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Home > Dogs > What Were Pugs Bred For? History & FAQs

What Were Pugs Bred For? History & FAQs

pug up close

In ancient China, Pugs were bred as companion dogs for ruling Chinese families. Chinese emperors loved these dogs so much that they were given a life of luxury and guarded by the emperor’s soldiers. These dogs eventually spread to other parts of Asia and the world where they became one of the most popular companion breeds.

There is a lot more to know about the history of the Pug. Keep reading to learn exactly why these adorable pups were bred and how they quickly became one of the most popular breeds on the planet.


Chinese Origins – 1000 AD

Historians know that the Pug was bred in ancient China as a companion dog for the emperors and royal families. It is unclear exactly when these dogs were bred, but there is evidence that the dogs were around about 1000 AD.

As companions to the royal families, Pugs were granted a life that most people only dreamed of, let alone other dogs. The Pugs were granted a life of luxury and the emperor’s own soldiers to ensure complete health and safety.

pug in a harness
Image Credit: maniablack18, Pixabay

Pugs Spread Throughout Asia – 1000s to 1500s

Eventually, Pugs began to spread to other parts of Asia. It is unclear exactly when this happened, but it likely happened before the 15th century.

As Pugs spread throughout the continent, they especially became popular among Buddhist monks in Tibet. These Buddhist monks kept the adorable dog in their own monasteries. There, the dogs were highly affectionate pets.

Pugs Come to Europe – 1500s to 1600s

During the 16th century, Pugs made their way to Europe. They quickly became the dog of royal families. Supposedly, the Pug even became the official dog in 1572 of the House of Orange. A Pug reportedly saved the Prince of Orange by letting him know that assassins were approaching.

Pugs were even known to travel with William III and Mary II. In fact, a Pug was with them whenever they traveled from the Netherlands to England to accept the throne. During this time, it is believed that Pugs were bred with an Old King Charles Spaniel, creating the modern breed we know today.

By the 17th century, Pugs were popular all throughout Europe, including countries like Spain and Italy. The continental Europeans love to dress their Pugs in clothes, including jackets and pantaloons. Sometimes, Pugs were used to track animals for the military or kept his guard dogs by ordinary people.

male and female pugs
Image Credit: Pixabay

Pugs Boom in Popularity Worldwide – 1700s to 1900s

Even though Pugs were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, they didn’t become a global sensation until the 18th and 20th centuries. During this time, the Pug was a favorite among nearly all royal families, including the families of Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria is especially important for the history of the Pug. Her love of the dog caused her to establish the Kennel Club where the breed was more regulated. She specifically loved apricot and fawn Pugs. The Pug we see today is thanks to Queen Victoria’s efforts.

As you might expect, the love of the Pug expanded to the United States in the 19th century. The American Kennel Club recognized Pugs shortly after in 1885, and the Pug Dog Club of America was created in 1931. Breeding Pugs took on the form we know today during this time.

Pugs Today

Today, Pugs are as popular as ever. They are one breed that almost everyone can identify. They are known for their short muscles, short legs, compressed snout, and curly tail. Many individuals love purebred Pugs, but some countries like Retro Pugs as well.

These dogs are a favorite today because of their adorable appearance, but they have a personality that many individuals love too. They are known for being very goofy, loyal, and protective, but they are very gentle with their family and loved ones, making them good pets for homes with children.

pug jumping
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Pugs Have Changed Over the Years

Pugs have had a similar appearance since their original breeding, but they have changed some since their ancient Chinese days. Most notably, the snout of the Pug has become more squished over time. Even by looking at a picture of Pugs from the 1920s, you will find that its snout used to protrude more than it does today.

The snout change is primarily due to selective breeding. Although the smashed snout is adorable, it causes Pugs to be susceptible to many illnesses, including eye illnesses, breathing problems, and respiratory infections. It’s important to make sure your Pug has adequate health care to ensure it does not become a victim of these illnesses.



Since the Pug’s history began around the 1000s, it is one of the oldest breeds today. Oddly enough, this breed hasn’t changed too much over the hundreds of years. Although the appearance is slightly different from what it used to be, these dogs have always been loved for their loyalty and companionship.

Whether you live alone or have a family full of children, Pugs make a great pet due to their loving nature and loyalty. Just make sure to provide your dog with adequate health care to ensure it remains healthy and happy despite its squished snout.

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Featured Image Credit: Toberoon, Pixabay

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