Look out labradors, the French bull­dogs are com­ing: how the cute Con­ti­nen­tal breed stole our af­fec­tions

Sacre­bleu! It seems that Bri­tain’s top dog is a French bull­dog. Katy Bir­chall finds out why the en­dear­ingly bateared ca­nine is tak­ing over homes and hearts–and why you should do your re­search be­fore buy­ing a puppy

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by David Yeo and Neil Macmil­lan

Ev­ery­body loves them— it takes me hours to get any­where,’ says Jamie bouloux of his two French bull­dogs, bruce (named af­ter bruce Spring­steen) and Shirley (Shirley Tem­ple). ‘There’s just some­thing about them.’ Mr bouloux, Ceo of London-based MGA emer­gin risk, is be­sot­ted with the breed and he’s not the only one.

Last month, the Ken­nel Club (KC) sent shockwaves through the na­tion when it an­nounced that the labrador’s long-held po­si­tion as bri­tain’s most pop­u­lar dog was un­der threat, for the first time in 27 years, from the rise of the French bull­dog, a breed that saw a 47% in­crease in puppy regis­tra­tions in 2016 alone. regis­tra­tions have in­creased by 368% in the past five years and 3,000% in the past 10.

Al­though labrador devo­tees are cur­rently splash­ing their faces with cold wa­ter, the news is no sur­prise to ‘Frenchie’ fans. ‘What is sur­pris­ing is that it’s taken nearly 100 years for the Frenchie to be­come so pop­u­lar,’ de­clares Jackie Mavro-michaelis, sec­re­tary of the Pen­nine and Scot­tish French bull­dog As­so­ci­a­tion and owner of more than 20 dogs.

‘They’re funny, lov­ing, com­pan­ion­able, cu­ri­ous, in­tel­li­gent and tena­cious. They’re ideal for town or coun­try liv­ing, they make good fam­ily pets and don’t need lots of ex­er­cise. They can, how­ever, suf­fer from flat­u­lence,’ she adds know­ingly. Nor do they like wa­ter— they’re not nat­u­ral swim­mers.

en­thu­si­asm for this cheer­ful, wrinkly­nosed dog stems largely from its en­dear­ingly com­i­cal ap­pear­ance— with its big bat ears, sturdy body and ex­ag­ger­ated fea­tures, the French bull­dog ap­peals to us in the same way a baby chimp does, ex­plains Mrs Mavromichaelis. ‘They have a unique look— a flat face and big, dark en­gag­ing eyes.’

It was cer­tainly love at first sight for Penny rank­ine-par­sons, now pres­i­dent of the French bull­dog Club of eng­land,

They’re funny, lov­ing, com­pan­ion­able, cu­ri­ous and in­tel­li­gent’

‘He may look serious but he is a laugh­ing philoso­pher. He is al­ways a clown

when she set eyes on two Frenchies be­long­ing to a bull­dog breeder she was vis­it­ing. ‘I dis­cov­ered the breed purely by ac­ci­dent—i’d never seen one be­fore and knew noth­ing about them. At that time, fewer than 200 pup­pies were be­ing born a year, so I waited two years for one [Wiz]. Be­fore Wiz ar­rived, I educated my­self about all mat­ters Frenchie.’

Mrs Rank­ine-par­sons shares her home with three Frenchies and has lost count of the num­ber she has owned over the past 35 years. ‘They have each had their own per­son­al­i­ties, but have all been su­per com­pan­ions, with the best of tem­per­a­ments. The breed is charm­ing and has such an amus­ing clown-like per­sona.’

Clown­ish is a de­scrip­tion long as­so­ci­ated with the Frenchie—will Judy wrote of the breed in the 1936 Dog

En­cy­clopae­dia: ‘He may look serious but he is a laugh­ing philoso­pher… He is al­ways a clown.’ ‘They’re hi­lar­i­ous,’ Mr Bouloux agrees. ‘We once came home to find Bruce, who’d been chas­ing his ball about, with his head stuck un­der­neath the dress­ing ta­ble and his bot­tom stick­ing out in the air.’

Tele­vi­sion chef Tom Ker­ridge, pro­pri­etor of the Miche­lin-starred The Hand and Flow­ers in Marlow, Buck­ing­hamshire, de­scribes his French bull­dog, Inky, as ‘a cross be­tween a grumpy teenager, a slightly de­ranged boxer dog and a very happy spaniel’. He adds: ‘I ab­so­lutely love this breed. There’s so much char­ac­ter be­hind that squashy face.’

Jeweller Ce­cilia Stamp, proud owner of one-year-old Leo (Fron­tispiece, March 1), agrees that th­ese small dogs come with

Bruce and Shirley at­tract ad­mir­ing fans wher­ever they go

Jamie Bouloux wouldn’t be with­out Bruce and Shirley: ‘I’m a Frenchie fan for life’

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