubt about it— Frenchies are once again the darling pet of high society.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did French Bulldogs originally come from?

While their name might have you think Frenchies come from France, French Bulldogs actually originate in England 150-200 years ago.