Example of 4 year old French Bulldog of champion bloodline, side view. Notice the “rope” over the nose, and pronounced underbite.
The Bulldog is a breed with characteristically wide shoulders and a matching head. There are generally thick folds of skin on a Bulldog’s brow, followed by round, black, wide-set eyes, a short muzzle with characteristic folds called “rope” above the nose, with hanging skin under the neck, drooping lips, and pointed teeth. The coat is short, flat and sleek, with colors of red, fawn, white, brindle (mixed colors, often in waves or irregular stripes), and piebald.
In the US, the size of a typical mature male is about 55-60 pounds and that for mature females is about 45 pounds for a Standard English Bulldog. In the United Kingdom, the breed standard is 55 pounds for a male and 50 pounds for a female.
While some canine breeds have their tails cut or docked soon after birth, Bulldogs are one of very few breeds whose tail is naturally short and curled.
French Bulldogs are considered to make excellent companions. They rarely bark, and are patient and affectionate with their owners, especially with children, who are especially protected by the females. French Bulldogs can easily live with other breeds.
They are ranked 58th in Stanley Coren’s The intelligence of dogs. There are certain exceptions to this average level of canine intelligence; a French Bulldog named Princess Jacqueline which died in 1934 was claimed to understand 20 words, reacting correctly.
In October 2010, the UK French Bulldog Health Scheme was launched. The scheme consists of three levels, the basic vet check corresponding to the Bronze level, this covers all the Kennel Club Breed Watch points of concern for the breed. The next level, Silver, requires a DNA test for hereditary cataracts, a simple cardiology test, and patella grading. The Gold level requires a hip score and a spine evaluation. The European and UK French Bulldog fanciers and Kennel Clubs are ahead of the Americans and the AKC in moving away from the screw, cork-screw or ‘tight’ tail (which is an inbreed spinal defect), and returning to the short drop tail which the breed originally had. The UK breed standard now reads: “Tail Undocked, [delete ‘very’] short, set low, thick at root, tapering quickly towards tip, preferably [delete ‘either’] straight, [delete ‘or kinked’] and long enough to cover anus. Never curling over back nor carried gaily.”
Blood sports such as bull-baiting were outlawed in England in 1835, leaving these “bulldogs” unemployed. However, they had been bred for non-sporting reasons since at least 1800, and so their use changed from a sporting breed to a companion breed. To reduce their size, some bulldogs were crossed with terriers, while others were crossed with pugs. By 1850 the Toy Bulldog had become common in England, and appeared in conformation shows when they began around 1860. These dogs weighed around 16–25 pounds (7.3–11.3 kg), although classes were also available at dog shows for those that weighed under 12 pounds (5.4 kg).
At the same time, lace workers from Nottingham, displaced by the industrial revolution, began to settle in Normandy, France. They brought a variety of dogs with them, including miniature Bulldogs.The dogs became popular in France and a trade in imported small Bulldogs was created, with breeders in England sending over Bulldogs that they considered to be too small, or with faults such as ears that stood up. By 1860, there were few miniature Bulldogs left in England, such was their popularity in France and due to the exploits of specialist dog exporters.
The small bulldog type gradually became thought of as a breed, and received a name, the Bouledogue Francais. This Francization of the English name is also a contraction of the words “boule” (ball) and “dogue” (mastiff or molosser). The dogs were highly fashionable and were sought after by society ladies and Parisian prostitutes alike, as well as creatives such as artists, writers and fashion designers. However, records were not kept of the breed’s development as it diverged further away from its original bulldog roots. As it changed, terrier and pug stock may have been brought in to develop traits such as the breed’s long straight ears, and the roundness of their eyes.