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by Luis Sosa
HISTORY OF THE FRENCH BULLDOG
“If I see father than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That statement by Sir Isaac Newton, is as applicable to dog breeders as it is to scientists. The French Bulldog in America today owes its quality to the giants who came before, the early breeders upon whose shoulders today’s breeders stand. The French Bulldog in America is descended from the rose and bat eared Toy Bulldogs brought over from Europe at the end of the 19th Century. With the formation of the French Bull Dog Club of America (FBDCA) in 1897 and subsequent adoption of the breed standard, the bat eared Frenchie began it’s journey to become the dog seen in the ring today. Although dedicated breeders advanced the French Bulldog through the first half of the 20th Century, it is the later half where most of the progress of the French Bulldog in America has occurred. For example, one early difference to emerge was that of color. A notable difference between the French Bulldogs on either side of the Atlantic is the prevalence of cream colored dogs in the United States; these creams are lightly colored fawns without the black mask common in Europe. The cream dogs were most notably popularized in the early 1950s by Ralph and Amanda West (Ralanda Kennels) of Flint, Michigan, whose dogs largely shaped the breed not only relating to color, but also breed type for nearly two decades. Two dogs owned by Mr. and Mrs. West were two of the three dogs that dominated the French Bull Dog Club of America National Specialty wins in the 1950s, the first being Ch. Petit Marquis de la France II (winning four National Specialties); followed by Ms. West’s Ch. Bouquet Novelle Ami, (winner of four National Specialties), and lastly her Ch. Ber-Neil’s Jeepers Jackie (also the winner of four National Specialties) in the late 1950s. The 1960s saw continued success by the Ralanda Kennels most notably in three bitches; Ch. Ralanda Ami Michelle, Ch. Ralanda Ami Hollee and Ch. Ralanda Ami Francine. The first two were National Specialty winners and the last, Francine (handled by Jerry Rigden), was one of two top winning French Bulldogs of all time, accumulating a large number of Best in Show wins. Francine was the Number One Non-Sporting Dog for 1964, the first time a French Bulldog achieved such an honor. The late 1950s and 1960s also saw the emergence of two French Bulldog breeders whose dogs would dominate the look of the French Bulldog for decades to come. These were Dick and Angel Terrett (Terrette) and Janis Hampton (Hampton) on the West Coast. Few present day American French Bulldogs do not trace their lineage back to the Terrett-Hampton dogs. Much of their stock (and therefore most American dogs today) trace their lines not only back to the then existing American lines, but also to dogs imported in the early 1960s by the Terretts. Other important breeders of the 1960s and 1970s would include Mrs. Lavender Lovell, who won several National Specialties with her Ch. Chaseholm Mr Chips; Lucretia Bedal, Wes and Betty Norfelt (Laurelwood Kennels-also National Specialty winners), Dick and Helen Hover, Jane Schmidt, R and M Berryhill and Betty Austin among others. The 1970s and 80s continued on the type set by the Terrett-Hampton dogs with the emergence of Foster Hanson (Jimmy-Lee’s) of Canton, TX and Doris and Herschel Cox (Cox’s Goodtime Frenchies) of Jerseyville, IL. Foster’s foundation came from two dogs purchased from Janis Hampton, a brindle dog, Ch. Hampton’s Chevalier (Toro) and a cream bitch, Ch. Hampton’s Mystique. They were half siblings sired by National Specialty winner Ch. Terrette’s Tourbillon D’ Gamin CD. Foster bred them to produce Ch. Languedoc Crème Belle Du Jour a beautiful cream bitch, who was then bred back to her sire to produce Ch. Jimmy Lee’s Sparkle, one of Herschel Cox’s foundation bitches. Sparkle went on to become the dam of several Jimmy Lee’s, Crowe and Fairmont Champions, most notably Ch. Jimmy Lee’s Bandolero of Ono. Bandolero was sired by Sparkle’s half brother and National Specialty winner, Ch. Jimmy Lee’s Flip, and the line was further tightened when he was bred back to his dam (Sparkle) to produce Ch. Fairmont’s Heart to Beat (Hooper). Hooper was very tightly line bred, and went on to sire a number of important Cox, Pennyroyal, Windmark, and K n D (Ken and Dorothy Wilkinson) dogs; all of whom are direct ancestors of the modern American French Bulldog. In 1984, Herschel Cox bred a Hooper daughter to Ch. Adams’ Unique Physique (Rocky). Rocky was sired by Ch. Smith’s Petit Maitre in 1979 and bred by Pattie and Gene Adams, who in very limited breeding produced dogs of incredibly high quality. This breeding to Rocky produced two important dogs: Ch. Cox’s Good Time Ace in the Hole (“Ace”) and Ch. Cox’s Good Time Dandy Andy (“Andy”). Ace sired Ch. Cox’s Goodtime Charlie Brown, probably the breed’s most prolific sire and is found behind nearly every American pedigree today. One of Charlie Brown’s get, Ch. Lefox Goodtime Steel Magnolia, won six Best in Shows and many Group Firsts. Ace and Andy themselves can also be found in many modern Frenchie pedigrees as they were the foundation of Bandog Frenchies (L and P Sosa) and a number of other lines. Rocky is also behind many Cox, Jaguar (Luca Carbone), and Lefox (Colette Secher) dogs, and in many pedigrees from the 1980s and 90s. Another important sire of the 1970s that would be dominant through his progeny was Ed Bingham and Bud Niles’ Ch. Balihai’s Quad. Quad was a brindle pied dog, born in 1974, and was an important dog in many West Coast pedigrees. He sired the Abe and Suzi Segal’s Ch. Taurustrail Fearless who in turn became a top producer and was the Number 1 Frenchie for 1983-84. Quad is found behind the Adams, Taurustrail, Lefox, Rosewood (Roseann Dehring), Bandog, and Player (Doug Cass) dogs among others. Other respected breeders of the 1970s through the 1990s included Dennis and Marilyn Dockstader (Freedom Frenchies), Jan Galiszewski (Joy French Bulldogs), Helen Koch, Carol Meyer (Starhaven), Rhonda and Jim Watts (Blazins’) and Chuck and Dotty West (C and D). The late 1980s and 1990s saw the get and grand get of these great dogs--Rocky and Quad--rewarded in the show ring with National Specialty wins among them: Ch. Player Edward Puck, Ch. Bandog’s Earnin’ Respect (three National Specialty wins), Ch. Cox’s Goodtime Charlie Brown, Ch. Bandog’s One In A Million, Ch. Blazin Bul-Marc-It Marianette, Ch. Cox’s Goodtime Sundance Kid and Ch. Blazin’s Ironside Perry of NRW; all down from Rocky or Quad. The late 1990s and the first decade on the 21st Century include dogs much closer to the dogs competing in the ring today. Continuing the line bred tradition are two bitches down from Ace and Gambit (Ch. Bandog’s One In A Million) granddaughters who won National Specialties. These were Ch. Sonlit Willa Steele (1999) bred by Mike and Carol Hawke; and Ch. Bandog’s Jump for Joy (2002). Joy became only the second Frenchie to be top Non-Sporting Dog in 2004, forty years after Francine in 1964. Other National Specialty winners in the past decade include dogs bred by Jackpot! (Kathy Dannel-Vitcak), Lefox ( Colette Secher), Pudgybull (Marilyn Burdick), Fabelhaft (James Dalton), LeBull (Arlie Alford), Lucida (Katie Jerozal), Devine (Mary Devine) and Robobull (Shelley St John). The end of the 1990s saw the resurgence in European imports to the American show ring. An Italian bred bitch did quite a bit of winning in 1998 through 2001. Ch. Obsession Dell Akiris was bred by Vincenzo Vomero and owned by Luca Carbone and Janis Pardue. Abby won the breed at three National Specialties and is one of the top two Best in Show winners in the breed. Other dogs imported from the de la Parure kennel in the Netherlands became a key part of the Robobull and Fabelhaft Kennels’ breeding programs. The French Bulldog seen in the ring today is a proud descendant of the efforts of many individuals throughout the past 60 years. It is not possible to mention every American breeder who contributed to this effort; but we all stand on the shoulders of these breeders--both great and small--who came before us. Future dogs will undoubtedly be different from the dogs of today, but will most assuredly continue the Frenchie Tradition in America.