This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
Notwithstanding what some writers have said to the contrary, I believe that little change has been made in the appearance and in "the points" of the pug during the past forty years. Twenty years ago "Idstone" (the Rev. T. Pearce) said there were not half a dozen good specimens to be found in the country, and that a quarter of a century before he wrote the pug was the rarest of all "toy dogs".
I must, however, take exception to the remarks of that pleasant writer, for when he published his book of the dog, pugs of great excellence were to be found in considerable numbers throughout the length and breadth of the land, nor at any time within the present century have they been so rare as either the Italian greyhound, the Maltese terrier, or even as the Yorkshire terrier. Unfortunately, prior to the introduction of dog shows, cruel custom had insisted that the pug dog looked most lovely when robbed of its ears. They were not merely cut off and artistically trimmed, as is the common practice with the bull terrier and one or two other varieties at the present time, the pug's ears were shorn off, and rounded close to the head; so close, indeed, in some instances, as to give the impression, which was curiously believed to be correct, that they had been torn out by the roots. The vagaries of fashion are certainly most difficult to comprehend, and why a delicate lady's pet dog should have been tortured in this way there is not the slightest reas3n to show Fighting dogs had their ears cut off to prevent their offering a hold for the teeth of an opponent; ears of terriers had been cut to produce a smarter and brighter appearance, and perhaps the tail had been docked in the first instance under the vulgar superstition that the "distemper worm "was thereby destroyed! A pug with the ears shorn off was rendered hideous, though may be its profile thus looked more like the shadow of a clenched fist than it would with the ears on; the pug no doubt obtaining its name from the Latin word pugnus, a fist.
The pug has never been claimed in this country as a native breed, but was supposed to have been a native of Holland, and even to this day is sometimes called the Dutch pug. As it happens, at present more of them are with us now than is the case in any other country on the Continent, although the pug has a wide range, extending pretty much from the east to the west of Europe. In France and Italy it is a favourite with the ladies, and at one period of its existence, but for a short time only, it was known in the former country as the Carlin, owing to its black mask or muzzle, a name given it in honour of a popular harlequin named Carlin. This, of course, was but a passing fancy, and prior to Carlin's popularity they had been known as doguins or roquets, but afterwards they obtained the commoner, if less euphonious name of pugs.
The "Sportsman's Cabinet" (1804) gives an illustration of the pug drawn by Reinagle: a cropped dog with a black mask, curled tail, and toying with a much smaller specimen, which, also being cropped, cannot well be a puppy. Thus the inference is conveyed that when the drawing was made there were pugs of two quite distinct sizes, one of which may probably have been 141b. or more, the other not more than half that weight. Unfortunately, the letterpress accompanying the illustration is meagre in the extreme, if not actually vague. It says that it is asserted by some that the "genuine pug was introduced to this island from Muscovy, and they were originally the undoubted natives of that country. Others assert the pug to have been produced by a commixture between the English bulldog and the little Dane, calling such races simply mongrels, as coming from the mixture of two pure races.... In the whole catalogue of the canine species there is not one of less utility, or possessing less the powers of attraction than the pug dog. Applicable to no sport, appropriated to no useful purpose, susceptible to no predominant passion, and in no way remarkable for any extra eminence, he is continued from era to era for what alone he might have been originally intended - the patient follower of a ruminating philosopher, or the adulating and consolatory companion of an old maid".
The above is rather rough on the poor little pug, but such an unfair and ungallant description could only have emanated from the brain of a rough sportsman of the old school, whose chief delights would lay in badger drawing, bull baiting, and cock fighting. The pug dog has its uses in society, and possesses credentials as a lady's dog that cannot be excelled, of which, however, more later on.
With such a comparatively modern dog as the pug there should be more about him to be learned, but history is silent on the subject. Some say that he is descended from the bulldog; others that the bulldog has been improved by an infusion of pug dog blood into him. I have never met anyone who has made the cross either one way or the other, but I should not be surprised to find that during the early part of this century some of the small-sized bull bitches were mated with a pug dog in order to produce that fawn or "fallow smut" bulldog which some fanciers admire very much indeed. But if the cross ever was there, such has been so carefully bred away that nothing of it remains, excepting, may be, in the hue of our national canine representative. Such bulldogs as Guido and Queen Mab have, perhaps, as nearly as anything approached the pug dog in hue, but although they are fallow or fawn smuts, there is nothing about their character or appearance to indicate in the slightest degree that pug blood might be running in their veins.
As to the origin of the pug, Buffon, one of the most unreliable of naturalists, says that the pug is but a "modified bulldog" from the Cape of Good Hope, it being imported into Holland when the Cape was a Dutch settlement, and soon became a favourite pet with the ladies. That the country which has since been responsible for the Schipperke also gave us in the first instance our pugs, I have no doubt whatever. It was very fashionable in England soon after the accession of our William III., he and Queen Mary II., no doubt bringing sundry specimens over with them as part and parcel of their retinue. History tells us that the pug became first favourite at the Dutch Court in the time of the father of our William III. who, like others, had enemies. One night, whilst camping out, he was wakened by the scratching and barking of his pug dog, which had been aroused and rendered furious by the appearance of a party of pikemen, who sought the life of the Prince. Two of his attendants were killed, but otherwise the murderous attempt was baulked through this watchfulness and vigour of the canine guard. If such were the case, and history is not always truthful, there is little to wonder at the favouritism of the pug, although it did no more than any other dog would have done under similar circumstances. The quaint-looking, courtly little dogs were quite the rage for a time, but I fancy that for one reason or another they did not make a great deal of headway in Britain, possibly because in-breeding had made them delicate. However, every now and then some fresh blood was introduced from both France and Italy, as well as from Holland, and so the breed was continued, although it did not become particularly common; still, there were plenty of pugs to be found up and down the country, and they were fairly installed one of our own varieties.