Except for its curl tail, the Pug is like a molosser breed in bonsai format: a compact and muscular body with a broad, round head, a short, square muzzle and deep wrinkles. The ideal size of the Pug has always been a matter of debate, as the standard prescribes no ideal height, but only gives and indication for the weight (14 to 18 lbs). If the weight is respected and the body forms a coherent, square entity, with legs that are neither too frail, nor too heavy-boned in comparison to the body, the result will usually be a pug of the correct size.
The Pug's markings, head, eyes and tail form the most characteristic traits of the breed.
Fawns pugs have a characteristic black mask, black ears and a trace or black line on the back (extending from the occiput to the tail), which together with the moles and thumbmark on the forehead are referred to as the markings. Originally, the trace was more intense and well defined, while the demarcation of the mask depended on the type of pug. The definite edge of the mask was typical of one of the two major strains of Pugs in the 19th century, called the Morrison Pugs, after their breeder. In the other famous strain of that time, the Willoughby pugs, the black color generally extended higher up the skull and did not have the same distinct separation.
Unfortunately, the trace (on the back) has disappeared in some lines, and pugs with wide saddle marks or smutty backs are becoming more and more common. In the absence of a perfect trace, no black line at all should be preferred over a smutty back or saddle mark that is too diluted. The difference between a trace and a saddle mark, is that the former is equally fine all along the back, while the saddle mark is larger at the shoulders (in the form of a saddle, as the term suggests).
The standard's definition of the mask has kept close to the Morrison type of Pug. The mask should extend from the muzzle to just over the eyebrows, with a well defined border (no 'bleeding' of the mask into the fawn), but without conveying the idea of "spectacles" or glasses around the eyes, which is indicative of the presence of Pekingese blood. It should be considered a serious fault as it changes the expression of the Pug.
Other distinctive Pug features are the thumb or diamond mark on the forehead and the black moles on the cheeks (three on each cheek). Whatever some authors (who reproduced what Dalziel had written) may have written, moles are a very important trait in the Pug. They are reminiscent of the Pug's aristocratic past, as they were associated with the mouches or black patches, the gummed pieces of black velvet or taffeta the beauties of the court of Louis XV gummed on their face to heighten the brilliancy of their complexions. The earliest mention of the adoption of patching by the ladies of England, occurs in Bulwer's Artificial Changeling (1653) and this custom lasts until well into the 18th century. The moles were once deemed so important that some judges even checked the number of hairs they contained: three coarse hairs in each mole were considered perfection. Even if the latter may seem exaggerated today, it is regrettable that some of the recent breeders (and judges) seem to ignore that the moles are typical attributes of the Pug, inherently connected to their noble background. The ideal number would be three moles on each cheek.
The thumb mark is formed by a black outline of the fawn head wrinkles. Some say this mark was once believed to be Buddha's thumb mark. Others say its importance stems from the fact that it represented the Chinese ideogram for 'prince'. Whichever the origin, the important thing to remember is that the wrinkles on the forehead should be deep and form a shape close to a "W" shape.
The head should be round and wrinkled with expressive, protruding eyes. The muzzle is very large and very short, but without the lay-back, typical of the bulldog. A common fault in the Pug is a weak underjaw, which gives the face a frog-like expression. The bite should be slightly undershot. Actually, the bite is not important in itself, but an incorrect placement of the teeth may affect the pug's expression. An even bite often results in a terrier-like or froggy expression, while a more pronounced undershot may result in a bulldog-like muzzle.
The eyes should be round and large, but not bulging as if they were going to emerge from their sockets. They should be set well apart in the skull, but still look forward, not sideward. The expression conveyed by the eyes is very important. The eyes should be very expressive in a vivid, solicitous way, but never querulous. They remind more of the dark, clever eyes of a monkey than of those of other dogs. (Note that the Pug's head was compared to that of a monkey in the earlier descriptions, see also: etymology of Pug).
The ears are button or rose, but button ears are more characteristic and preferred by most judges. The reason is that with rose ears the skull tends to appear more narrow than it is, which is not desirable. The black of the ears should be complete with no 'reverse bleeding' (i.e. of the fawn into the black).
The tail is another distinctive characteristic of the breed: it must be set high, and form a tight curl. A double curl is considered perfection. At one time Pug fanciers thought that male Pugs should carry their tails on the right side, and female Pugs on the left, but that was considered a bit far-fetched by most Pug breeders and has never been required by the standard.
Pugs come in fawn (apricot or silver) and black. More about Pug Colors.
For the limbs, neck and other morphological characteristics, see also: Pug breed standard.
Catherine Marien © 2007
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(Morphology and typical traits of the Pug)
by Catherine Marien © Puginformation.org.
Based on the study of the first descriptions of the Pug, original Pug breed standards, photos of the most representative Pugs and Champions from the 1940's until today, in the light of today's breed standards (AKC, FCI, Kennel Club).
Lady Willboughby de Eresby of Grimthorpe, near Lincoln and Charles Morrison of Walham Green, London were two rival breeders who dominated Pug breeding in 19th century England and largely influenced the breed.
The rivalry between the two breeders led to two distinct strains, each with their fervent adherents who defended their differences in color and markings, but also in the head, feet and eyes of their pugs.
Eventually the differences faded as the two lines became largely interbred. More about the Willoughby and Morrison pug colors.