The small but mighty French bulldog is now the top purebred dog breed in America
With its compact frame, smushed face, bat-like ears and wide smile, the French bulldog has just become the most popular dog breed in the U.S.
The American Kennel Club announced Wednesday that the crinkly-faced canine was the top breed in 2022, overtaking the Labrador retriever, which had held the No. 1 spot for a whopping 31 years.
"They're comical, friendly, loving little dogs," French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the Associated Press.
The pint-sized French bulldog was first recognized as a breed in 1898, and has a "charming and adaptable nature" and "generally quiet demeanor," the AKC said. Those qualities have boosted demand for the breed among families and single people living in homes both large and small.
Yet despite the breed's popularity, French bulldogs can have a raft of health issues.
They are one of several breeds known as brachycephalic dogs, which means their shortened skulls and snouts make them more prone to respiratory, eye, skin and spinal problems.
The Netherlands announced in 2019 that it would enforce a ban on the breeding of short-muzzled dogs. Norway banned the breeding of bulldogs until it was overturned by a judge last year. And in 2017 the president of the British Veterinary Association said people should not buy brachycephalic dogs.
Still, the dogs that originated in England and later served as companions in late 19th-century French brothels are now among the top breeds favored by celebrities and are even one of the most hashtagged pooches on Instagram in recent years.
That explosion in popularity has also made the valuable dogs targets for thieves. A man was sentenced to 21 years in prison in December for shooting Lady Gaga's dogwalker while stealing two of the pop star's French bulldogs in 2021.
The AKC says it has the world's largest registry of purebred dogs, which it uses to come up with the annual rankings.
After French bulldogs and Labrador retrievers, the next-most popular dog breeds last year were — in order — golden retrievers, German shepherds and poodles.