What pugs looked like before intense selective breeding
The pug, with its distinctive round face, curly tail, and playful disposition, is a breed that has captured the hearts of many dog lovers around the world. However, the pug we know today is far from the regal and robust dog it once was. Over a century of intensive breeding has left this beloved breed with grossly distorted features and a litany of health problems, prompting experts to call for urgent action to restore the pug to its original form.
Originally hailing from China, pugs made their way to Europe in the 16th century, quickly becoming the favored pets of European royalty. They were cherished by historical figures like William of Orange, who credited his pug with saving his life, and Empress Josephine, who used her pug, Fortune, to carry secret messages during the French Revolution. Even Queen Victoria, an ardent pug enthusiast, owned as many as 38 pugs during her reign.
These historical pugs had elongated snouts, muscular legs, and well-proportioned eyes that didn’t bulge out on stalks. Paintings and portraits from that era, such as Hogarth’s “The painter and his pug,” offer a glimpse into what the breed used to look like before human interference.
However, the pug’s transformation began towards the end of the 19th century. Breed standards were established, and judges at dog shows began to reward and prioritize flat faces, contributing to the flattening of muzzles and the development of the characteristic wrinkles seen in modern pugs. This shift in breeding standards, coupled with the dog’s rising popularity, led to significant changes in the breed’s appearance and health.
Today’s pugs suffer from a range of health issues, including brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, severe respiratory difficulties, protruding eyes, skin problems, and a significantly shortened lifespan compared to other breeds. A report by the Royal Veterinary College in 2022 highlighted these concerning health trends, suggesting that pugs can no longer be considered “typical dogs” from a health perspective.