The length of their tails is the first feature that immediately jumps out at you when you think of some of the first French bulldogs that were ever created. There is no question that bulldogs selected for breeding did have the shortest tails, or that tails were docked for one of the following reasons: French bulldogs of the past had tails that were significantly longer than those of the dogs of today; however, there is no question that modern bulldogs have shorter tails than their ancestors did.
* As a way to avoid paying tax.
* To strengthen the back and increase the speed.
* To help prevent the tail being bitten while the dog was “ratting”.
* To make better sport when bear baiting or fighting.
It is thought that the longer tails were at one time a natural part of genes inherited by the frenchie, but that over a period of time frenchie breeders went for a shorter and shorter tail. The breed standard in 1937 stated that “the tail should be short and set low, lying flat on the buttocks, thick at the base, naturally broken and should be tapering at the ends”.
It also mentions that the tail shouldn’t be raised or too long, not reaching much beyond the thigh this therefore gives us the indication that the French bulldog tail in those days was longer than that of in the breed today. By 1950 however the wording for the standard was changed to match almost what we see in the frenchie today, “very short, set low, and thick at the root while tapering quickly to the tip.”
“Today most frenchies do indeed have a very very short tail which sometimes doesn’t even cover the anus. The breed’s standard of today however does state that the tail should be “undocked, low, and thick at the root while tapering quickly towards the tip”, so how short is short? Do today’s breeders take short to the extreme and could this be having an undesirable effect on the overall health of the French bulldog?
The actual importance of the tail itself is to act as a counter balance when the dog is carrying out movements such as leaping, walking along narrow structures or climbing. Their tail muscles are also used in stabilising the vertebral column and supporting the extensor muscles of the back as well as those of the buttocks.
Other aspects of the tail are its ability to show pleasure by wagging the tail and its movement relating to showing weakness, anger, dominance or fear to its fellow animals. Thought should be given to this aspect when we think about breeding for shorter and shorter tails, while it might not seem significant to us, the tail plays a significant part of who the dog is.