Gumby the Frenchie

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Name          Gumby

Breed          French Bulldog

Age               12

Location    North Dunedin

Gumby seemed insistent that I not take her photo. She twisted and turned as I pursued her, and I captured her face only by chance. Her human was no help –

“Good luck!” He said, “I have been trying to take a photo of her for 12 years and I haven’t got one yet!”

Despite this, I think she’s a pretty photogenic pupper. She’s also super sweet, polite and gentle, and for an old girl she still seems extremely alert and vivacious.

The French Bulldog is an extremely popular breed, for good reason, but it might surprise some that they have actually been all-the-rage for a very long time.

After blood-baiting ceased to be a sport in early nineteenth century England (see my Pitt Bull post for more information), English Bulldogs were out of work so to speak, and were newly employed as family companions. It was decided that they could be smaller for this purpose, so they were bred with terriers and pugs to shrink them down. Thus the Miniature Bulldog was born. Then, during the industrial revolution, a large number of factory workers moved from England to France, and with them they brought their beloved Miniature Bulldogs. The french were in love at first sight. To meet this demand, England’s dog breeders started to send the Miniature Bulldogs with the less ‘desirable’ traits to France, especially those whose ears stood up. But these traits were adored by the French, and they started to favour the individuals with these unusual traits. Over the next few decades, the demand for these dogs was so high that there were very few Miniature Bulldogs left in England, and France was creating their own version of the breed. Thus the Frenchie was born.

With all their endearing traits, Frenchies sadly do have a smorgasbord of health problems. Like Bulldogs, Pugs and a handful of other breeds, Frenchies are brachycephalic, meaning they have been bred with shortened snouts, and as a result they often have extremely severe respiratory problems (hence the conspicuous breathing). The purpose of this snout was originally for blood sports – when English Bulldogs fought, their opponent was less able to hold on to their snouts. The wrinkly skin allowed the blood flow to be directed away from the eyes after a facial injury. But their adorable ‘squashed’ faces mean that they cannot be exercised too intensely, nor is it good for them to be overheated, because excessive panting for brachycephalic dogs can actually be lethal. Anatomically speaking, Frenchies are a bit of a disaster. They are so top-heavy that the males cannot physically mount the females, so they have to be artificially inseminated. Then, to make matters worse, their heads are so large and their hips so narrow that it is rare for a Frenchie to give birth naturally – they are almost always given a caesarian section. This flies directly in the face of evolution by natural selection.

But there is a reason why we persist to breed these naturally un-breedable doggos. They are monumentally gentle, kind, patient and fun, and they make the perfect lap dogs.

A bonus is that their low centre of gravity can be a good thing – Frenchies have such exceptional balance, they have been known to be champions at surfing and skateboarding (but if you try the surfing, don’t forget a doggie life jacket!).

(video curtesy of INSIDER)

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