What Were French Bulldogs Bred For?

French Bulldogs are small, stocky, and possess relatively large bat ears that help them stand apart from similar breeds. These adorable dogs make lovely family pets and remain loyal to their owners. They are such a far cry from the original English Bulldog you may wonder what were French Bulldogs were bred for? With an intriguing past uncovered, you may look at your Frenchie with renewed respect.

Their ancestors may be the fierce English Bulldog, but French Bulldogs are known for their loving, if somewhat stubborn, nature. They were bred to be companions and fulfill their roles with snorts of love as they will gladly follow their owners wherever they may go. Join us as we discover what French Bulldogs were originally bred for and the exciting history of this adorable pup.

What Were French Bulldogs Bred For Originally?

French Bulldogs were not always the adorable goofballs we know and adore today. Their past is one of heroism, tragedy, and strength. Join us on a ride into the past as we delve into the history of the French Bulldog. From there, we will uncover why the French Bulldog of today was created.

What Were French Bulldogs Bred From?

French Bulldogs are an adaptation of the original English Bulldog. The English Bulldog was bred to be a mean and vicious fighting machine in the 1800s. At the time, people enjoyed a popular sport that involved pitting a dog against a bull. (source)

The Bull-Baiting game worked so that the bull was tied with a loose cord, and the dog was released into the ring to immobilize the bull without getting hurt. Needless to say, not many dogs had what it took to succeed.

The English Bulldog became the champion of this sport and was used primarily for this purpose. Thankfully, in 1835, a new anti-cruelty act was passed for animals in England, which saw the end of the barbaric sport. It also put a (slow) end to regular dog fighting in the country.

So what to do with the English Bulldog?

The ban on Bull-Baiting left the English Bulldog out of work and without a purpose. It was around 1850 that it was crossed with the Terrier to create a shorter dog that was better suited to being a pet.

The aim was to breed a dog that would be great at hunting and ridding homes of rats and other pests. The Toy Bulldog ticked all the boxes with shorter legs and a flat snout. An added bonus was its cute factor, which was pretty high on the scale.

Toy Bulldogs are now extinct, but in their day, they were popular pets, loved by their owners and often sported by British lace workers. During the Industrial Revolution, many lace and other workers lost their jobs to automatic machinery. They migrated to Normandy, France, in search of new opportunities.

The lace workers took their beloved pets with them as they went, and their adorable companions became wildly popular in France.

As more of the French population fell in love with the Toy Bulldog, French breeders adapted it. They mixed in more Terrier, giving the dog more of the features we recognize today. Gradually, the Toy Bulldog faded, giving way to the new breed, now named the French Bulldog.

The name “French Bulldog” comes from the French, “Bouledogue Francais,” directly translated to “ball mastiff French.” Ball, of course, refers to the shape of the French Bulldog.

In 1885, the French Bulldog was brought to America and was introduced to American breeding programs. The dogs were owned mainly by ladies of high society, who entered them in various competitions and shows. (source)

After being marked down for various physical features that did not match typical Bulldog standards, the French Bulldog was eventually given its own class as a species of its own.

What Were French Bulldogs Bred For

Were French Bulldogs Used For Bull-Baiting?

The French Bulldog as we know and love it today was not bred for the vicious game of Bull-Baiting. Its ancestor, the English Bulldog, was, however. While the English Bulldog was born and trained for the fighting arena, the French Bulldog was bred specifically as a companion and lap dog.

Why Were French Bulldogs Bred?

As they gained popularity, the French Bulldog became the town’s “it” dog. Indeed, with so many Toy Bulldogs being shipped to France, England had scarcely any left.

Everyone seemed to own a French Bulldog, from ladies of the night to royalty and the man on the street. (source) They made great “ratters,” finding and ridding homes of rats and other pests. They were also wonderful companion dogs and relished time spent with their owners.

Frenchies are good with children and are easy to train, making them suitable pets, especially for those with tiny homes or apartments.

The purpose of a Frenchie has not changed much since the time of the Toy Bulldog, sitting on the laps of lace workers. They are still bred as companions and fulfill their roles well. Their duties may have shifted from finding rats, though, as they are now more likely to be found napping on a comfy couch!

French Bulldogs are bred and kept as friends, companions, and family pets, especially for those with limited space but unlimited love to give a furry friend.

Where Are French Bulldogs From?

French Bulldogs are not, in fact, from France. They originated in England as their forefather, the English Bulldog.

Once Bull-Baiting and dogfighting were banned, the sturdy English Bulldog found itself without many purposes in life. It was then explicitly bred to become a companion and pet for families.

As the breeding process continued, owners found that the toy version of the Bulldog was loveable and friendly, and its short snout made it great for finding rats. So, as “ratters” and companions, the Toy Bulldog became popular.

When many Toy Bulldog owners migrated to France in search of work, the dog was introduced to France. The French loved it and bred it further, changing it to become the French Bulldog we know and love. (source)

Characteristics Of French Bulldogs

You’ve heard it said that French Bulldogs make great family pets and companions. Indeed, they have been bred specifically for that reason. Let us look at some of the characteristics that make this dog species so lovable, along with some challenges you could face if you own one.

Physical Attributes Of French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs have physical attributes that help endear them to us. They are short, close to the ground, with square faces and an underbite. Although they are muscular and toned, their fur can be wrinkled.

They have long bat ears that stand up, and their eyes are a dark color. A definite plus is the short coat that Frenchies possess. Unlike many long-haired breeds, French Bulldogs do not shed all over your couch.

Although their appearance is almost too cute to handle, their intense breeding has led to a few common health implications and a shorter lifespan than other small and medium breeds.  

Owners should be aware of these possible ailments that could affect their Frenchies now or in the future:

  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome. This is loud grunting, snoring, and sniffing and can also include gagging and coughing. It is worse in humid weather.
  • Narrowed nostrils. This can cause difficulty breathing.
  • A collapsing or collapsed trachea. This causes wheezing, coughing, grunting, and sometimes fainting.
  • Allergies to several things, including environmental and food.
  • Cherry eye. An enlarged third eyelid that, if left untreated, can lead to impaired vision.
  • Infertility. It is vital to note that this type of Bulldog cannot reproduce naturally. To breed this type of dog, they must be artificially inseminated and undergo a C-section to give birth.

What Did French Bulldogs Use To Look Like?

It’s challenging to imagine French Bulldogs look different from what they do today, but when they were a new breed, they did have some differences.

The biggest difference you might immediately notice is the shape of their ears. Today, French Bulldogs have large bat ears that stand up. This is the feature the American market loved the most. They fought to keep it and lobbied to have it recognized as a feature of the breed.

In the beginning, French Bulldogs had rose-shaped ears, like their English ancestors. (source)

French Bulldogs were originally bred to be adorable toy versions of the English Bulldog. For that reason, they looked like miniature versions of the English Bulldog. When introduced to France, French breeders began breeding them with French “ratters,” which helped give them a look we know today. (source)

Personality Traits Of French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs were bred specifically to be close and loyal companions. They relish time spent with you and will pine for you if left alone for longer than a few hours at a time.

Frenchies are fairly intelligent and easy to train, as long as you make the process fun and include lots of treats. They have a lingering stubborn streak from their old English Bulldog days, but this is often overcome with treats and love.

French Bulldogs may come from a line of ferocious dogs, but their current form is nothing short of lovable. They enjoy short bursts of exercise of about fifteen minutes twice a day and will likely spend the rest of their day sleeping, lazing on the couch, or following you around.

Frenchies are easy to take around and will follow you wherever you go. They are loyal and extremely loving companions that are good with children and adults alike.

What Are French Bulldogs Used For?

French Bulldogs are used for companionship and love. Far from their ancestors’ purpose of sneaking up on bulls and fighting them, these cutie-pies prefer to lie on your lap or the couch and doze.

Frenchies make great family pets, especially those in small homes or apartments. They require less exercise than more energetic dogs and love their owners with fierce loyalty. (source)

French Bulldogs will not be found working as ratters like their French counterparts of the past. Allow a Frenchie into your family, and it will love you, want to please you, and follow you anywhere.


French Bulldogs were bred as companions and lap dogs. They come from a lineage of fighters, but they are nothing like that today. Frenchies are good family dogs and are loyal friends that are easy to keep in tiny homes or apartments.

Emily Andrews