Pug of the early 19th century painted by Richard Ramsey Reinagle
Source: Dog Painting
by William Secord
The Pug's History and Origins
by Catherine Marien © Puginformation.org.
The only thing we know for sure about the Pug's history is that much of its remote history is a matter of conjecture. Most cynologists agree that the Pug's roots stem from the Far East, probably from China, but the Netherlands, UK and US also contributed to the development of the breed.
The Pug was Dutch before it reached England. Proof is that the first pugs arriving in England were often referred to as "Dutch Pugs" or "Dutch Mastiffs", because the Pug's body contour and wrinkled head resembled that of the Mastiff. They often wore orange ribbons around their necks, in reference to the House of Orange. However, it is still unclear how the Pug first arrived to Holland.
Various theories exist on the possible routes followed by the Pug beforing reaching Holland and the rest of Europe.
One theory has it that the Pug came to the Netherlands from "Muscovy", or Russia. A painting of Princess Ekaterina Golitsyna by Louis Michel van Loo made in 1759 shows indeed that Pugs were present at the Russian court before the 1800s. More about Royal Pug owners >>
The Russians may have obtained the Pug from the Chinese and later passed it on to the Dutch. According to another theory it were the Portugese who brought the Pug back from China and passed it on to the Dutch.
However, most dog historians believe it were the Dutch traders who brought the Pug directly from China through the Dutch East India Company. The remote origin of the Pug remains uncertain. Whether the Pug originated in China, Japan or another country of the Far East is not easy to determine. Early accounts seem to confirm that Pugs were present in the Chinese Emperor's Palace and it is true that most of the short-nosed toy dogs (like the Pekinese), with tails curled over their backs, are associated with that country. The Foo dog, an Chinese ancestral dog, is mentioned in both the Pug's and Sharpei's history (another Chinese dog breed).
lines, to Click. It were probably the English who gave the Pug its 1900's look after 1860. Early American breeders further contributed to the standardization of the breed.
In Pug paintings and engravings before that time the breed was usually represented with longer, thinner legs and longer muzzles instead of the pushed-in face we know find typical of the Pug. The ears were cropped, when not entirely cut off. Cutting off the ears was done to give the ears a more rounded look and was supposed to improve the dog's expression. However, the amputation often lead to an intense inflammation injuring the internal structure of the ear. The frequent deafness in some Pugs at that time can be entirely attributed to that practice. See also: Pugs in art.
It has been said that as the Pug is "appropriated to no useful purpose, susceptible of no predominant passen, and in no way remarkable for any pre-eminent quality", he seems, indeed, "intended to be the patient follower of a ruminating philosopher" or the adulatory companion of an artist or nobleman.
Mentions of the Pug in the "Low Countries " (The Netherlands) exist prior to 1700s and so indeed confirm that the Pug may have been exported from the Netherlands to all other European countries, including Russia.
The following anecdote, related in a book called "Sir Roger Williams' Actions in the Low Countries" and printed in 1618, explains how the Pug became the mascot dog of the House of Orange.
"The Prince of Orange (...) being retired into the camp, Julian Romero, with earnest persuasions, procured license of the Duke D'Alva to hazard a camisado, or night attack, upon the prince. At midnight Julian sallied out of the trenches with a thousand armed men, mostly pikes, who forced all the guards that they found in their way into the place of arms before the Prince's tent, and killed two of his secretaries. The Prince himself escaped very narrowly, for I have often heard him say that he thought but for a dog he should have been taken or slain. The attack was made with such resolution, that the guards took no alarm until their fellows were running to the place of arms, with their enemies at their heels, when this dog, hearing a great noise, fell to scratching and crying, and awakened him before any of his men; and though the Prince slept armed, with a lacquey always holding one of his horses ready bridled and saddled, yet, at the going out of his tent, with much ado he recovered his horse before the enemy arrived. Nevertheless, one of his equerries was slain taking horse presently after him, as were divers of his servants. The Prince, to show his gratitude, until his dying day kept one of that dog's race, and so did many of his friends and followers. These animals were not remarkable for their beauty, being little white dogs, with crooked noses, called Camuses (flat-nosed)." See also: Famous Pug Owners.
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Top banner photos: Black Pug in pink hoodie and Black Pug in tiger outfit © Martin Carlsson; Fawn Pugs with Bandanas © Catherine Marien.
Wood background by www.packrat-pro.com.
Painting by Louis Michel van Loo, 1759
See more Pug paintings
Whichever theory we accept as true, one thing is sure: at some point in the Pug's history, new Pug blood was brought from Russia, as we know that Lord Willoughby added some Russian Pug specimens to his Pug's bloodlines.
On occasion oriental blood was probably also reintroduced in the already established Pug lines. It is said that a pair of short-nosed dogs, known as Lamb and Moss were brought from China to England by the Marquis of Wellesley. See also: Famous Pugs.
One of the puppies of Lamb and Moss, known as Click, was bred to Pug bitches and some authors believe that all more recent Pug lines can be directly traced back, in one or several
Engraving of a Lady and a Pug
published in Harper's Weekly in 1878
The Painter William Hogarth
and his Pug. See Pugs in art
Collection The Tate Gallery, London