Pug Breed History

Pug history originated in China and dates back to the Han Dynasty (B.C. 206 to A.D. 200).

Some historians believe Pugs are related to the Tibetan Mastiff. They were prized by the Emperors of China and lived in luxurious accommodations – some even guarded by soldiers!

Pugs are one of three types of short-nosed dogs known to have been bred by the Chinese:

  • The Lion dog
  • The Pekingese
  • The Lo-size (considered an ancient Pug)

Pugs quickly became favourites of Royal households throughout Europe and even played remarkable roles in the history of many of these families.

As the Pug’s popularity spread throughout Europe, they became known by different names. In France, the Carlin; in Spain, the Dogullo; in Germany – Mops; and in Italy, Caganlino.

Pugs became very popular during the Victorian era and were featured in many paintings, postcards, and figurines of the period. Often they were depicted wearing wide, decorative collars or large bows around their short, thick necks.

Pugs were introduced to the United States after the Civil War, and the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1885. Then in 1931, the Pug Dog Club of America came of age. These early Pugs were mostly golden or apricot fawns. In the mid-19th century two distinct strains of Pugs were developed that dominated the Pug breeding lines for several decades. Each was named after the two rival breeders, the Willoughby and the Morrison.

Eventually the two breed lines interbred and the distinction between the two faded. To this day, however, some Pug lovers still speak of the Willoughby when referring to the lighter fawn coloured Pug or the Morrison when referring to a golden or apricot coloured Pug.

The black Pug was first seen in England in 1886 and is thought to have come from breeding the darker masked Morrison Pugs. Today, Pugs can be seen in a variety of colours such as apricot, silver, brindle, white and traditional fawn & black.

Some think that the famous “Foo Dogs” of China are representations of the ancient Pug. Evidence of Pug-like dogs have been found in ancient Tibet and Japan.

In the latter 1500’s and early 1600’s, China began trading with European countries. Reportedly, the first Pugs brought to Europe came with the Dutch traders, who named the breed Mopshond, a name still used today.

In Holland, the Pug became the official dog of the House of Orange after a Pug reportedly saved the life of William, Prince of Orange, by giving him a warning that the Spaniards were approaching in 1572.

When William of Orange (later called William III) went to England in 1688 with his wife to take the throne from James II, they brought their Pugs with them. It is known that black pugs existed in the 1700’s because the famous artist, William Hogarth, was a Pug enthusiast. He portrayed a black Pug and many others in his famous paintings. In 1785, Goya also portrayed Pugs in his paintings.

Marie Antoinette had a Pug named Mops before she married Louis XVI at the age of 15. Another famous Frenchwoman, Josephine Bonaparte, had a Pug named Fortune. Before she married Napoleon Bonaparte, she was confined at Les Carmes prison. Since her beloved Pug was the only “visitor” she was allowed, she would conceal messages in his collar to take to her family.

In the early 1800’s, Pugs were standardised as a breed with two lines becoming dominant in England. One line was called the Morrison line and, reportedly, was founded upon the royal dogs of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. The other line was developed by Lord and Lady Willoughby d’Eresby, and was founded on dogs imported from Russia or Hungary.

Pugs were first exhibited in England in 1861. The studbook began in 1871 with 66 Pugs in the first volume. Meanwhile, in China, Pugs continued to be bred by the royal families. When the British overran the Chinese Imperial Palace in 1860, they discovered several Pugs, and brought some of the little dogs back to England with them.

Two Pugs named Lamb and Moss were brought to England. These two “pure” Chinese lines were bred and produced Click. He was an outstanding dog and was bred many times to dogs of both the Willoughby and Morrison lines. Click is credited with making Pugs a better breed overall and shaping the modern Pug as we know it today.