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The French Bulldog – From the Beginning

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70 – October, 2017

By Amy Fernandez

A CONTROVERSIAL INTRODUCTION LEADS TO MASSIVE POPULARITY.

The devil is in the details. Myriad seemingly insignificant subtleties, often visible only to the trained eye, form the defining hallmarks of type that set every breed apart. It’s all there in the standard, spelled out with academic clarity and objectivity and no hint of the angst and rage under- lying that concise collective determination of ca- nine perfection.

Thankfully, most of those ferocious battles fade from history. But a few have transcended club politics and achieved their own infamy in purebred lore like that infamous civil war over bench and field type Setters or the relentless stonewalling and in- fighting over Colored Bull Terriers. Yes, there’s been quite a few. But perhaps the most notorious episode of purebred mayhem was, as James Watson dubbed it “the time of the war of the ears when all doggy society hung breathlessly while the momen- tous question was being decided as to whether it was to be an erect or a rose ear upon the gentleman from France.”

Any hesitation to call it a war ended at Westmin- ster 1897. Responding to the Bulldog mania then sweeping America, Westminster brought over two celebrated British specialists that year: L.P Astley and George Raper. Equally memorable was the startling makeover of Westminster’s catalog cover for the first time in its 20 year history. And this was no timid gesture of modernization. Westminster’s mascot, the laudable Sensation, gave way to a fashion forward Gibson Girl presumably on her way to the show. Curi- ously, the dog draped over her mink muffed arm was an unrecognized breed. Stranger still, the unmistakable focal point of the illustration was precisely the trait at the center of that “momentous question”. Those big bat ears jumped right out of the drawing.

The timing of this unprecedented break with tradition seemed more than coincidental although it’s hard to understand why the club would add fuel to this smoldering tinderbox. Intentional or otherwise, the impending showdown dominated the weekend. The Times gave it headline status in their February 23 show report Fanciers Troubled About the Ears of the French Bulldog-A Question for the Judges. “The opening of the 21st annual bench show of the Westminster Kennel Club has started discussion among fanciers of dogs that will only be settled today, when the dogs that have caused the dispute are judged. This duty will fall to the lot of George Raper the English judge.” Although the big event wasn’t scheduled until the following day, two-thirds of the article re- capped the entire sordid mess starting with the Toy Bulldog’s evo- lution all the way to George Raper’s penultimate position in the Bulldog world–emphasizing the general expectation that his timely arrival would finally put these French Bulldog renegades in their place. From a journalistic perspective, it didn’t get any better, an internationally famous judge facing off against a lineup of celebrity exhibitors straight out of the social register. If West- minster wanted a mob scene, they got it.

Click here to read the complete article
70 – October, 2017

Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=133714

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