The Bat Eared Dog: A Complete History of the French Bulldog Breed

Almost 70% of United States households own a pet, so we clearly are people that adore our furry friends!

As many pet owners know, learning about the type of pet you have is important. For dog owners, it can help us know how to train them, what health issues to look out for, and what type of needs they may have.

A popular dog breed is the French bulldog. Frenchies came about in the 1800s, but how did that happen? Where did they originate from?

If you want to learn about this bat eared dog, keep reading and understand the history celebrating this breed.

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French Bulldogs: The Bat Eared Dog

English bulldog breeders started to change the breed somewhere between 150 to 200 years ago. They wanted bigger, heftier dogs that had more distinguishing features.

Some crossbred the bulldogs with terriers, which resulted in dogs that were used for dog fighting and baiting around the country.

Others decided to breed small toy bulldogs that weighed about 12 to 25 pounds. They had round foreheads, short underjaws, and upright ears. English people working in the midlands, such as those in lace-making, quite liked the smaller dogs.

After the Industrial Revolution, a lot of small craft shop patrons, such as lace-makers, decided to move to the North of France. Those that did so brought their small bulldogs along and the popularity started to spread across Normandy and Paris.

Bouledogues Français (French Bulldogs)

Breeders in England suddenly had the opportunity to trade and export the toy bulldogs to France due to an increase in interest, which is where they got the name French Bulldog.

People in Paris loved these dogs and they became the favorite of the average Parisian. The artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec created several pieces of work that depicted the French bulldog Bouboule, which was owned by Madame Palmyre. 

During this time, British people were not interested in owning these types of dogs, so the French basically owned the breed until the late 19th century.

American Interest in the French Bulldogs

It was decided that they wanted to create a dog breed that was more uniform with small bodies, straight legs, and a more regular underjaw.

Some of the dogs had “bat ears” (erect) and others had “rose ears” (floppy). The Americans liked the dogs with the bat ears and when wealthy individuals would travel to France from the United States, they would take them back home upon departure.

The French breeders and British breeders didn’t mind that the Americans liked the bat-eared dogs as they preferred the rose eared pups.

French bulldogs were first exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1896. Although this breed was not yet approved by the American Kennel Club, it was on the cover of the Westminster catalog the following year.

Results of First Few Major Dog Shows

During the show, there were bat eared and rose eared dogs that were exhibited. The English judge decided to only put up the rose eared dogs and this angered many of the American fans.

After this, the angry Americans decided to create the French Bull Dog Club of America and placed a standard on the French bulldog to only have bat ears. 

In 1898, at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show of that year, Americans were angry once again to see that both rose eared and bat eared dogs were being shown. They were going against the standard they had tried to set before.

The Americans pulled their own dogs from the show and the American judge decided not to participate in the judging. The club organized a separate show that only showcased bat eared dogs. This show was held at the Waldorf-Astoria. 

After World War I

French bulldogs continued being popular, especially on the east coast, in the United States. Following the first World War, the breed became much less popular for several reasons, including the introduction of the Boston Terrier.

It’s important to note that air conditioning was not common in residences at this point, so many people struggled with keeping their French bulldogs healthy and happy. Interest in purebred dogs overall declined during the Great Depression.

There were few breeders in Europe and America that were able to continue through this time, but by the 1940s, the French Bulldog was rare and just 100 were still registered with the American Kennel Club.

During and After World War II

During World War II, it was hard for any type of dog breeder to keep going. Many dogs starved or were put down, especially in Europe, due to the lack of opportunities to eat and have food.

Up until this point, almost all French bulldogs were brindle, but a few were pied and white. Cream and fawn Frenchies were very rare and did not gain popularity until the mid-1900s. A breeder from Detroit started to show her cream French bulldogs and had great success with hundreds of wins and Best in Show awards.

After that, cream and fawn Frenchies were more common in general, but especially in dog shows. It was still true that, at this time, there were not many French bulldogs available and breeding them was not as popular as it was before the wars. 

Renewal of the French Bull Dog Club of America 

In the 1980s, the French Bull Dog Club of America was back and had younger breeders that were able to change the shows into big events and contribute to a new magazine.

In 1980, there were 170 French bulldogs registered with the American Kennel Club and by 1990, the number rose to 632.

Since those days, the popularity of the dogs continued to rise again. In 2006, over 5,000 Frenchies were registered and in today’s world, you can see French bulldogs all over the place. 

It’s important to note that the skyrocketing fashionableness can be scary for breed-lovers. Maintaining breed type and keeping breeding habits safe is of the highest concern for this breed, especially due to the many health problems they can be subject to. 

How Can You Own a French Bulldog? 

Owning this bat eared dog can be a great way to build companionship.

Whether you want to show your dog or just have a buddy to spend time with at home, the Frenchie is a great breed to consider. 

With a rich history backing them up, this breed can be a great investment for a lifelong friend. 

If you’re interested in this type of content, check out another section of our website and learn about another type of animal out there.


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