With their contrasting grumpy countenances and happy demeanors, bulldog breeds are easy to love. But even though the French bulldog, or Frenchie, may look like a miniature English bulldog (and may, in fact, have started out that way), the two breeds have developed separately for over 200 years, and they now have several notable differences.
So, let's look at these dog breeds side-by-side — French bulldog vs. English bulldog — to help you decide which is right for you.
Here’s how these breeds compare under seven key categories every future dog owner should consider before they bring home a new best friend. We’re looking at the breed history, size, appearance, personality, training needs, energy levels, and health problems of these two types of bulldogs.
French Bulldog vs. English Bulldog: 7 Features Compared
Here’s a look at the similarities and differences between the French bulldog vs. English bulldog. These overlapping and differing features emerged from their divergent breeding histories, and they affect much more than just the breeds’ sizes. We’ll explain how each of these features will affect dog owners’ experience raising these breeds.
The French and English bulldog started out as the same breed. The original British bulldog was bred for a blood sport called bull baiting where a pack of dogs would fight a bull and an audience would bet on which animal would win. This cruel sport was outlawed in the early 1800s, and the bulldog nearly went extinct.
But, dedicated breeders started to reimagine this breed as a family pet. While you might imagine their historic involvement in a blood sport would make English bulldogs aggressive, breeders began selecting the most docile and laid back dogs, turning this breed into the lovable family dog it is today.
By the mid-1800s the English bulldog had evolved from the dogs used for bull baiting, and some breeders had even begun breeding miniature English bulldogs, which became the mascot for the lace industry in England and the ancestors of today’s French bulldog.
And this is where the history of the French and English bulldog begins to diverge.
English lace makers moved to France in droves during the Industrial Revolution, taking their miniature bulldogs with them. At some point after the dogs’ moved to France, breeders began to mix the mini bulldogs with pugs and terriers (you may have noticed the resemblance between French bulldogs and Boston terriers), which led to the Frenchies we know and love today — it also led to the notable differences that now exist between English and French bulldogs.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) sets the breed standards for purebred dogs in the U.S. Part of this breed standard is an accepted range of sizes for each breed of dog.
Size standards include a weight range, which is sometimes different for males and females of the breed. (Males are often larger than females.) The standard also includes a height range. Height is measured from the floor to the top of the dog’s shoulders when the dog is standing, so it doesn’t include the dogs’ neck and head.
For French bulldogs, the standard size is:
- Weight: Under 28 pounds, regardless of gender
- Height: 11-13 inches at the shoulder
For English bulldogs, which are simply called "bulldogs" by the AKC, the standard size is:
- Weight: Around 50 pounds for males and 40 pounds for females
- Height: 14-15 inches at the shoulder
Although the height difference between French and English bulldogs is only a few inches, you can see from the weight difference that the English bulldog is a much larger dog. Dog owners who want a small lap dog or who live in a community with weight limits may want to choose a Frenchie. Dog owners who want a larger dog should choose an English bulldog. And owners who want the largest possible bully should choose a male English bulldog.
The AKC also sets standards for appearance. The Frenchie and English bulldog have a lot in common in terms of their appearance. Both are stocky dogs with wrinkly, flat faces. They have short muzzles, short legs, and a smooth, short coat. Both French and English bulldogs shed, and they are not hypoallergenic.
The English bulldog is stockier and wrinklier than the Frenchie, and the two breeds have distinctly different ears. The English bulldog has rose ears — ears that flop down and to the side. Greyhounds, Boxers, American Staffordshire terriers, and some border collies also have this style of ear. Frenchies have distinctive bat ears. These large ears stick straight up and are slightly rounded at the top.
Both of these breeds have short tails that are either straight or screw shaped (turning slightly downward in the pattern of a corkscrew), but neither breed should have a curly tail (like a pig’s tail). The two breeds also come in similar coat colors and patterns — including shades of white, cream, and fawn — and both come in solid, brindle, and piebald coat patterns.
For most dog lovers, it’s the distinctive ears, wrinkles, and sizes that make the biggest difference. Some people go ga-ga for the Frenchie’s bat ears while others melt for the English bulldog’s extra wrinkly mug.
Breed is often a better indicator of a dog’s looks than its personality. Even puppies with the same parents can have distinctly different personalities — imagine how different two human siblings can be, and you’ll start to get the picture.
A good breeder can help you pick the puppy with the right personality for your household. But, there are some characteristics that breeders look for when they choose which parent dogs to breed. Here are the adjectives that are often used to describe the English bulldog:
- Laid back
These bullies are often described as 50-pound lap dogs. They’re loving cuddle companions, and their behavior ranges from dignified to clownish.
French bulldogs are often more energetic and determined than English bulldogs. Adjectives used to describe Frenchies include:
Frenchies may be closer to lap dog size than English bulldogs, but these pups are the more active choice of these two breeds. They have big personalities that make English bulldogs look mild mannered by comparison.
Both the French and English bulldog are equally trainable. These breeds can have a stubborn streak — don’t expect the same eagerness to please as you might see from a golden retriever or poodle — but both Frenchies and English bulldogs are responsive to training.
Like all dogs, these breeds benefit from early socialization — expose them to as many different types of people, dogs, and situations as possible from puppyhood.
French bulldogs are prone to separation anxiety, and may become destructive or vocal when left alone too often. Begin training them to accept alone time while they’re still young. Start by leaving them alone for only five minutes at a time. Give them a fun toy or treat whenever you leave home, and slowly build up to longer and longer periods of time. You can also give them a calming chew to help alleviate their stress.
6. Energy Levels
Frenchies have higher energy levels than English bulldogs, but because of their small size, they’re easier to exercise with indoor playtime. Because of their flat faces, these breeds shouldn’t exercise much outdoors in high heat and humidity, and they don’t make good running partners.
However, both breeds still need regular exercise. The English bulldog, in particular, is prone to obesity, and excessive weight can shorten a dog’s life. Help them stay healthy by providing at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
7. Health Issues
Unfortunately, Frenchies and English bulldogs are two of the least healthy dog breeds. They’re prone to many of the same expensive health issues, though English bulldogs have slightly more concerning issues than French bulldogs.
In fact, English bulldogs have so many health issues that some have questioned the ethics of breeding them, and Norway has banned their breeding altogether. In the majority of cases, both English bulldogs and French bulldogs are unable to reproduce naturally. One researcher who published a study on English bulldog genetic diversity estimates that more than 80% of their litters have to be conceived via artificial insemination and delivered via c-section.
Because both types of bulldogs are brachycephalic breeds, or flat-faced breeds, they often have trouble breathing. They’re both at high risk of overheating and need to stay indoors in the air conditioning during hot or humid weather. Because of their top-heavy shape, neither of these dogs can swim, so they'll need to be kept away from pools and other deep bodies of water.
Their breathing troubles also mean that these breeds are not ideal airline companions. If you plan to travel with your English bulldog, plan on taking road trips. Because of these dogs' large size, they're unable to fly in the cabin on most airlines, and because of their breathing issues, they're at risk of asphyxiation if they fly in the cargo hold.
French bulldogs can sometimes fly in the cabin of an airplane, depending on the airline’s rules, but Frenchies should also never fly in the cargo hold because of the risk of asphyxiation.
Bulldog’s wrinkly skin also puts these breeds at a higher risk of skin allergies because allergens can get stuck in their skin folds. English bulldogs are prone to skin bumps, and French bulldogs sometimes suffer from autoimmune-related skin issues. Both breeds can benefit from a fish oil supplement to support their skin health.
French bulldogs have a longer lifespan than English bulldogs with Frenchies living 10-12 years and English bulldogs living 8-10 years. Both bulldog breeds have shorter lifespans than other breeds of a similar size. Because of their many health issues, it’s important to find a responsible English or French bulldog breeder who runs all of the AKC-recommended health tests on their parent dogs.
Bully for You
Any dog lover who’s considering bringing home one of the bulldog breeds — French or English — is in for an amiable companion that gets along well with most of the world. These happy dogs have lovable dispositions and sweet smooshed faces that will keep you smiling.
Both breeds are receptive to training and have moderate exercise requirements but both are also prone to myriad health issues. So, future bulldog owners will need to set aside a higher than average budget for vet visits.
While these dogs have a lot in common, there are several notable differences that can help you decide between the French bulldog vs. English bulldog. English bulldogs tend to be more laid back, while Frenchies want to play all day. English bulldogs act more like lap dogs — despite their larger size — and will want to spend a lot of time cuddling on the couch. But, Frenchies make better travel companions because their small size allows them to fly on many airlines.
Ultimately, these dogs have enough overlapping traits that size and appearance are major determining factors for many dog owners. The French bulldog is much smaller and sports big bat ears, while the English bulldog has an extra wrinkly face and an even more roly-poly build. Whichever bully you love, it will be a loving companion.To learn more about your favorite dog breeds, check out the Native Pet blog.