910 PUGGING THE DOMESTIC DOG
PUGGING THE DOMESTIC DOG
Pugging, or working clay into the shape you desire, is an apt word to describe how humans have shaped the dog breed called the Pug into a form that pleases them but not the dog itself. The flat-faced wheezing Pug exemplifies all too obviously the self-serving way in which man has misused the domestic dog for entirely human wants. The black-masked, tearful-eyed, perpetually-astonished, necessarily-snoring little Pug has been created, then exaggerated even more, by humans finding a need to infantilise the domestic dog. To actually favour a breed of dog that struggles to breathe tells you more about human misuse of animals in the pursuit of their own selfish needs than is ever conceded. The current favourite small pet dog position, with muzzle-less Pugs and French Bulldogs leading, and with Brussels Griffons, Pekingese and King Charles Spaniels similar victims, indicates that humans prefer to indulge their craving for fashion well ahead of any concern for animal welfare. It doesn't have to be like this; the Pug could so easily be bred with a muzzle, less protruding eyes and less facial wrinkle if the wallet-chasing breeders found public distaste harmful to their money-making schemes in dog-trading. Other breeds too have been afflicted by the weird human desire to deform the domestic dog.
In Germany, the Pug was bred with the Pinscher in order to shorten the face of the latter. This may have been to broaden the mouth of the Pinscher. In her valuable book "The Pug Handbook" of 1959, Wilhelmine Swainston Goodger records: "It is therefore safe to assume that the 'traces' (i.e. the darker spinal marking) of Mastiffs, Bulldogs and even Terriers...are due to the use of the Pug, the only naturally short-faced dog known in Europe at that time, in cross-breeding to shorten the muzzles of other canine types." Mastiff fanciers should take note that early pictures of mastiffs (e.g. Buffon, Bewick, Reinagle and Howitt) show that the breed was only beginning to emerge as a distinct breed rather than a common type in the late eighteenth century. The dogs depicted are not fawn in colour, do not have black masks and are not facially wrinkled. Bulldogs did not feature the fawn or fallow-smut colouring until late in the last century. Pugs have been silver fawn or apricot fawn for at least three centuries. Pugs have long been expected to have large deep wrinkles, beauty-spots or black markings on their cheeks (three hairs on each spot was once considered to be highly desirable) and diamond-shaped folds on their foreheads.
The surest way I know of antagonising Bulldog and Pug breeders is to remind them of the Pug-Bulldog crosses once conducted in their two breeds. Bullmastiff owners too are usually far from pleased at any suggestion that the ancestors of their breed might well have had Pug blood in them. Of course breed historians will usually believe what they want to believe. But I see much to admire in the character of the Pug and the Bulldog and see no stigma in admitting such cross-breeding. But did the Pug-Bulldog cross really happen? What is the evidence?
In his "The Illustrated Book of the Dog" of 1879, Vero Shaw was in no doubt, as these quotes illustrate: "With reference to the Pug as it at present exists...It is in many of the inferior large-sized specimens that the Bull cross is so plainly evident...the results of the cross are frequently disfigured by being out at shoulders and by badly-carried tails...Nor are such experiments likely to benefit the Bulldog, for Pug blood is in its turn plainly visible in some of the breed, especially the fawn and fallow-smut ones, which one comes across. Another trace the Bulldog often leaves behind it in the Pug is in the carriage of the ears...modern breeders in some instances have availed themselves of a Bull cross in hopes of improving their strain in certain qualities."
Sydenham Edwards, in his great work "Cynographia Britannica" of 1800, wrote in his chapter on Bulldogs that the small "Dutch mastiff or pug-dog was much in fashion" during the time when bulldogs were most needed, and "that possibly by accident or design" it had been used to "improve the bulldog". As both 'Stonehenge' and Buffon record, the French referred to pugs as small bulldogs. Thomas Bell, writing in 1837, described the Pug-dog as a smaller variety of the Bulldog. If you look at Hogarth's so-called Pugs, you see signs of non-Pug blood and the famous painting of a heavyweight 'Pug' at the National Trust property Dunham Massey depicts a brindle dog, not a colour found in Pugs in Britain. 'Stonehenge' in his "Dogs of the British Islands" of 1878, records: "...both strains (i.e. Willoughby and Morrison Pugs) have been crossed with the Bulldog, with a view to enlarge the skull and shorten the face."
In his "Modern Dogs (non-sporting)" of 1894, Rawdon Lee writes: "...I should not be surprised to find that during the early part of this century some of the small-sized bull bitches were mated with a pug in order to produce that fawn or 'fallow smut' bulldog." You don't find such quotes in books on Bulldogs! John Gordon wrote two books on Bulldogs and two on Pugs without mentioning such easily researched details. Selective or tendentious research contributes little to our knowledge of dogs. Following the banning of bull-baiting in 1835, the bull-baiting dogs not surprisingly suffered a decline. 'Idstone' in his "The Dog" of 1872 records: "About the year 1840 very few thoroughbred examples existed, and the possession of such an animal would have been regarded as a sure sign of ruffianism." There was not exactly a market for such incredibly brave, very fierce, usually savage, powerful dogs. They had to be adapted to the requirements of the time.
From 1840 the breed of Bulldog changed from a mainly white, rat-tailed, thick-eared, broad-mouthed, strongly muzzled, hard muscled canine gladiator into a very different animal. In his authoritative "Dogs: Their History and Development" of 1927, Edward Ash wrote, on the Bulldog: "When bull-baiting and dog-fighting ended, the dog was bred for 'fancy', and characteristics desired at earlier times for fighting and baiting purposes were exaggerated, so that the unfortunate dog became unhappily abnormal. In this translation stage huge, broad, ungainly heads were obtained, legs widely bowed were developed, and frequently the dog was a cripple. Then gradually the desired points were rounded off and the transition stage had passed. How these changes of type were obtained is difficult to say." These "changes of type" had been obtained by using the blood of a short-nosed, compact, close-knit, cobby, unaggressive, black-masked, smaller dog called a Pug. In his "The New Book of the Dog" of 1907, Robert Leighton wrote on the Pug: "...and it is known that it has been bred with the bulldog for the anticipated benefit of the latter." He expresses no doubt about this cross-breeding. He was the acknowledged authority of his day, taking great pains to be accurate. In his "The Dog Book" of 1906, James Watson recalls visiting a dog show at Alexandra Palace at the end of the 1870s and being briefed by the famous Bulldog man Bill George's son, Alfred, with the words: "...there has been a great change since you went away. You will see some of the old sort at father's, but they don't do for showing." Memorable words! So much for breed loyalty!
It is not historically correct to breed Bulldogs, and certainly not Mastiffs or Bullmastiffs, with the truncated muzzle that has long been a feature of the Pug. Pug-faced Pugs are not anomalous. Pug-faced Bulldogs and Bullmastiffs are and do not fit the breed mould; such a feature is leading both admirable breeds away from their own blueprints. Show ring judges have a role as the guardians of breed 'type' and must be watchful less misguided or ignorant breeders allow the physical characteristics of a different breed to develop insidiously into an acceptable feature in their own breed. I rather like Pugs but I'd prefer the pug face to remain where it belongs, on Pugs and not on Bullmastiffs or Bulldogs. Our precious breeds of pedigree dog must be perpetuated as identifiable individual breeds, each with its own typical characteristics; that surely is the whole point of pedigree dog breeding.
Short-faced Toy breeds are becoming increasingly popular. Short-faced breeding is being pursued in other breeds too like the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Bulldog, the Bullmastiff and even the Mastiff itself, entirely against breed heritage. For a century this tendency has been condemned by breed historians; for nearly half a century it has been condemned by worried vets. Writing in New Scientist on May the 14th 1981, vet Simon Wolfensohn stated: "The shortening of the jaw and the anterior part of the skull in short-nosed breeds has the effect of distorting the airway; the soft palate is prolonged to the point that it interferes with breathing...and the nasal sinuses are shortened, giving rise to chronic sinusitis and more serious respiratory infections...most of these breeds (i.e. Pugs, Bulldogs) suffer dental problems because the upper and lower jaws are not equal in length and the jaw is so short that the teeth are overcrowded...Many of the short-nosed breeds have difficulty getting born at all."
When are going to treat dogs as faithful sentient canine companions and stop regarding them as warm-blooded toys just here for our indulgence? Pugs are gutsy little dogs striving to cope with the disadvantages we have knowingly bestowed upon them. It's now time for this to stop - or be stopped! How much better than animal welfare legislation, taking years to become law, would be the outlawing of such deformities by the Kennel Club, making it impossible to register with them or exhibit under them, any breed of dog displaying a muzzle-less head. This could be accomplished with just a stroke of the pen. Who then would breed dogs that have no commercial value? Unless of course the slavish followers of fashion choose the baby-faced breeds and just import them. The public have a role here, as well as the popular press. Celebrities carrying or towing a flat-faced little dog deserve public scorn not the public adulation they crave. Those sad enough to want to model themselves on such shallow humans need to look to their own individual moral values before blindly copying them. Pugs need our help!