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Demystifying Pugs

Since the beginning of time man has looked up into the sky and asked questions: Why are we here? Is there a god? Are we alone in the universe? What’s up with pugs?
 
Pugs might be the 50/50 animal in the eyes of the human race; that is, half the population loves pugs and the other half dismisses pugs as dogs. People who adore pugs cannot be swayed in their affection; no matter what pugs do, they find it adorable or funny. However, there seems to be some trend among the other half. This trend is the ideology that pugs are useless and “horrible aftermath of dog breeding” in man’s attempt to play god. There are several dog bred heritages, including pugs, that are criticised as being unhealthy for the dog’s in question, such as the english bulldog, the dachshund, and the corgi. Many dog enthusiasts would argue that we should not continue pure breeding dogs just because it is appealing to us. However, most dogs were bred to serve an economic purpose. Before bulldogs were seen as the walking heart attacks of the dog world they bred to help butchers control livestock. Dachshunds were not always the punchline of a hotdog joke. Their long sausage-like bodies helped them easily maneuver and hunt vicious badgers in their dens. Even the corgi with its short legs and low center of gravity was perfect for nipping at the legs of larger livestock, making it an ideal herding dog. But how and why were pugs bred?
 
The truth is, we don’t completely know. In fact we know very little of the breeding practices that started the original pugs. We know that at some point in ancient China pugs were bred as companions for the prestigious ruling families. These dogs lived luxurious lives and were often guarded by highly trained soldiers. Pugs were highly valued by Chinese Emperors. At some time in the 3rd century China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, ordered the destruction of all almost artwork and writing describing early pugs. Perhaps this was a way to keep the pug exclusive. Regardless of whatever his motive was, that is where most of our knowledge about the pug origin ends. Later on, chinese royalty began giving pugs to other nations as gifts. Pugs went on to become very popular across Asia, Holland, England, and the recent Americas. 
 
At this point it might seem like pugs were simply bred to do nothing. It seems like they were for a long time, making them ‘pampered’ and unable to survive in the wild. This is not an unpopular theory when you examine the environment they were bred in. Sometimes in ancient chinese royalty, noble families would take extensive actions to promote status just because they could afford to. Foot Bindings was a practice where tight bindings were applied to the feet of young girls to modify their shape as they grew older. This essentially distorts their feet to where they cannot walk. These traditions to fit-in today, but back in ancient China, people would look at a woman with foot bindings and say something like “She is so wealthy and important that she has no need to walk.” Imagine that same mindset applied to pugs. They were pampered so extensively that they could not perform real life tasks other than being a status symbol with the exception, of course, for companionship.
 
On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that a dog with such specific and prominent features would have no use for them. Were there any other uses for the breeding pugs? Possibly.
 
There is a popular myth going around that pugs were bred to HUNT LIONS. I first heard this laughable myth from Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign.  Some people took this as fact when they heard that pugs were referenced as lion dogs in ancient China. From there some hasbeen historians started throwing around claims that the pug’s short snout was bred specifically so that they could clamp down on lions. This is a fabricated myth based on ignorance and the result of a joke going over someone’s head. The truth behind the name ‘Foo Dogs’, or ‘Lion Dogs’, is that chinese nobleman thought pugs to the guardians of the sacred lion statues portrayed in chinese culture. Perhaps one could argue that pugs might still have been used to hunt for smaller game, like how the dachshund hunted vermin. This is a plausible idea because most dog breeds can be traced back to performing some type of hunting or protection role. 
 
Protection. That doesn’t sound like a word you would associate with pugs. It would be ridiculous to trust a pug with your life.
 
…..right?
 
Maybe not. 
Well, in a one-on-one situation a pug probably won’t take down a home invader, and I don't think they could fend off many fierce animals, especially not lions. What if pugs served a different role in personal protection?
 
Think about this. 
Often multiple dogs were used for protection. China has a long history of breeding some of the fiercest and most loyal breeds of dog, including the Chow Chow and the Tibetan Mastiff. In many parts of Asia, these dogs were used to protect livestock, property, and people. You can see some similarities between between the two breeds and pugs. Chow Chows and pugs both have short snouts and most pugs just look like compact mastiffs. Not to mention, all three dogs are extremely loyal to their masters. There might have been some breeding between these two titans and smaller dogs. 
 
Here is my theory.
So pugs are inferior fighters who might have been in close contact with other guard dogs. Perhaps pugs were put on guard duty with these bigger dogs as an extra set of eyes. If a pug found danger, it could bark and alert the bigger, tougher dogs and their owners. The pug could have been a whistle blower. It doesn’t seem like such a ludicrous idea to me. The pug’s quickness and energy would allow it to be a formidable scout. Their short stature and snouts produce and unmistakable high pitched yelp that could warn others of danger.
 
It turns out that pugs actually have a slight history as guard dogs. In 1572, The Prince of Orange, a branch of the European House of Nassau, claimed that his pug had single-handedly saved his life by warning him of approaching assassins. After that day, the pug became the official dog of the House of Orange.
 
While some of the pug’s origin is unknown, we can still make some reasonable assumptions about their history. Maybe pugs were bred for a very specific purpose but got swept into royalty along the way or maybe some emperor just wanted a dog that would look cute wearing a hat. Who can say? Despite their breeding, pugs can survive in today’s world, considering that most dog’s are used for companionship. They are here in this day and age to be loved.