What Breeds Make a French Bulldog: Unraveling Their Unique Genetics

Do you ever find yourself captivated by those bat-eared, compact canines that seem to effortlessly steal the spotlight? Well, chances are you’ve fallen under the spell of a French Bulldog. So, if you’ve ever pondered this breed’s genetic ingredients and what breeds make a French Bulldog, you’re in luck. 

 Originating in the 1800s, French Bulldogs are a result of breeding various other breeds to create this unique and lovable companion. Understanding the history and origins of this canine can help potential owners appreciate the legacy and character of these charming pets.

Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) came to our rescue when uncovering the genetic secrets of this breed. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of Frenchie DNA!

So, What Breeds Make A French Bulldog?

The French Bulldog is a purebred dog with a historical mix of breeds. Originally, it descended from the toy English Bulldog, later crossed with Terriers, and French ratter breeds. However, current French Bulldogs are purebreds, and DNA tests will confirm them as 100% French Bulldog.

Genetics is a fascinating thing. It is how you get all the breed colors like Sable and Brindle Frenchies and even the more unusual ones like lilac, platinum, and Isabella. But how did we get here in the first place? How did the first Frenchie come to be in the first place?

Breeds Related To The French Bulldog

None of us were around in the 1800s, so we’ll need to rely on science to help us unravel the DNA ingredient mystery. As we mentioned, Pugs, Terriers, and Bulldogs are credited for this breed. But how true is this?

Let’s start by looking at the genetic knowledge and studies, a.k .a. the stuff we have today. The biggest study was done by Elaine A. Ostrander and her team and published in Nature Communication

Here, Elaine found that there are two breed categories. One is based on human-defined classes, which is what we know as breeds, and the other is on genetic data-derived lineages. Luckily, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has a summary presentation for this classification.

From this chart, Frenchies are most closely related to the:

  • Boxer;
  • Bulldog;
  • Dogue de Bordeaux;
  • Boston Terrier;
  • Bull Terrier;
  • Pitbulls; 
  • Mastiff; 
  • Bullmastiff; and 
  • Boerboel. 

Now to be clear, it doesn’t mean these breeds make the French Bulldog. It only means these breeds are the most closely related. In other words, they share the same ancestral breeds. And what breed is it that started this family tree? Well, it’s the old Bull Baiting dog, the Old English Bullldog.

When sports like dog fighting and bull baiting were outlawed, the Old English Bulldog gradually went extinct. But it lives on in many the dog breeds that emerged in the Victorian era of “dog fanciers,” when the idea of pedigree dogs who all fitted a breed standard took hold. So the once terrifying old English Bulldog was bred smaller into the beloved and popular companion dog it is today.

Therefore, from this chart, it’s highly likely that Parisan Terriers were bred with Toy Bulldogs for the Frenchie. There is no evidence that the Pug is related to the French Bulldog, since they are not in the same genetic family, nor is there any written history to support that Pugs were involved in making French Bulldogs.

In fact, the Pug is nowhere near the French Bulldog on the dog family tree. It’s closer to breeds like the Brussels Griffon or the 

History of the French Bulldog

The history of the French Bulldog is a fascinating journey that spans several countries and centuries. It begins in ancient Greece with the Molossians, an ancient tribe who bred the massive, war-ready Molossus dogs. This breed would eventually lead to a sub-family of breeds, including the Bullenbeisser. The Bullenbeisser, now extinct, was a bull-baiting dog with strong jaws, a direct ancestor to modern bulldog breeds like the Olde English Bulldog, English Bulldog, American Bulldog, and the French Bulldog.

England played a crucial role in the French Bulldog’s history, providing the foundation with the old bulldog, a strong, long-legged, athletic dog. In 1835, after Britain outlawed bull-baiting, the bulldog’s role shifted from sport to companionship. This change led to crossbreeding with terriers and pugs to create smaller bulldogs. By 1850, miniature Bulldogs, which would evolve into the French Bulldog, were common in London. These dogs were significantly different from their Bullenbeisser ancestors, being smaller and more suited as companion animals.

The Industrial Revolution caused a significant migration of lace workers from Nottingham to France, particularly Normandy. These workers brought with them the miniature bulldogs. In France, the breed was further refined and became extremely popular. Bulldogs that didn’t meet English breeding standards were sent to France, where their unique characteristics, like small size and erect ears, were favored.

In France, these bulldogs became known as the Bouledogue Français and quickly turned into a symbol of Parisian life, adored by everyone from the working class to the social elite. American breeders later contributed to the breed’s development, particularly standardizing the breed’s iconic “bat ears.”

Let’s take a closer look at the ancestral breeds that made the Frenchie.

Toy Old English Bulldog

The Old English Bulldog, particularly its smaller toy variety, is the cornerstone in the ancestry of the French Bulldog. These Bulldogs were initially bred in England for bull-baiting, a now-outlawed blood sport. 

However, with the banning of bull-baiting in the 19th century, the need for aggressive traits diminished, leading to a shift in breeding practices. Breeders started focusing on smaller, more docile Bulldogs that were better suited as companions rather than fighters. These smaller Bulldogs retained their muscular build and distinctive facial features but were less aggressive and smaller in size compared to their ancestors.

Parisian Ratters

When these smaller Bulldogs were brought to France, they encountered another key contributor to the breed: the Parisian Ratters. Parisian Ratters were a type of small, terrier-like dogs used in Paris for pest control. They were agile, alert, and proficient in hunting rats, a valuable trait in the urban environment of Paris. 

The mixing of these two breeds — the smaller Old English Bulldog and the Parisian Ratters — resulted in a unique blend. The French Bulldog inherited the muscular build and distinctive bat-like ears from the Bulldogs, while gaining a smaller stature and heightened alertness from the Parisian Ratters.

American Influence

The charm of the French Bulldog quickly caught the attention of Americans, who began importing them to the United States in droves. American breeders contributed to the development of the breed, mainly by emphasizing the importance of their distinctive bat-like ears. As a result, the breed’s popularity soared not only in America but also in France and England.

Throughout its history, the French Bulldog has captured the hearts of people in England, France, and the United States. Today, it remains a beloved breed worldwide, with a rich history reflecting its international appeal.

Anatomy of the French Bulldog

If you’re smitten by those adorably bat-eared, squishy-faced pups that steal hearts with a single glance, you’re in the right place. Let’s talk Frenchie looks.

Unique Bat-Like Ears

One of the most distinctive features of the French Bulldog is their unique bat-like ears. These ears stand erect, giving the breed a charming and playful appearance. The large, rounded shape and wide-open position of the ears help them maintain excellent hearing and contribute to their expressive faces.

Brachycephalic Skull

This breed, like other bulldog breeds, has a brachycephalic skull. Brachycephalic refers to the short, broad head with a flattened muzzle, which is a characteristic of this breed. 

 This skull shape can cause health issues, especially breathing difficulties, but it also contributes to the breed’s signature appearance, including the distinctive wrinkles on their faces. These wrinkles should be kept clean and dry to avoid infections and other health issues.

Distinctive Coat Patterns

Frenchies have a smooth coat that is fine and soft to the touch. Their coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns, which adds to their unique appearance. Here are some common coat colors and patterns you’ll find:

  • Brindle: A blend of dark and light hairs, often giving the appearance of stripes.
  • Fawn: A solid light to medium brown color, accompanied by a black or dark mask around the eyes and muzzle.
  • White: A predominantly white coat, with or without patches of other colors.
  • Pied: A coat pattern featuring large patches of color on a white background.
  • Blue: A rare and increasingly popular coat color, with shades ranging from steel gray to silver blue
  • Chocolate: A solid brown color. They may have a lighter brown nose and eye rims.
  • Black: While less common, black Frenchies do exist. They have a solid black coat without any brindle or other patterns.

Other colors and patterns that are becoming popular include rare colors like pink, isabella, lilac, and merle. Remember, the breed standard only recognizes

Health Considerations 

A study published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics found Frenchies to be more susceptible to 20 conditions compared to non-frenchie breeds. The most common issue was narrowed nostrils, Brachycephalic aiwars syndrome, skin issues, and birthing difficulties.

French Bulldog Breed Standards

When it comes to Frenchies, size and weight matter. Here are the basic guidelines for this breed:

Size and Weight Guidelines

  • Size: This is a small breed with a muscular and compact build.
  • Height: The typical height for males and females is about 11 to 13 inches at the withers.
  • Weight: The ideal weight varies, but it usually falls between 16 and 28 pounds. It’s essential to monitor your pup’s weight to prevent obesity-related health issues.

Color and Marking Rules

When discussing colors and markings, there are a few rules dictated by breed standards:

  • Colors: French Bulldogs come in various colors such as brindle, pied, fawn, and cream, and a combination of these colors. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes various color combinations, but it’s important to note that all kennel clubs do not accept some colors due to potential health issues.
  • Markings: The breed standard for the French Bulldog includes certain markings, such as a white blaze on the face or a white chest. Other markings, such as a black mask or ticking, might also be present but are not required.
  • Bat Ears: One of the most distinctive features of these dogs is their large, erect “bat ears.” These ears should always be set high on the head, wide at the base, and round at the tips.

Personality and Temperament

Frenchies are known for their affectionate, playful, and companionable nature. Studies prove their temperament to be so good that most Frenchie owners get more because of their pleasant, even-tempered dispositions. 

These little dogs are intelligent and can be stubborn at times, which may require additional patience during training. However, their alertness and interest in what’s happening around them make them adaptable learners.

How are French Bulldogs Made?

French Bulldogs are bred through a careful and specific breeding process, primarily involving purebred French Bulldogs. Due to their unique physical characteristics, such as their flat faces and compact bodies, breeding often requires special considerations. They are typically bred to maintain their distinctive appearance and temperament. However, natural mating and birthing are challenging due to their body structure, so artificial insemination and cesarean sections are often used in their breeding process.

What Group is the French Bulldog in?

In the dog breed classification system, French Bulldogs belong to the Non-Sporting Group. This group includes a diverse range of breeds that don’t fit into the other specific categories like sporting or hound groups. The Non-Sporting Group encompasses breeds with various sizes, personalities, and appearances, including the French Bulldog, which is known for its friendly, easygoing nature and distinctive looks.

How to Make a French Bulldog Healthy

To ensure the health of French Bulldogs, breeders and owners can take several steps:

  1. Breeding for Health

    Responsible breeders are increasingly focusing on breeding French Bulldogs for better health. This includes selecting breeding pairs with fewer genetic health issues and traits that contribute to better overall health, like longer noses, which can reduce respiratory issues.

  2. Crossbreeding

    Some breeders engage in crossbreeding with other breeds to introduce genetic diversity, which can help reduce the risk of hereditary health issues. This approach can also contribute to healthier respiratory systems and overall vigor.

  3. Routine Health Checks

    Regular veterinary care is crucial for maintaining the health of French Bulldogs. This includes routine check-ups, vaccinations, and addressing any health concerns promptly.

  4. Proper Diet and Exercise

    A balanced diet and regular exercise are vital for their health. Due to their risk of obesity, monitoring their food intake and ensuring they get enough physical activity is important.

What are Fluffy Frenchies Mixed with?

“Fluffy Frenchies,” or French Bulldogs with a longer, fluffier coat than the typical short-haired variety, are often the result of a rare genetic mutation. In some cases, they may be mixed with other breeds that carry the gene for long hair. This can include mixes with breeds like the Chihuahua or Pomeranian, which can introduce the long hair gene into the French Bulldog gene pool. 

However, it’s important to note that these are not standard French Bulldogs as recognized by most breed organizations. The introduction of other breeds into the lineage for specific traits like a longer coat is a part of ongoing efforts to diversify and potentially improve the health of the breed.

French Bulldog Breed Development

Remember, responsible breeders will prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs. And, they’ll work to minimize potential disorders by making informed crossbreeding decisions. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the breed’s history and current development efforts to ensure that your companion comes from a healthy and loving background.

Selective Breeding Practices

You’ll notice that Frenchies have some distinct features, such as an adorable underbite, muscular body, and bat-like ears. These features are primarily a result of selective breeding practices.

As a dog lover, you may already know that selective breeding is the process of mating specific dogs with particular traits. This is to achieve and maintain desired characteristics in the offspring. In this breed, breeders focused on attributes such as size, coat color, and ear shape to create the appearance we know and love today.

Breeders and Breed Clubs

Since these dogs quickly became popular in Paris, many breeders capitalized on their appeal by breeding them further. The increased fashion for these dogs led to their introduction in other countries, including the United States and England, eventually leading to the establishment of breed clubs.

Breed clubs play an essential role in developing and maintaining breed standards. They provide guidelines for breeders and help ensure the breed’s unique characteristics are preserved. If you’re considering adding this dog to your family, it’s crucial to find a reputable breeder who follows these guidelines.

Future of The French Bulldog

The future of the French Bulldog breed, a popular and affectionate companion, is a subject of growing concern among veterinarians, breeders, and dog enthusiasts. One of the primary challenges facing this breed is its predisposition to various health issues, largely stemming from its distinctive physical characteristics. 

The breed’s brachycephalic (short-nosed) facial structure, while endearing to many, can lead to serious breathing difficulties, a condition known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Additionally, French Bulldogs are prone to spinal disorders, joint diseases, and heart conditions, all of which can impact their quality of life.

Another significant concern is the breed’s limited genetic pool. The increasing popularity of French Bulldogs has led to a surge in demand, often resulting in irresponsible breeding practices that do not prioritize genetic diversity. This limited gene pool can exacerbate inherited health problems and reduce the overall genetic health of the breed.

Looking to the future, there are several steps that can be taken to improve the outlook for the French Bulldog breed:

  1. Responsible Breeding: Breeders should prioritize health over appearance, focusing on breeding French Bulldogs with less exaggerated physical features, such as longer muzzles, to mitigate health issues. Emphasis on genetic diversity and health screenings can help reduce the prevalence of inherited conditions.
  2. Veterinary Research and Healthcare: Advances in veterinary medicine can provide better treatment and management of the breed’s health issues. Increased research into the genetic conditions affecting French Bulldogs can lead to more effective preventative measures and treatments.
  3. Public Awareness: Educating potential owners about the breed’s health issues and care requirements can lead to more informed decisions about dog ownership. This awareness can also reduce the demand for dogs with extreme physical characteristics that are detrimental to their health.
  4. Breed Standard Revisions: Kennel clubs and breed organizations can play a crucial role by revising breed standards to favor healthier physical traits, thereby encouraging breeders to produce dogs with fewer health problems.
  5. Collaboration and Regulation: Collaboration between breeders, veterinarians, and animal welfare organizations is essential to develop and enforce regulations that promote the ethical breeding of French Bulldogs.

In conclusion, the future of the French Bulldog breed hinges on concerted efforts to address its health challenges and to promote sustainable breeding practices. By taking these steps, it is possible to preserve the breed’s charming characteristics while enhancing its health and wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How did the French Bulldog breed originate?

The Frenchie originated in the 1800s when English breeders crossed small English Bulldogs with local Terriers. This resulted in a charming, small companion dog that became popular among the elite. The breed’s history is a testament to its unique and captivating appearance.

What are the main characteristics of French Bulldog behavior?

Frenchies are known for their friendly, sociable, and affectionate nature. They easily adapt to various environments, making them suitable for both urban apartments and suburban homes. They bond closely with their families and often get along well with other pets. Due to their strong personalities, it’s important to establish yourself as a leader early on and maintain consistency in training.

Can you describe the typical personality of a French Bulldog?

The typical personality of this pup is a mix of playfulness, intelligence, and loyalty. They are known for their easygoing temperament and entertaining antics. These dogs are always eager to please their owners and enjoy being the center of attention. Despite their small size, they can be quite stubborn, so patience and persistence are crucial when training them.

What are the different coat colors available in French Bulldogs?

These dogs come in various coat colors, including brindle, fawn, white, cream, and pied (a combination of white and another color). These colors can be found in various patterns, such as solid, with spots, or with a facial mask. It’s essential to note that some coat colors, like blue and merle, are not recognized by breed standards and may be associated with health issues.

How long do French Bulldogs usually live?

The average lifespan of a Frenchie is between 10 to 12 years. However, some French Bulldogs have been known to live longer with proper care, regular veterinary check-ups, and a healthy diet.

Are there any common health issues observed in French Bulldogs?

Yes, there are some common health issues observed in this breed. Due to their brachycephalic (flat-faced) anatomy, they are prone to breathing difficulties and may struggle with heat regulation. They are also susceptible to joint and hip problems, eye issues, skinfold infections, and food allergies. 

Final Thoughts

When thinking about the breeds that make up a French Bulldog, it’s important to understand their history and genetic makeup. These dogs originated from the crossbreeding of English Bulldogs with local rat-catching dogs in the 1800s. This mix resulted in a smaller, more athletic breed now known as the French Bulldog.

Tamsin de la Harpe

Tamsin de la Harpe, with a lively spirit and 15 years of experience in dog training and behavior, brings a unique flair to the team. Based in South Africa, she is deeply engaged in rehabilitating dogs, focusing on their mental and nutritional health. Tamsin's approach to dog behavior is hands-on and heartfelt, shaped by her life with her own dogs and horses. Her journey in canine behavior is ongoing, as she continues advanced studies in this field.

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