There has always been controversy about the origin of the Pug. It is probably better to face facts from the outset and admit that practically nothing is known of how, when or why the short-faced, smooth-coated and curly-tailed dogs that we now call Pugs came into existence. There is, however, very little doubt about where they came from, and that is China. There is good reason to believe that all the short-faced breeds, with the notable exception of the Bulldog and the collateral members of his family, originated in the Orient.
Two fallacies should be decently but finally buried, the first being the belief that Pugs descend from and have become a pygmyized type of Mastiff. This idea probably arose from the fact that the earliest Pugs to arrive in England were sometimes referred to as Dutch Mastiffs. The only real point of similarity between the Mastiff and the fawn Pug is in colour and coat. The structure of the skulls of the two breeds varies enormously and this is quite enough to show that it is most improbable that the Pug has any connection with the huge Molossus, known to the Phoenicians, from whom the Mastiff, the medieval Alaunt and the Bulldog descend.
The second misunderstanding is that the short face of the Pug was originally brought about by crushing or damaging the nasal bones in puppyhood. Obviously an operation of this sort would only affect the subject and not its descendants. Selective breeding is nothing new and has been practised for one reason or another for centuries.
Short-nosed dogs seem to have been known in China many years before the Christian era, since short-mouthed dogs are mentioned by Confucius (b. 551 B.C.). Records from the first century A.D. mention dogs, referred to as Pai, which translated appears to mean a short-legged and short-headed dog whose place was under the table. From this period onwards a number of the Emperors appear to have taken an interest in small dogs -often at the expense of their imperial duties.
The only way in which we can get any idea of the appearance of Chinese dogs is from drawings and scrolls. These, like most of Oriental works of art, are extremely stylized, but it appears that three main types of small dog were flavoured -the Lion Dog, The Pekingese and the Lo-Sze, and it is the latter from whom our European Pugs seem to descend. Pictures show the Lo-sze as not unlike the Pekingese except that its coat was short and close and the tail was without feathering. The colours varied and most dogs were parti-coloured.
The chief physical requirements for a Lo-sze were that it should be as small as possible, that the coat should be short and the skin very elastic, whilst it was essential that it should bear the Prince mark -this was three wrinkles on the forehead and a vertical bar, thus forming the Chinese character for Prince; a white button or blaze on the forehead was much favoured. A compact body, good bones and a flat face as well as a square jaw were all valued, and although many of the dogs had their tails docked, the curled tail as well as the double curl were all known and permissible. The ears, compared by a writer to the half of a dried apricot, were set slightly more to the side of the skull than those of the Pekingese and other kindred breeds.
There is nothing very mysterious about the migration of small Oriental dogs to the countries of the West. There has been trade in silk and other merchandise between China and the Western world as early as the time of the Han dynasty (200 years B.C.). Trade relations with Portugal were opened in 1516, with Spain in 1575, and with the Dutch in 1604. Peter the Great sent an embassy to the court of the Emperor K'ang Hsi (1662-1723), and it is recorded that the Chinese envoy who was sent to welcome the Russian ambassador was greatly interested in dogs and hounds, several of which accompagnied the ambassador, and one or two were accepted as gifts by the envoy.
On a more matter-of-fact level there is no doubt that the sailors of Portugal and Spain would have been well aware that the ladies of their native lands would offer a very ready market for small dogs of a novel breed.
The Pug comes to Europe
The earliest-known reference to a dog that may well have been the forerunner of the Pug confirms the
belief that western Europe knew the Lo-sze before it was seen in Russia.
The story of this little dog, who saved the life of William the Silent, and thus altered the history of Europe, is a classic in Pug history and appears in Sir Roger William's Actions in the Low Countries, published in 1618, and refers to an incident that must have taken place between 1571 and 1573. The occasion was a surprise Spanish attack on the Dutch camp. The little dog in question, whose name is believed to have been Pompey, awakened his master before any of his men by scratching, crying, and leaping on his face.
Although the dog is described as a white little hounde it can reasonably be thought, from other parts of its description, that it actually was an ancestor of the modern Pug.
We can therefore establish with reasonable certainity that small, short-faced dogs existed in China; could have travelled from the East to the West in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and there was good reason for their popularity at the Court of William the Silent and his successors. It is possible that it was at this period that careful and selective breeding changed the somewhat long-bodied Lo-sze into the cobbier dog that eventually took the name of Pug.
During the hundred years which intervened between the reign of William the Silent and the arrival in England of his great-grandson nothing is heard of the Pug except that they were always around the Dutch court.
During the latter years of the seventeenth century we find signs of Pug infiltration into many European countries -France, Italy, Saxony and many of the German states.
Originally known in Holland as Mopshond, in France as Doguin and frequently in England as Dutch Mastiffs, there is no certainity as to how or why the name of Pug came into use in this country. However, the words pug, pugg and pugge were frequently used as terms of affection, and there are many instances of its use. The word may have some derivation from Puck, since it was usually used to indicate impishness or mischief. Pug was a term often applied to the small monkeys so popular as pets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and no doubt the flat-nosed and mischievious little dogs had something in common, both in appearance and behaviour, with little monkeys.
The Pug in England
William and Mary brought Pugs to England when they arrived in 1688. These were probably the personal pets of themselves and their suite. It was no long before English courtiers and their kindred not only fell in love with the little newcomers but found the possession of one a convenient way of expressing their approval of their new monarchs.
In the years that followed, the Pug and the flamboyant black page-boy became the essential appendages of a lady of fashion. The vogue for Pugs continued throughout the eighteenth century, reaching its peak at the time of George III.
Painters have often left us a useful record of the appearance of the dogs of their period, but until the nineteenth century we have little visual evidence of this kind of the appearance of Pugs. The exception, of course, is the work of Hogarth, who himself was a Pug owner.
The Pug on the Continent
The frequent mention of Pugs being brought to England from Russia and the implication that many good specimens were bred there, and that they were sold very cheaply in the markets, probably had some foundation, but there is no real evidence to support the belief.
The popularity of the Pug in central Europe can be deduced from the number of china and porcelain figures of Pugs that emerged from the factories -particularly at Meissen. When the German Freemasons were excommunicated by the Pope in 1736 they continued underground activities under the nom de guerre of 'Mopsorden' or the Order of Pugs.
A book published in 1789 mentions twice Pugs in Italy.
In France the Pug was known as the Carlin since the early eighteenth-century. Carlin was an actor who was renowned in the role of Harlequin, and the title probably refers to the black mask worn by both player and Pug. Joséphine Buonaparte was undoubtedly infatuated with her Pug Fortuné, and he certainly appears to have been dangerously entêté [headstrong].
Strangely enough we have very little evidence of the popularity of the Pug in Spain or Portugal, although it may well have been seamen and traders of those nations to whom we are indebted for the earlier Pug arrivals from the Orient.
The background of the modern Pug
In the first few decades of the nineteenth century the popularity of the Pug undoubtedly declined. It seems that there may have been several causes to which one can attribute the Pug's eclipse. Not only has fashion always been a fickle jade but Pug themselves seem to have deteriorated both in constitution and in appearance. There appear to have been some experimental crosses of Pugs with Bulldogs, mainly in attempts to pygmyize the Bulldog; quite likely some of these cross-breeds were sold as Pugs. From one cause of another it would seem that the Pug was in danger of losing its typical black mask whilst his coat was often coarse or woolly. In other words, many Pugs had lost their most attractive physical features -the black mask and the short, close and shining coat. The 'rough coated Pugs' that caused something of a sensation et the end of the century were probably throwbacks to a cross-bred ancestor born some eighty or ninety years before.
Nevertheless, since the competitive exhibition of dogs did not commence until the middle of the century, the small matter of a Pug's points are not likely to have had a serious effect on the public's regard for the breed, and one must assume that, in addition to changing fashion, Pug character, intelligence and temperament must have been at a low ebb at that time.
The Pug never stays in the outer darkness of unpopularity for long and the revival of interest in the breed quite logically coincided with the great upsurge of enthusiasm for dogs and their breeding which started in the middle years of the nineteenth century. After the banning of bullbaiting (1835) a certain tough element were looking for some way of displaying the superiority of their dogs. By 1859 dog-shows and competitions attracted considerable numbers of dog-owning men -the rough, the tough and the really sporting types, and there was plenty of room for sharp practice and roguery. Pedigrees, when existing, were seldom trustable until the Kennel Club (founded in 1873) made some effort to record a dog's pedigree and his winnings. This resulted in a first Stud Book which recorded the winners and their pedigrees at shows held between 1859 and 1874. Some sixty-odd Pugs are listed in this volume.
The Kennel Club's sphere of influence increased with the years as it legislated for the ever-increasing number of dog-shows and field-trials over which it assumed control. With the increasing respectability of dog-shows, women exhibitors became more common which made possible the return to public favour of breeds like the Pug.
Two strains appear to have dominated the first half of the nineteenth century. The earliest was the Morrison. This strain is said to be founded on the blood of royal dogs, presumably those of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. The other prominent strain was that of Lord and Lady Willoughby d'Eresby. Here imported blood (from Russia or Hungary) was employed to bring about the badly needed improvement in type. The dog bred by Mr Morrison and the Willoughby d'Eresby were of greatest importance from the years 1840 onwards. Even today it is quite usual to speak of a Willoughby Pug or a Morrison, thus implying that it is either of the cold, fawn colour of the first-named strain or of the more golden apricot shades of those bred by Mr Morrison.
The next, and perhaps the most important, infusion of fresh blood came from China. Lamb and Moss are said to have been captured in the Emperor of China's Palace in the 1860's and then brought to England (a story which much resembles the account of the looting of the Pekingese from the Summer Palace in 1860!). These two dogs were the parents of Click, who was to become one of the most important Pugs in the whole history of the breed and one whose influence was just as great, if not greater, in the United States than it was in England.
The Pug Club was founded in 1883 and it soon laid down a standard of points for the breed. In 1886 black Pugs first began to be taken seriously. There had certainly been black Pugs before then. They had cropped up from time to time in litters of fawn puppies but had usually been popped into a bucket without delay. One or two little black sports seem to have escaped a watery end, for Hogarth, always a lover of Pugs, painted one in The House of Cards, ca 1730. It is also known that the Queen Victoria had owned a black Pug who was heavily marked with white. This dog may have come from China and it is certain that the closer a dog or bitch was to Oriental ancestry the greater the likelihood of it producing black offspring.
By the closing years of the nineteenth century the popularity of the Pug was on decline once more. The breed's rivals were firstly the Pomeranians who then gave way to the Pekingese. Anyone studying the history of the Pug cannot fail to be struck by the numerous rises and falls in its popularity, but the breed has been lucky in that it has always retained sufficient enthusiastic breeders who have maintained good typical and sturdy stock, so that even when the Pug breed is numerically weak it retains its type and temperament.
Pugs in America
There is no exact record of the year when Pugs first landed in the United States, but twenty-four were exhibited at New York in 1879, although only five appeared later that year at the Philadelphia Kennel Club Show. Pugs seem to have aroused several storms in the American show-ring but the breed steadily forged away.