11 Facts About French Bulldogs

Frenchies are America’s top dog.
Frenchies are America’s top dog. / ViewStock/View Stock/Getty Images

These cute little dogs are enjoying a serious comeback. Here’s the scoop on the most popular dog breed in America. 

1. French bulldogs have roots in England.

The French bulldog’s origins are murky, but most sources trace their roots to English bulldogs. Lace makers in England were drawn to the toy version of the dog and would use the smaller pups as lap warmers while they worked. When the lace industry moved to France, they took their dogs with them. There, the English bulldogs probably bred with terriers to create bouledogues français, or French bulldogs. 

2. French bulldogs were bred to be great companions.

Frenchies are affectionate, friendly dogs that were bred to be companions. Although they’re somewhat slow to be housebroken, they get along well with other dogs and aren’t big barkers. The dogs don’t need much exercise, so they are fine in small areas and enjoy the safety of a crate.

3. French bulldogs can’t swim.

french bulldog sitting at a dog show
This dog needs to stay away from water. / Shirlaine Forrest/GettyImages

As a result of their squat frame and bulbous head, French bulldogs can’t swim, so pool owners should keep a watchful eye on their pups. Keep in mind that if you plan a beach vacation, your furry friend might feel a little left out. 

4. Flying is a problem for them, too.

Manny The Frenchie in 2014
Frenchies should not be frequent flyers. / Amanda Edwards/GettyImages

French Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have shorter snouts than other dogs. These pushed-in faces can lead to a variety of breathing problems. This facial structure, coupled with high stress and uncomfortably warm temperatures, can lead to fatal situations for dogs with smaller snouts. Many breeds like bulldogs and pugs have perished while flying, so as a result, many airlines have banned them. 

Luckily there are special airlines just for pets, like Pet Jets. These companies will transport dogs with special needs on their own flights separate from their owners. There’s a human on board to take care of any pups that get sick or panic. 

5. French bulldogs make great babysitters.

When a baby orangutan named Malone was abandoned by his mother, the Twycross Zoo in England didn’t know if he would make it. Luckily, a 9-year-old French bulldog named Bugsy stepped in and took care of the little guy. The pair became fast friends and would even fall asleep together. When Malone was big enough, he joined the other orangutans at the zoo. 

6. French bulldogs are sensitive to criticism.

dark french bulldog against a teal background
Be nice to your Frenchie. / Matt Cardy/GettyImages

Frenchies are very sensitive, so they do not take criticism lightly. If you scold a French bulldog, it might take it very seriously and mope around the house. French bulldogs respond better to positive reinforcement and encouragement. 

7. French bulldogs are a talkative breed.

French bulldogs might not bark much, but they do like to “talk.” Using a complex system of yawns, yips, and gargles, the dogs can convey the illusion of their own language. Sometimes they will even sing along with you in the car.

8. French bulldogs have two styles of ears.

Benhooks Cider Cup, a Pedigree male French Bulldog in the UK,
Benhooks Cider Cup, a Pedigree male French Bulldog in the UK, 1965. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Originally, French bulldogs had rose-shaped ears, similar to their larger relative, the English bulldog. English breeders much preferred the shape, but American breeders liked the unique bat ears. When a rose-eared bulldog was featured at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1897, American dog fanciers were very angry

9. This controversy led to the formation of the French Bulldog Club of America.

The FBDCA was founded in protest of the rose-shaped ears. The organization threw its first specialty show in 1898 at New York City’s famed Waldorf-Astoria. The FBDCA website described the event: “amid palms, potted plants, rich rugs and soft divans. Hundreds of engraved invitations were sent out and the cream of New York society showed up. And, of course, rose-eared dogs were not welcomed.”

The somewhat catty efforts of the club led to the breed moving away from rose-shaped ears entirely. Today, French bulldogs feature the bat-shaped ears American breeders fought to showcase.

10. Most French bulldogs are bred through artificial insemination.

three French bulldog puppies
French bulldog puppies don’t come easy. / Gary Gershoff/GettyImages

Due to their unusual proportions, the dogs have a little trouble copulating. Males have a hard time reaching the females, and they often get overheated and exhausted when trying to get things going. As a result, a large majority of French bulldogs are created through artificial insemination. While this measure makes each litter of pups more expensive, it also allows breeders to check for potential problems during the process. 

French bulldogs often also have problems giving birth, so many must undergo a C-section. The operation ensures the dog will not have to weather too much stress and prevents future health complications.

11. Celebrities love Frenchies.

Frenchies make plenty of appearances in the tabloids. Celebrities like Lady Gaga have all been seen frolicking with their French bulldogs. Hugh Jackman had a Frenchie named Dali, who sadly died in 2022.

A version of this article originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.