These adorably wrinkly-faced dogs have a rich history. As the pug’s motto, multum in parvo, states, they’re “a lot of dog in a small space.” Here are 12 facts you may not know about this short and sweet breed.
1. Pugs are an ancient breed.
Because the pug lineage stretches so far back, their early history is a little murky. Most believe the breed originated in China and existed before 400 BCE and were called (or at least were closely related to a breed called) lo-sze. Buddhist monks kept the dogs as pets in Tibetan monasteries.
2. Pugs were treated like royalty.
Emperors of China kept pugs as lapdogs and treated them to all the luxuries of royal life. Sometimes the pampered pooches were given their own mini palaces and guards.
3. A group of pugs is called a grumble.
In Holland, the pug is called a mopshond, which comes from the Dutch for “to grumble.”
4. The breed probably gets its name from a monkey.
Marmosets were kept as pets in the early 18th century and were called pugs; the name made the jump to the dog because the two animals shared similar facial features.
5. The pug is the official breed of the House of Orange.
In 1572, the Dutch were in the midst of the Eighty Years’ War, a protracted struggle against the Spanish. The Prince of Orange, William the Silent, led the Dutch forces into battle. According to Dutch legend, while the prince was sleeping in his tent one night, Spanish assassins lurked just outside. Luckily, William’s pug, Pompey, was there to bark wildly and jump on his owner’s face. The prince woke up and had his would-be assassins apprehended. Because of this, the pug was considered the official dog of the House of Orange. The effigy of Prince William I above his tomb also features Pompey at his feet (although, weirdly, that dog doesn’t have a flat face, leading some to believe that it was a different breed).
Later, when Prince William III came to England to rule with his wife Mary II, he brought his pugs, who wore little orange ribbons to their master’s 1689 coronation.
6. The perfect pug tail has two curls.
Pugs are known for their curly tails that curve up towards their bodies. According to the American Kennel Club [PDF], “the double curl is perfection.”
7. There’s a pug with an MBA.
In 2009, Chester Ludlow the pug received an online graduate degree from Rochville University. He submitted his resume to the website and paid around $500 for entry. A week later, he received his grades, degree, and a school window decal in the mail. Although he never attended a class, he received a 3.19 and he got an A in Finance. Chester may have been the first pug to get his degree.
It’s too bad Rochville University isn’t accredited. The whole thing was a stunt pulled by a website called GetEducated.com. The website reviews online colleges to protect students from being duped by diploma mill fraud. So while Chester the pug has a diploma, you won’t see him getting a job very soon (unless that job is acting in cute commercials).
8. There was a secret organization named after the dog breed.
Around 1740, Roman Catholics formed a secret fraternal group called the Order of the Pug. The Pope forbade Catholics from joining the Freemasons, so this group formed as a replacement. They chose the pug as their symbol because the dogs were loyal and trustworthy. The Grand Master was a man, but each division of the group had two “Big Pugs” that were always one male and one female.
To join, members were expected to prove their devotion by kissing the rear of the Grand Pug under his tail (luckily, the Grand Pug was porcelain). Other wacky habits included wearing dog collars, scratching at the lodge door for entry, and barking loudly.
This outcome probably wasn’t the result anyone was expecting from the Freemason ban, so this new, stranger group got banned in several regions, until ultimately fizzling out. Probably due to a lack of people willing to kiss a pug’s posterior.
9. Joséphine Bonaparte’s pug didn’t mess around.
Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine, had a pet pug named Fortuné that she loved so much that she refused to let the dog sleep anywhere but in her bed. It’s rumored that when Napoleon entered the bed with his new wife for the first time, her pug bit him on the leg.
10. Queen Victoria owned many pugs.
Long before Queen Elizabeth II met her first corgi, Queen Victoria was the top British dog fancier, and she loved pugs. Victoria was such a dog lover that she also banned the practice of cropping ears, enabling pug owners to enjoy their pups’ velvety ears in all their glory.
11. Their short noses cause some trouble.
Pugs are brachycephalic, meaning their noses are pushed in more than other dogs. While cute, these smushed faces can lead to some breathing problems. Their facial structure makes it difficult to take long and deep breaths, which is why you might hear a pug snuffling while running around. The dogs are still very energetic, but they might not be the best swimmers and may have trouble on airplanes.
12. Pugs are made to be companions.
Pugs are excellent pets because of their adaptable personality. Whether you like to stay at home or enjoy the outdoors, the little dogs will be up for anything. Bred to be companions, their favorite place is right by your side.
A version of this article originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.