The Pug, one of the top twenty most popular dog breeds in the United States, is an ancient breed of Chinese origin. They date back to at least 400 B.C. when they were prized by Chinese emperors of the Shang dynasty. At that time they were known as “Lo-Chiang-Sze,” “Lion Dog” or “Foo” (“Fu”) because of their resemblance to the Chinese guardian lions called Foo, which were considered guardian spirits. They share this term with the Pekinese which was also called the Foo Dog.
From these earliest times the Pug’s sole function was to live in luxury as a companion dog. Because of the breed’s popularity they spread to Tibet where they were kept by monks in monasteries, and then to Japan and later to Europe.
It wasn’t until the 16th and 17th centuries that Dutch merchants brought the first Pugs back to Holland. The little dogs quickly became the official dog of the ruling House of Orange which later came to rule in Great Britain.
History reports that in 1572 the Prince of Orange’s life was saved from an assassin because of the barking of his Pug. William of Orange, who became William III of England and his wife Queen Mary II of England took a Pug with them when they left the Netherlands for England in 1688.
Pugs became popular throughout Europe in the 17th century. They appeared in paintings by Goya and were dressed in clothing and rode with the coachman in Germany, Italy and elsewhere.
In France the Empress Josephine enjoyed the company of Pugs. She used her Pug, named Fortune, to carry secret messages in his collar to her husband Napoleon Bonaparte when she was temporarily imprisoned.
The English painter William Hogarth owned several Pugs and was devoted to them. He painted his self-portrait with his Pug named Trump in 1745.
Pugs were called “Mopshond” (“to grumble” in Dutch) in Holland and “Carlin” in France, but they picked up the name “Pug” in England. The name probably comes from their facial expression which resembles the marmoset monkeys that were popular pets in the early 18th century. The monkeys were also known as “Pugs.”
Pugs reached new heights of popularity with the dog lover Queen Victoria on the throne. Queen Victoria bred Pugs herself Her involvement with the breed, and with dogs in general, helped found the Kennel Club in Britain in 1873. Queen Victoria preferred fawn and apricot Pugs while another early fancier, Lady Brassey, brought black Pugs back from China in 1886, making them highly sought after.
The Pug was brought to the United States in the 19th century and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885, making it one of the earliest breeds recognized by the AKC. The Pug enjoyed great popularity only to dwindle in numbers by the turn of the century. Dedicated breeders kept the breed alive and gradually interest in the breed returned.
The Pug Dog Club of America was founded in 1931. At the current time the Pug is enjoying a renewed growth in popularity.
Only one Pug has won Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show: Dhandys Favorite Woochuck in 1981. At the World Dog Show in 2004 the Best In Show winner was the Pug Double D Cinoblu’s Masterpiece.