The History of Pugs: From Ancient China to the Modern Home

Jennifer Wilber is a life-long animal lover. She currently has two black cats and has had many dogs and small pets throughout her life.

Pugs: An Ancient and Mysterious Dog Breed

Pugs have been one of the most popular dog breeds throughout much of modern history. They are one of the oldest and most recognizable dog breeds in the world. Their enduring popularity is likely due to their strange yet adorable appearance and clownish demeanor. But where did these curious pug-nosed dogs come from, and how did they become so popular? The rich history of the pug spans centuries and covers several continents throughout the world. Pugs have been a preferred companion of royalty throughout history, everywhere from the Far East to the Western world, dating back to ancient times.

Ancient Chinese Origins

Most historians agree that pugs trace their origins to ancient China. The earliest records of pugs appearing in history can be dated back to 700 BC, where pugs were kept by Chinese emperors. During this period, Chinese royalty carefully bred small, short-legged dogs into a selection of specific breeds varying primarily by coat color and length. These dogs became the precursors to breeds that are still popular today, such as the Pekingese and the pug. As their popularity spread throughout the region, pugs were eventually kept by Buddhist monks in Tibet as well.

In China during this time, pugs were held in such high regard that only royal families were permitted to own them. Royal pugs lived a life of luxury that most people during this time could only dream of. Emperor Ling To (168-190 AD) only allowed his pug to be served the finest foods and ordered his palace’s soldiers to stand guard to protect his pug at all times. Anyone caught attempting to steal or harm his pug was punished by death.

Later on, pugs were commonly kept by Buddhist monks in their monasteries in Tibet. They were regarded as loyal companions by the Buddhist monks. Believe it or not, these little dogs may have also been utilized as guard dogs to protect Tibetan monasteries. Though small, these dogs were highly regarded by their masters.

16th-17th Century: Pugs Overtake Europe

By the 1500s, the popularity of pugs began to spread all throughout Europe. European traders from Portugal and the Netherlands were so enamored by the Chinese pugs that they brought them back to Europe where the dogs were then bred by the wealthy to establish the breed all across Europe. These flat-nosed dogs became favored members of European courts. There were several famous pugs belonging to European royalty that are still well-known to historians today.

One such notable pug is Pompey, who is credited with saving the life of his owner, Prince William of Orange (also known as William the Silent), the founder of the House Orange-Nassau and the Netherlands as a state. It is said that Pompey the pug alerted his owner to an assassination attempt by the Spanish by jumping on his face to wake him up just in time to stop the attack. Ever since this incident in 1572, pugs have been the official dog of the House of Orange.

When William III and Mary II left the Netherlands to accept the throne of England in 1688, their beloved pug traveled with them. They were proud pug owners, and their love of pugs followed them from the Netherlands to England.

Pugs of the 18th Century: Artists’ Muses and Royal Companions

The pug’s popularity continued to increase around the world in the 18th century and continues today. Pugs appeared in artwork by famous painters and continued to be common companions for royalty and aristocrats throughout Europe.

The English painter William Hogarth was well known for his love of pugs, and he owned several throughout his life. His pugs were a favorite subject for his paintings. Hogarth’s 1745 self-portrait even includes his beloved pug companion, Trump. This painting is currently displayed in London's Tate Gallery.

Pugs also became popular in Spain during this time period as well. Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya painted pugs in his artwork. Goya’s 1786 painting The Marquesa de Pontejos features a cute little pug trotting at the subject’s feet.

Pugs were also highly popular in Italy during this time period. In Italy, pugs were commonly seen riding up front on private carriages and were often dressed in jackets and pantaloons matching those of the coachman. In 1789, Mrs. Hester Lynch Piozzi, an 18th-century diarist and author, wrote in her journal, "the little Pug dog or Dutch mastiff has quitted London for Padua, I perceive. Every carriage I meet here has a Pug in it." These dogs were very important accessories and companions to the wealthy during this time.

The popularity of the Pug continued to spread to France during the 18th century. Before she was married to Napoleon Bonaparte, Empress Joséphine had her pug, named Fortune, carry concealed messages to her family while she was imprisoned at Les Carmes prison. Fortune was the only one who had been given visiting rights during her incarceration. This alone shows how important pugs were to their owners, and how much trust pug owners had in their beloved pugs during this time.

Pug Poll

The Modern Era: 19th Century to Today

In the 19th century, the breed enjoyed ever-increasing popularity due in part to Queen Victoria’s devotion to the breed. She owned many pugs throughout her life, which she bred herself. Queen Victoria’s involvement with dogs lead to the creation of the Kennel Club, which was formed in 1873. Her love of pugs spread to many other members of the royal family, including her grandson, King George V, and her great-grandson, King Edward VII. Queen Victoria’s pugs were of the fawn- and apricot-colored varieties, but the comical black pugs that we know and love today soon arrived on the scene in Europe as well.

The European pugs of this time period also differed in appearance from the pugs we have today in other ways. European pugs in the 18th and 19th century usually had longer legs and longer noses than today’s pugs. Occasionally, pugs’ ears were cropped during this time period as well. It wasn’t until a new wave of pugs was imported to Europe from China in 1860 that pugs with the familiar short legs, flat pug nose, and a stockier build appeared in Europe. Shortly after this new wave of Chinese pugs appeared on the scene in Europe, Lady Brassey, a British aristocrat, brought black pugs to Europe from a visit to China, making pugs with this coat color fashionable in Europe. Finally, in 1895, the practice of ear cropping was made illegal, so pugs were now safe from having their signature floppy ears cropped.

Pugs also made their way to the Americas during the 19th century, where they quickly became popular pets and show dogs. Pugs were recognized by the AKC in 1885 and the Pug Dog Club of America was founded in 1931. They continue to be popular pets in American households and in the show ring today.

Today, while fawn, apricot, and black pugs are still the most common, there are also other colors available. Pugs with brindle coats are rare, but do pop up in litters from time to time. There are now even a few breeders who specialize in pugs with snow-white coats. You will likely only be able to show pugs with the standard coat colors, however, as the AKC doesn't recognize the more rare coat colors.

Pugs: Past, Present, and Future

Pugs have a long and fascinating history, from their origins as lap dogs for Chinese royalty, to their many appearances throughout European history, and their current popularity as American show dogs and pets. Pugs continue to be one of the most popular breeds of dogs today throughout Europe and America. Though they suffer from several health problems due to their breeding, they continue to be a favored pet for many families and they continue to be popular choices for show dogs. Pugs will likely to continue to be popular with dog lovers far into the future.

Pug Poll


  • Pug Dog Breed Information
    Right breed for you? Pug information including personality, history, grooming, pictures, videos, and the AKC breed standard.
  • Pug - Wikipedia

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I buy a pug?

Answer: If you want to buy one from a breeder, search online for reputable pug breeders in your area. Do your research and check reviews to avoid puppy mills and backyard breeders.

Consider adopting a rescue pug from an animal shelter or from a breed-specific rescue organization such as the Ohio Pug Rescue.

Question: Why are pugs so cute?

Answer: Humans perceive pugs as being exceptionally cute because their facial features, particularly their large, expressive eyes, remind us of baby humans. We are biologically programmed to think animals with such features are cute and to want to nurture and care for them as though they are our own young.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber

Jennifer Wilber (author) from Cleveland, Ohio on May 29, 2019:

See the sources listed at the end of the article.

Arianna on May 29, 2019:

where did you get this informasshon from?

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 01, 2018:

I didn't realise pugs had such a history. I think they are adorable little dogs. I'd love one, they're so cute.

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Charming and affectionate, Pugs are small but solid breeds that are loved by millions across the globe. They are iconic for their wrinkled face and curled tail. Always looking for human companionship, Pugs were once the playful comrades of Chinese emperors.

See the fact file below for more information on the Pugs or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Pug worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Pug

Pugs have won us over with their adorable faces, their loyalty, and their easy-going nature. But where did those qualities come from? And just how loyal is this pint-sized pooch? Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about Pugs:

1. Buddhist Monks Kept Them as Pets

The earliest records of the Pug come from China, where Pugs were pets in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. We know that Pugs have existed since at least 400 B.C., making them one of the oldest dog breeds.

2. They Were Bred To Be Lap Dogs

The original purpose of Pugs was to serve as lapdogs for Chinese emperors. This is why Pugs don't need as much exercise as other breeds.

3. Their Face Wrinkles Are a Badge Of Honor

Pugs have wrinkled faces because Chinese breeders purposely bred them that way. They actually aimed to create a pattern of wrinkles on the dogs' foreheads, which resembled the Chinese character for “prince.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Libner, AKC Breeder of Merit

4. Their Name Probably Comes From Their Facial Expression

The most popular theory about the breed's name is that it came from marmoset monkeys, which were also known as Pug monkeys. Marmosets were popular pets in the early 1700s, and their faces look very similar to the faces of Pug dogs.

5. One Pug Saved His Royal Master's Life

The first Prince William of Orange led the Dutch in a successful revolt against the Spaniards in the 1500s. Spanish soldiers attempted to assassinate William in Hermingny in 1572, but William's Pug, Pompey, thwarted the attempt. The assassins attempted to sneak up to Prince William's tent, but Pompey heard them and began barking. Because of Pompey's heroism, the Pug became the official breed of the House of Orange.

6. Napoleon's Wife Had a Feisty Pug

Napoleon's wife, Josephine, had a loyal and protective pet Pug named Fortune. When Josephine was in prison during the Reign of Terror, before she and Napoleon were married, Fortune carried messages from the prison to Josephine's first husband. Fortune is most famous for biting Napoleon on the couple's wedding night, after Josephine refused to exile her beloved dog from the marriage bed.

7. Many Other Famous People Have Owned Pugs

Pugs have been the dogs of choice for royals, historical figures, and modern-day celebrities. Queen Victoria loved Pugs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, had two pugs named Punch and Missy. Heavy metal singer Rob Zombie has a pug named Dracula, and famous Italian designer Valentino had a pug named Oliver, after which he named one of his clothing lines. Other Pug-owning celebrities include Gerard Butler, Jessica Alba, Hugh Laurie, Tori Spelling, and Paris Hilton.

8. Pugs Were a Symbol of the Freemasons

After the Catholic Church forbid Catholics from becoming Freemasons, a group of Catholics decided to form a covert Freemason society called the Order of the Pug in 1740. They chose the Pug as their symbol because Pugs are loyal and trustworthy. To be initiated into the order, you had to wear a dog collar and scratch at the door.

9. They Are Not Related To Bulldogs

Pugs are sometimes called “Dutch Bulldogs,” but this is a bit of a misnomer. DNA testing has proven that Bulldogs and Pugs are not actually related. The Pug does have the same stocky shape, flat face and wrinkles as the Bulldog, but Pugs share their origins with the Pekingese, not the Bulldog.

Photo courtesy of Laura Libner, AKC Breeder of Merit

10. A Group Of Pugs Is Called a “Grumble”

As if Pugs couldn't possibly get more adorable, put them together and they make an adorable grumble.

History of pug dog breed

Pug dogs are believed to have originated in China, but not much is known about their early history. Some historians believe that they are related to the Tibetan Mastiff. They lived in an expensive and luxurious accommodation by the emperors of China.
The dogs have been in there are three types of lion dog, Pekingese, and low-Sze, which raised in China. Some think that the famous “Foo Dogs” of China are representations of the ancient Pug. Evidence of Pug-like dogs has been found in ancient Tibet and Japan. They became popular in the Dutch royal court and made their way to England in 1689.

Photo credit:

Pugs became very popular with the rich and famous are the rulers. King Louis XIV of their fans is amongst Napoleon’s Empress, Josephine Queen Victoria, etc. The American Kennel Club is started by registering in 1885 the Pug latest, most popular ranked of which is 25th. In 1800


The modern Pug’s appearance probably changed after 1860 when a new wave of Pugs was imported directly from China, it has been known that black pugs exist in 1700 because the famous artist, William Hogarth was a Pug enthusiast. He showed pictures of a black pug in famous paintings. And the Pugs were first exhibited in England in 1861. The studbook began in 1871 with 66 Pugs in the first volume.

The dogs in 1572 by the Dutch East India Company was transferred to the Netherlands through trade ships. Pug breed became very popular during the Victorian era and many of the pictures, postcards, and figurines were displayed at the time. Mops were introduced to the United States after the Civil War, and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. So this is a little history of pug dogs, therefore read the article and enjoy it.

Pugs: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Pug temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Sometimes playful and clownish. Sometimes calm and dignified. Always sturdy and stable, good-humored and amiable. This is the Pug.

Though peaceful with all the world (people and other animals), the Pug will sound off with his rather odd-sounding bark when visitors arrive. Then he will welcome them inside with snorts, snuffles, and grunts.

As is the case with most short-faced dogs, his large expressive eyes, wrinkled forehead, cocked head, innocent expression, and strange sounds bring out parental feelings in many people.

Indeed, a Pug is very childlike and always wants to be with you. If not spoiled too much, he can be depended on to maintain his sweet, comical, charming personality.

Though stubborn, Pugs seldom get into real mischief. Adults spend much of the day sleeping.

Gassiness can be an embarrassing problem, and housebreaking can be a challenge, especially in the rain, which Pugs detest. The biggest concern with this breed is their many serious health problems.

  • Is small, yet sturdy and blocky
  • Has a short face with large expressive eyes
  • Has a short coat
  • Is usually polite with everyone, including other pets
  • Doesn't need much exercise
  • Seldom gets into real mischief

A Pug may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with.

  • Snorting, snuffling, wheezing, snoring, some slobbering
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Slowness to housebreak
  • Constant shedding – every day!
  • Lots of potential health problems due to his deformed build – yes, it might look cute, but it is badly deformed

A Pug may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Pugs have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Pug to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the Pug

If I was considering a Pug, I would be most concerned about.

    Health problems. Unfortunately, breeders deliberately breed these good-natured dogs to be deformed. As such, they suffer more than their share of health problems – not only with their breathing, but also eye diseases, joint diseases, and a devastating (fatal) neurological disease called Pug Dog Encephalitis. Read more about Pug Health.

  • Gassiness (flatulence). All short-faced breeds gulp air when they eat, and that air has to go somewhere, after all. However, commercial diets make flatulence worse by including fibrous or hard-to-digest ingredients. Pugs who are fed a homemade diet of real meat and vegetables have much less trouble with gassiness.
  • Constant shedding. It usually comes as a shock to new Pug owners just how much a Pug sheds. Most dog breeds have two shedding seasons per year where they shed the majority of their dead hairs. But Pugs are constant shedders who drop a moderate amount of hair all year. You need to be sure that you're okay with this!
  • Pug "sounds". Pugs snort, snuffle, wheeze, grunt, and snore loudly. The sounds are endearing to some people nerve-wracking to others.
  • Housebreaking. Pugs can be slow to pick up the concept of housebreaking. Expect several months of consistent crate training. Read more about housebreaking your Pug.
  • Stubbornness. Though they seldom get into real trouble, most Pugs are at least mildly stubborn. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Food is a great motivator with this breed, but too many cookies equals a fat Pug. Also you don't want a dog who only obeys when you're waving a biscuit at him.

    Instead you should establish the right relationship between the two of you, where you are the leader and he is the follower. In other words, you must teach your Pug to respect you. Read more about Pug Training.

    About the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

    To help you train and care for your dog

    Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

    The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

    Watch the video: Ancient China the forbidden city story for kids (July 2021).