French Bulldog History – The Toy Bulldog, Pt 1

Toy Bulldogs, 1904, taken from “The New Book of the Dog” 


The foundation of the French Bulldog as a breed is perhaps one of the better documented canine breed histories. Instead of being shrouded in mystery, or allegorical stories, ours is a fairly pragmatic tale – some Bulldogs were born small, and some people liked them that way. Some Bulldogs were born with ‘tulip ears’, and some people liked them that way.

At the intersection of these two states of being arose the French Bulldog, which was both small and tulip eared, while the former gave rise to the Toy Bulldog. As a separate breed, Toy Bulldogs faded away around the 1930s, while the French Bulldog continued to thrive, albeit in a small way, for many decades.

In 1907, Robert Leighton published “The New Book of the Dog“, one of the most exhaustively comprehensive examinations of modern British dog breeds. In it, he devotes several chapters to the history of the “Bull Breeds”, including the Bulldog, the Toy Bulldog, and the French Bulldog.

This is the chapter on Toy Bulldog history, taken from that book, and written by Lady Kathleen Pilkington (more to come on this stellar Lady later).

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French Bulldog History – Beware of Drunken Firemen

Tessa in her favorite patio chair

Many years ago, I had an office in the Yorkville area of Toronto, which was one of the very first Toronto neighbourhoods to get a Starbucks Coffee. I had a daily ritual of going to Starbucks for a coffee at the start of my work day, and would of course bring Tessa with me when I went. Initially, I brought her inside, but a manager one day told me that Public Health would no longer allow dogs inside the coffee shop, and that Tessa would have to wait outside.

Tessa was already used to sitting on the patio at Starbucks, where she would sit at her own chair. She loved to people watch, surveying the sidewalk and making friends with the other patrons, many of whom, at that time, had never seen a French Bulldog before.

Within a month or so, Tessa was on a first name basis with half of the regular patrons, who grew used to seeing her sitting outside on her own, in her chair, while she waited for me to come outside. Occasionally, someone would offer her a piece of biscotti, or part of their scone, and one day, she sat on the lap of James Woods, who admired her ears and her beautiful eyes.

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Never Never Land French Bulldogs & Salvolatile

This is a repost of an article I originally wrote for the FBDCA Specialty Winners Archive on FrenchBulldogZ.Org

Salvolatile – FBDCA Specialty 1910 Original Best of Breed Winner

Salvolatile, FBDCA Best of Breed Winner 1910

In 1910, at the second annual French Bull Dog Club of America Specialty Show, held at the Hotel Astor Ballroom in New York City, a brindle and white bitch named Best of Breed.

Salvolatile was a massive bitch of heavy bone, and extremely “bully” in type. The reason for this is simple – she was, in fact, out of an English Bulldog. This is not as unusual as it may seem, as there was a great deal of intermingling while the breed was still in the early stages of recognition. In fact, up until the twenties one could choose to register their dog with the AKC as either a French Bulldog, or a Miniature Bulldog. In many cases, the only difference came down to whether the dog in question had ‘bat ears’ or ‘rose ears’.

After Salvolatile’s Best of Breed win at the specialty show, a complaint was lodged with the show chairpersons and the judge. Shortly afterwards,  her win was overturned and Best of Breed was instead awarded to her Best of Opposite, Nellcote Gamin.

Salvolatile’s owner, Mrs. Mary Winthrop Turner, describes this occurrence in an excerpt from her kennel brochure:

“During the Fall, 1910, a controversy re the type and origin of the French Bulldog, was carried on through the columns of many of the dog periodicals. This controversy grew out of the protest which was lodged against the famous French Bull bitch, “SALVOLATILE” of which I was then, and still am, the fortunate owner.

Mr. Maurice Greenwood was the owner of the English Bulldog “Peggie.” He took her to the Warren Kennels and she was there bred (so I am informed) by Mr. Purdy, at that time President of the French Bulldog Club of New England, to his dog “Cyrano.”

“SALVOLATILE” was first shown in New England where her breeding was no secret. She was next shown at Newark, N.J., where she received winners and finally, at the Hotel Astor, New York April 21, 1910, Specialty Show of the French Bulldog Club of America where she received winners under Mr. James Mortimer.

Shortly after this, a protest was lodged through envy, and it was sustained, and she was disqualified justly, according to the laws of the American Kennel Club.”



— Text from a Pamphlet written by Mary Winthrop-Turner, owner of Salvolatile. From the collection of Colette Secher.