I’ve been digging around looking at the breed standards for the French Bulldog both in the UK and the USA. In the UK it is The Kennel Club which sets the breed standard and, in the USA, the American Kennel Club also sets a breed standard. Both have got themselves into a mess with regard to this breed.
Over many years, they found themselves in a position whereby they were encouraging the breeding of unhealthy French Bulldogs because of the flat face. The Kennel Club became aware of this because there was and still is a lot of criticism from all angles.
They tried to fix the problem by rewriting the breed standard. They have a page on this on their website in which they talk about ‘amending guidelines’ regarding French Bulldogs. They want the public to avoid buying dogs with exaggerated features. But the public like dogs with exaggerated features and are unconcerned about the health implications until later.
The Kennel Club are acutely aware of the health problems and they have found themselves in a cul-de-sac in terms of fixing the breeding problem. Dr. Laura Hamilton, veterinary surgeon and French Bulldog Breed Health Coordinator said:
“Many people love owning French Bulldogs, but it’s crucial that the public are aware of the breed’s complex health concerns and prioritise health over what they might think looks ‘cute’, and that breeders do all they can to produce healthy puppies.”
PETA volunteers attended the recent Crufts dog show and protested with a large banner. You can see the video below.
This is embarrassing to The Kennel Club. As I recall, the BBC no longer films Crufts because the club has fostered the breeding of dogs with inherent health problems the worst of which for this breed is difficulty in breathing. They have set up a Respiratory Function Grading Scheme in order to measure breathing problems in French Bulldogs and other breeds under their jurisdiction.
But the breed standard as it stands today for this breed, although rewritten and diluted in terms of the flat-face does still hints at the need to produce a flat face. They state:
“Well defined muzzle, that can clearly be viewed in profile, broad, deep and set back, muscles of cheeks well developed.”
That’s the only reference to the muzzle in their breed standard and it states that it should be “set back”. I take that to mean it should be shortened which is another way of saying it should be flatter than normal but not entirely flat. A conundrum. They’ve fudged it really.
And to be honest, the French Bulldog breeders appear to be ignoring the breed standard in any case and carrying on as usual because all the French Bulldog that I see in parks have exactly the same squashed or punched muzzle that I’ve seen in the past. I don’t see a change even though there has been a change to the breed standard.
American Kennel Club – AKC
Across the pond, to America, the AKC breed standard makes no reference at all to the muzzle. The picture that illustrates the breed standard (below) shows a very flat face with a highly foreshortened muzzle but there are no words to describe it. All they state is that, “They have a bully head which is large and square – generally being more pronounced in males than in females.”
So, the word “square” is describing the head of the American version of the French Bulldog. It seems to me that breeders in America are also carrying on in their own sweet way and creating flat-faced dogs because the public likes them.
As The Kennel Club state, there has been a soaring trade in French Bulldogs since the Covid when a lot of people in the UK and I expect in America as well wanted to adopt dogs for company during lockdowns.
The point of this article is that I don’t think the dog associations have got themselves out of a problem with respect to creating dogs with inherited health problems due to selective breeding which carries from generation to generation a genotype which creates a phenotype which is abnormal and inherently unhealthy.
On a grammatical note, the name of this dog French Bulldog should not be written as per The Kennel Club. The word ‘bulldog’ should not be capitalised. But I have followed the club in this article out of politeness.