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What Were Pugs Bred For? Origins & History Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

pug in a harness

Pugs are cute, petite, ancient dogs that have been around for centuries. They are distinctive due to their wrinkly faces, short muzzles, and curly tails. Pugs are commonly light brown, although they come in various colors. They were bred to be companions for important Chinese families, and since they were a rare breed, they were highly valued, guarded by soldiers, and kept in luxury.

Later, pugs spread all around the world and became a popular breed. Since they are very adaptable and have a people-pleasing nature, they are perfect companions and lapdogs. If you’re interested in pug history and why these pups became so popular, keep reading to find out more.

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Pug origins

Pugs originated in ancient China, where they were companions for royal families and emperors. There’s no known exact timeframe for when people bred pugs, although there’s evidence that they date back to at least the 17th century BC while the Shang Dynasty was ruling China. Some researchers even believe that pugs appeared while the Han Dynasty was ruling, which dates to around 200 BC.

As they were only meant for royalty and people with high titles, pugs were always pampered and had a luxurious life. Pugs were guarded by soldiers who were there to protect them at all times and ensure their health and safety.

Pugs were partly so highly valued and appreciated in China due to the “W” shaped mark on their foreheads. The shape looked like the Chinese letters that stand for “prince.”

Puppy Pug curve tail
Photo Credit: Praisaeng, Shutterstock

10th to 15th century – Pugs Spread Through Asia

From the 10th to the 15th century, pugs spread all over Asia. Although the precise time when this happened isn’t known, it likely occurred prior to the 15th century.

Pugs became popular even in ordinary households, while they were especially favored among the Buddhist monks in Tibet, who kept the pugs in monasteries and quickly became loved because of their highly-affectionate nature.

16th to 17th century – Pugs Spread Through Europe

During the 16th to the 17th century, pugs spread through Europe. There are theories that the first European country with pugs was the Netherlands. Pugs were highly popular in European courts. In fact, the Netherlands House of Orange had a pug as their official dog because Pompey, a pug on the court, alerted the Prince of Orange of assassins and therefore saved his life.

Since pugs were praised and valued, they were often given as gifts from foreign rulers. China has gifted pugs to Japanese rulers and later to the first Russian ambassador.

They quickly became favorable throughout Europe, especially among Spain and Italy. Famous painters have painted pugs while new owners were showing them off, dressing them in pantaloons and jackets. Even the military was amazed by pugs, so they were used as guard animals and to track people and animals.

Pug on a flower bed
Photo Credit: RitaE, Pixabay

18th to 20th century – Pugs Spread Worldwide

Pugs finally became a global sensation from the 18th to the 20th century. France and England loved pugs, and even critical historical characters like Napoleon and Queen Victoria had pugs.

Queen Victoria played a unique role in pugs’ history because she established the Kennel Club due to her love and devotion to this breed. She loved pugs so much that she passed the passion for this breed to other members of the Royal Family.

Around the 19th century, pugs also came to the USA and in 1885, the American Kennel Club officially recognized pugs, while in 1931 came the creation of the first Pug Dog Club of America.

Pug Development Over The Years

Pugs have changed over time, but they are still petite, wrinkly, and adorable. They have fun personalities, so they are great for families with kids. They are very friendly, loyal, goofy, and fun to be around.

The most noticeable difference between ancient and current pugs is in their snout.

Although they are cute, pugs are prone to many illnesses, which is something to consider before buying a pug. Because their snout is not as it used to be, they can suffer from respiratory infections, breathing problems, and eye illnesses. Also, be aware that they need human companionship at all times, so you’ll also need to pamper your pug.

They are still quite a low-maintenance breed that loves grooming. A pug will happily sit in your lap while you brush or pet them.

pug puppy playing with a girl
Photo Credit: Aleksandr Ryzhov, Shutterstock

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Pugs have been here for centuries, and they will undoubtedly be here for many years to come. If you’re a pug owner, or you’re planning on buying a pug, ensure you know how to take care of them. Be loving, caring, and provide your pug with all the love it needs. In return, you’ll have a companion that will always be there for you!

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Featured Image Credit: maniablack18, Pixabay

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