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.
About the time Hogarth, the great painter, flourished, Dutch pugs were as fashionable as black pages, and no lady of title was considered to be fully equipped unless she had both in her following. Although the painter himself cannot be said to have been a man about town or a creature of fashion, still he kept his pug dog - at least, it is generally understood that the dog which appears in the best known portrait of the artist is intended to be a pug, and the fashionable breed in that day; to me it seems but a nondescript creature.
In due course special strains came to be produced, and Lady Willoughby de Eresby, of Grimsthorpe, near Lincoln, and Mr. Morrison, of Walham Green, gave particular attention thereto. Of those strains "Stonehenge" says: -
"After a great deal of trouble a dog was obtained from Vienna which had belonged to a Hungarian countess, but was of a bad colour, being a mixture of the stone fawn now peculiar to the 'Willoughby strain,' and black; but the combination of these colours was to a certain extent in the brindled form. From accounts which are to be relied on, this dog was about twelve inches high, and of good shape, both in body and head, but with a face much longer than would be approved of by pug fanciers. In 1846 he was mated with a fawn bitch imported from Holland, of the desired colour, viz., stone fawn in body, with black mask and trace, but with no indication of brindle. She had a shorter face and heavier jowl than the dog, and was altogether in accordance with the type now recognised as the correct 'Willoughby pug.' From this pair are descended all the strain named after Lady Willoughby de Eresby, which are marked in colour by their peculiar cold stone fawn, and the excess of black often showing itself, not in brindled stripes, but in entirely or nearly entirely black heads, and large 'saddle marks' or wide 'traces.'
"But coincidently with this formation of a new strain was the existence of another, showing a richer and more yellow fawn, and no tendency to excess of black. This strain was possessed by the late Mr. Morrison, of Walham Green; the late Mr. H. Gilbert, of Kensington; the late Mr. W. M'Donald, and some others. According to Mr. Morrison's statement to me, this strain was lineally descended from a stock possessed by Queen Charlotte, one of which is painted with great care in the well-known portrait of George III. at Hampton Court; but I could never get him to reveal the exact source from which it was obtained. That he himself fully believed in the truth of this story I am quite confident; and I am also of opinion that he never hazarded a statement of which he had the slightest doubt. Although he never broadly stated as much, I always inferred that the breed was obtained by "back-stair influence," and on that account a certain amount of reticence was necessary; but, whatever may be the cause of the secrecy maintained, I fully believe the explanation given by Mr. Morrison of the origin of this breed of pugs, which is as commonly known by his name as that of Lady Willoughby de Eresby by hers. His appeal to the Hampton Court portrait, in proof of the purity of his breed from its general resemblance to the dog in that painting, goes for nothing in my mind, because you may breed up to any type by careful selection; but I do not hesitate to indorse his statemeut as to the Guelph origin of his strain, because I have full confidence in his truthfulness, from having tested it in various other ways. I need scarcely remark that both strains are derived from the Dutch - 'the Morrison' coming down to us through the three Georges from William III., and 'the Willoughby' being, as above described, a more recent importation direct from Holland and Vienna".
I need scarcely say that neither of the above strains is to be found in its purity at the present day, no pains having been taken to keep them distinct, but there are as many good pugs now as ever there were. In the family of the Willoughby de Eresby's no pugs have been kept for ten or a dozen years. An early edition of "Dogs of the British Isles" contains an engraving from a painting, of two pugs, the original stock from which the "Willoughbys" were bred. They are both fair specimens, perhaps standing rather higher on the legs than is liked at the present day, but otherwise quite typical animals, and they have their ears cropped. About fifteen years ago there was a newspaper warfare, in which one side argued that the pug had already degenerated or was degenerating; but as is usual in controversies of this kind, nothing of interest appeared, although perhaps some good resulted by attention being drawn to the great size of many of the leading winning pugs. Dogs from 2olb. to perhaps 241b. weight or more were often enough seen at the head of the prize lists, which of course was not to be borne quietly by those who were showing animals not more than 181b. in weight, which as a fact is quite big enough, and it is gratifying to find that the Pug Dog Club, which was established in 1883, expresses an opinion strongly against the over-sized specimens.
Although pugs had classes provided at the first show which included non-sporting dogs at Birmingham, in 1861, strangely enough there was no competition, but since then divisions arranged for them have been respectably filled. In 1885, and with one exception ever since, the pug club has had a show of its own, though sometimes it has taken place in amalgamation with that of other Toy Dogs and Toy Spaniels. In 1886 classes were provided for dogs under and over 181b. weight each, and for bitches under and over 151b., but at the more recent gatherings the restriction as to size is - dogs, 151b. weight, and bitches 141b. weight, thus completely ousting the bigger animals, which are certainly out of place as pugs, for there is no elegance in a large-sized specimen of this variety. In 1887 Mr. H. G. Foster's Comedy, known as the immense Comedy, which weighed probably 241b., was given the first prize at the National Show at Birmingham.