The origin of the French bulldog is not very old. It dates back only to the 19th century. But to understand its history we must go back to 326 BC. More precisely at the time when Alexander I of Epirus (nicknamed the Molosse) offered Alexander the Great a dog named Péritas later considered by history as a Molosse d’Epirus. These dogs described as excellent hunters, guards and even combat assistants would actually be the ancestor of the bulldog itself a relative of the French bulldog. It is immediately more obvious that even if the breed is relatively young, the traits that characterize it are in fact from a long and old lineage.
It’s hard to find a description of the physical appearance of Epire’s molosses. Nevertheless, in a British museum, a statue of a dog (Jennings dog) is displayed, identified as a depiction of a sheepish watchdog that can be assumed to resemble Péritas, the moose of Alexander the Great.
According to Pliny, these molosses were intended to attack big game. Indeed, he recounts in his book that Alexandre Le Grand had already had a first dog that he would have killed under the pretext that the animal did not move in front of a traditional game, after which his uncle Alexander I of Epirus would have given him another dog by suggesting to him to test it against a lion or an elephant. What he did, and the reaction was without appeal, the dog tore the lion into several pieces and fell the elephant and gained the respect of his master who ordered the construction of a city (Jhelum) in his honour.
To understand the rest of the story it is worth remembering that Alexander the Great (also called Alexander III of Macedonia) is one of the most famous characters of antiquity and king of Macedonia. He wanted to conquer the world, and in his approach, he took from the western part of Asia Minor. Later, during Roman times, these molosses will still be used as a fighting dog until they fight in the arenas with the Gladiators. It was probably during his conquest that the molosses gained territory to arrive among the English where the bull dog was born after various crosses.
We will not go into the details of the origin and evolution of the bulldog here (also called bull dog or English bulldog). Nevertheless, a minimum of explanation because our dear French bowl is from the bulldog anlais. Although some authors argue that the breed was created in France and Paris, it is nevertheless from the strains of the English bulldog that it was born as well as a mixture with the dogue, doguin and Alans of the Middle Ages all from the Molosses of Epirus.
In other words, from the birth of Epirus’ molosse in 326 BC until 1885 when dog fighting was abolished, the molosses, dogue and their descendants were all destined for one thing: to oppose in a fight to the death against a lion, an elephant, a bear or a bull. Its morphology has been gradually worked to make it faster, more agile, that it has more grip and strength – forgetting in passing the aesthetic side of the dog.
But when dog fighting was banned in 1835, two types of bull dogs, one small, and one larger, began to appear. While some continued to use the bull dog for dog fights – sneaky – until the complete abolition of the practice in 1885, others moved to give the bull dog a second life by removing all forms of aggression from the selections.
“Specialized for battle, the instinct of sociability had gradually faded into him, and his fearless courage quickly degenerated into ferocity. The drawing (of the two types of bulldog) gives only half idea of the differential dimensions that can be observed between the big and the small, between the giants and the dwarves of the groups of dogues and bull dogs combined. I do not know what the maximum weight of the moose is, but at the other end, it is not uncommon to encounter individuals who weigh no more than 4 kilograms.
The cubs, then called the Toy Bulldogs, were used to hunt pests in homes, shops, and premises and eventually as companion dogs, because they were small and space-saving. Between 1865 and 1880, led by the industrial revolution, some of Nottingham’s lacemakers, driven by unemployment, moved to the North of France accompanied by their Toy Bulldog.