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Brief History of the Pug

It is widely held, that the Pug is one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and has flourished since before 400 BC. Yet, there is still much discussion and debate regarding this lovable breed’s origin. Most researchers agree that the Pug breed originated in Asia, as the first writings to mention small, flat nosed dogs did make reference to Chinese dogs. Still, it is not clear whether these writings referred to Pugs or Pekingese. Also undecided, is the Pugs parent lineage.

Some experts declare a Pekingese lineage, while others believe Pugs were descended from a Bulldog, or a small Mastiff, and later miniaturized by the emperors of the Shang dynasty. Either way, the Pug has taken quite a journey from Imperial lapdog to American family favorite; having traveled from Chyna to Tibet, on to Japan, and then in the 16th century, moving into the hearts of the Europeans.

Official Dog of the House of Orange

The Pug became the official dog of the House of Orange, after one of the breed saved the life of Prince William the Silent, Governor of Holland. Prince William the Silent, had led a counter offensive campaign against the Spanish. While sleeping in his tent one evening, one of Prince Williams Pugs began barking and scratching in an effort to warn his master of the approaching Spaniard soldiers. When Prince William remained sleeping, his dedicated Pug, Pompey, leaped upon the Princes face. Pompey’s action saved the Princes life, and caused the Pug to become a royal favorite. So much so, that Pugs attended the coronation of William III as King of England.

William Hogarth’s Pug (1697-1764)

William Hogarth's Self Portrait with PugThroughout history, the Pug has gone through what appears to be a long series of changes in body shape, size, and color. Dutch traders in China have portrayed Pugs as being a golden color, and coming in both long and short haired varieties. If William Hogarth’s, (English painter, 1697 – 1764, who included his Pug “Trump” in several of his paintings), representations of his Pug were accurate, then Pugs in his day had features quite unlike the Pugs of today.

Hogarth’s Pugs did not have the characteristic flat nose, or short legs, that we are accustomed to, and his Pugs were a much slimmer version, with no mask or wrinkled brow.

By the 19th century, the Pug had become the favorite lapdog of English Aristocracy, and had also made its way to America. The American Kennel Club recognized the Pug Breed in 1885. Since then, Pugs have been consistently one of the top twenty most registered dog breeds in America.

One Response to “Brief History of the Pug”

  1. Lisa Jervis says:

    Thank you for the brief but interesting pug history lesson. My black 5 month old pug, Wild Bill, holds his own with my 120 pound 2 year old Italian Mastiff. It’s interesting to consider that they may share a few ancestors.

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