They’re small, have batlike ears, and boast wide mouths on their short faces that can make them appear as if they’re smiling.
They’re also giant-slayers.
Yes, the French bulldog was officially named the most popular dog breed in the US for 2022, according to data released by the American Kennel Club, officially ending the 31-year reign of the iconic and practically ubiquitous Labrador retriever.
“Breaking the Lab’s top-dog status of over three decades is no small feat,” the AKC said in an announcement on Wednesday. “The Frenchie is a smart, compact breed, and they can fit into various different lifestyles, perfect for people all across the country.”
Per the AKC, which maintains data on purebred registrations across the country, the French Bulldog’s popularity has surged 1,000% in the last decade, climbing to the top from the 14th spot in 2012.
“We’ve known they’ve been popular for quite some time,” Luis Sosa, a French bulldog breeder in Louisiana and a member of the French Bull Dog Club of America since 1974, told BuzzFeed News. “I think COVID kind of helped increasing the popularity of smaller breeds that are good for apartments.”
“They’re a big dog in a small dog package,” he added. “They think they’re big dogs. They don’t have a lot of fear.”
But the Frenchies’ popularity comes at a price. As prices for puppies reach as much as $5,000, the breed has become a favored target for thieves who then resell the animals. Even Lady Gaga’s two Frenchies were stolen (and eventually recovered) in a violent 2021 incident in which her dog walker was shot. (The assailant was subsequently sentenced to 21 years in prison.)
Just last month, a 76-year-old Frenchie breeder was shot dead by a thief during an attempted sale in South Carolina.
The breed can be a controversial one. The dogs can’t swim, because of their front-heavy build. And they can, like other flat-faced breeds, have breathing problems.
A 2021 study from the UK found some of the dogs’ health problems had been compounded by welfare issues stemming from irresponsible breeders. “These results identified ultra-predispositions with worryingly higher odds in French Bulldogs for several disorders, suggesting that the health of French Bulldogs has diverged substantially from, and may be lower than, the health of the wider non-French Bulldog population,” the study found.
Per the AKC breed standard, purebred Frenchies weigh in under 28 pounds and reach a maximum height of 13 inches. They have a typical life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, which is on the shorter end.
The AKC first recognized the breed in 1898, shortly after wealthy Americans began returning from a Grand Tour trip across Europe with the dogs. Per the French Bull Dog Club of America, they were first bred as a lap pet by 19th-century lace makers in Nottingham, England, who subsequently moved to Paris with the Industrial Revolution.
In terms of personality, the dogs are generally “playful, alert, adaptable, and completely irresistible,” according to the AKC.
Given they also rarely bark and don’t require a lot of outdoor exercise, the AKC says, “it is no wonder that city folk from Paris to Peoria swear by this vastly amusing and companionable breed.”