Pug 101: Breed History
For such a small dog, the Pug has a very large history. They have gone through many changes over the centuries, but one fact has always been the same – they love being with people. Many famous people owned Pugs throughout history, which helped to spread their popularity among the fashionable of the world. Looking at their history shows us a glimpse of what living with a Pug is like.
Pugs were reserved for the Imperial court of China, but through trade and wars eventually made their way to Europe, first through Holland. They were a common sight in European royal homes and thrones by the sixteenth century. Famous Pug owners include Josephine (Napoleon’s wife); William, Prince of Orange in Holland who credits a warning from his Pug in saving him from an assassin. And English painter William Hogarth, who put his Pug “Trump” in several paintings.
Small snub-nosed dogs in China were considered Imperial property. Chinese Emperor Ling To (168 – 190 CE) is reported to have any Pug-nappers be put to death. However, his Pugs had Imperial guards around them, so they were most likely safe. Back then it is thought Pugs came in both long and short coats, again suggesting a Pekingese influence. Pugs were also seen in many colors, not just the three colors recognized today (fawn, black and silver).
If Hogarth’s representations of his Pug were accurate, then Pugs in his day (1697 – 1764) were probably barely recognizable as Pugs. They had longer legs, a slimmer body and a longer nose. They were bred in a variety of colors like fawn, black and silver. There were a limited number of Pugs brought to Holland, and then they spread out to other countries. It is commonly thought that Pugs were bred to small Bulldogs or an extinct small Mastiff in order to continue the breed.
Over the centuries, the Pug came in many different colors. They came in all golden-tan, brindle and bicolor (splotches or brown or black on a white coat). For some reason, the shorthaired Pug was much preferred to the longhair variety, which has been bred out.
Since there was not a large gene pool of Pugs in Europe, it is thought that for centuries they were crossed with Bulldogs and possibly small Mastiffs.
The Pug as we know today came about in the 1800’s, when the first organized dog shows began in Europe. It didn’t take long for the idea of dog shows to cross the Atlantic. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1885.
Pugs have always loved people and always will, as long as the breed survives. Hopefully, there will be an emphasis on breeding healthy dogs rather than show-winning dogs in the future. It’s the least we owe the Pug.