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A History of Pugs

The Pug is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of dog on record, even though the first recorded appearance of the word pug in the English language did not occur until 1566. It was not until the middle of the next century that, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, the term pug came to mean “a dwarf breed of dog resembling a bull-dog in miniature”. Pugs are believed to have originated in the Orient, namely China, where they were documented by Confucius as early as 551 BC. We also know that the common forbearers for the Pug are the Pekingese and the Lion Dog. Pugs (or Lo-Sze which is an early name for pug) were considered prized possessions by Chinese emperors. Some were even given their own palaces, servants and guards. The Chinese sent Pugs as gifts to important individuals throughout Korea and Japan, thus spreading the popularity of these charming little dogs. The Dutch East India Company had a huge influence on the spread of the breed. Development of these important trade routes between Europe and the Far East brought Pugs to Portugal, Netherlands, Spain, France and England. Often times, soldiers gave them as gifts to loved ones when returning from China. Even though Pugs were well known in Italy and Spain throughout the eighteenth century, the Dutch are generally credited with being the agents of the Pug importation in Europe. It is in England where the blueprint of today’s modern Pug took shape. By 1800 two distinct strains dominated English bloodlines. The earlier was the Morrison line, and the later was the Willoughby line. Together, these lines are the key foundation to our Pugs today. In eighteenth century Britain, Pugs were considered highly fashionable both in court and among people with discerning taste. David Garrick, an English actor, once wrote, “A fine lady…keeps a pug dog and hates the Parsons”.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, the Pug popularity was in decline. Taplin, an English writer, described Pug dogs as, “applicable to no sport, appropriated to no useful purpose, susceptible of no predominant passion”.It is Queen Victoria who is credited for bringing the Pug back into favor once again. In Europe, the preferred color of Pug was a golden fawn. The origin of the black and silver Pug colors is not known. It is suspected that the black color was considered a birth defect, thus many of these unfortunate dogs were destroyed at birth. History does tell us that Queen Victoria had several black Pugs, as well as two silver Pugs named Ayan and Mops. We also know that black Pugs were exhibited in England by Lady Brassey at the first Pug Dog Club Show in June of 1885 and in Britain’s Maidstone Show in 1886. A black Pug named Jack Spratt was once such Pug exhibited by Lady Brassey at these shows.History also speaks of another well known black Pug called the “Singing Pug”. It is said that if he was given a chord on the piano or humming, he could pick up the note and sing it! The first Pugs in America arrived a short time after the Civil War. Pugs were accepted into the American Kennel Club toy group in 1885. At this point they were one of fifteen breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Pug has experienced both highs and lows in popularity in this country. In 1920 only five were registered, but in 1931 the Pug Dog Club of America was founded. The Pug saw a great surge of popularity in the 1950’s. By 1998, over 21,000 Pugs were registered, and they continue to thrive today. Even though Pugs were accepted into the AKC in 1885, it was not until 1981 that a Pug won Westminster Kennel Club Show. His name was Ch Dhandys Favorite Woodchuck. “Chucky” as he is known, is still the only Pug to have ever achieved this honor!

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