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Bulldog Vs. Pug: What’s the Difference?

Bulldog Vs. Pug: What’s the Difference?

If you are deciding between two of the silliest-faced pup breeds on the planet, a bulldog breed, and a pug breed are great options to compare. If you are seeking a best friend with more wrinkles than a 90-year old man, underbites that only a mother could love, and a strong canine that is small but not purse-small, both of these breeds will be ideal adoptions. Use this guide to assess the two and understand the core differences that make each breed unique!

Bulldog versus Pug: What’s the difference? Despite their similar appearance, the bulldog breed and pug breed are not related. The major differences that we will cover in-depth are as follows:

Bulldogs Pugs
Country of Origin England and France China
Bred For Bull Fighting Royalty
Intelligence Ranked 58 for French, 77 for English Ranked 57
Temperament More relaxed and calm More active and focused
Families Both great for families and children
Size About 3 times the weight of a pug About 1/3rd the size of a Bulldog
Athleticism Less Active More Active
Maintenance Low Maintenance
Behavioral Issues Aggression, minimal barking Stubbornness, more frequent barking
Health Issues Brachycephalic snouts and respiratory issues are most common
Life Span 8-12 years 12-15 years
Cost to Adopt $1,500 to $4,000 $1,500 to $2,000
Popularity Rank by AKC 4/5th for French and English 31st

Use this guide as your go-to source for all things comparing this breed. Each has an absolutely fascinating history, which translates into a rich future. You will gain an entirely new respect for these breeds, and by the end, easily be able to determine which breed is best suited to your lifestyle, needs, and family.

Also, if you decide you’d like to get a bulldog, check out our in-depth guide for choosing the perfect bulldog puppy.

History of Bulldogs vs. Pugs

Both bulldogs and pugs have a rich breed history that should be considered when you’re looking to add a new dog to your home.

The History of Bulldogs

The history of the English Bulldog is unsurprisingly linked to England, while the French Bulldog is linked to France. The name ‘Bulldog’ has actually been traced to the breed’s purpose for being bred to fight bulls! As shocking as this is to imagine, these feisty little pups were part of the act, which was formerly known as ‘bull baiting.’

Around the year 1,200 in England, the bull blood sports were still going strong and beloved by the people just as the Colosseum in Rome. This bold breed was notorious for their ability to latch onto the bull’s nose for dear life, even if it meant being thrown around and often into the air.

Tenacity is no foreigner to the Bulldog breed. They are stocky with a strong undershot jaw for a reason. This made them less feather-like bait for bulls and with the jaw strength of a piranha.

After bull baiting was made illegal and banned in England by the late 1800s, there was a near extinction for the English Bulldogs. Thankfully, Germany and America worked to keep the breed around and bring the breed to the States. After bull baiting had ceased, the Bulldog breed was bred to be even more gentle in temperament.

As sad as this initial life purpose was for the bulldogs, they have since retired their bull baiting capes and in modern day have become domesticated and relaxed as man’s best friend.

French Bulldogs have a calmer origin story, being used as small pups in Normandy and during the Industrial revolution.

The History of Pugs

The history of the Pug dates all the way back to the Han Dynasty in China from between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. At this time, pugs were royal canines that were owned by emperors and those that were ‘chosen’ by a higher power. There are also art depictions and traces of pugs being the companion of Tibetan Monks that would be studying Buddhism in the mountains.

Pugs would still be living the high life of luxury by the 1500s when they made the journey to Europe. Starting their European chapter in Holland, Pugs now shifted their royal inclinations and loyalty to serving the Dutch royal family as their closest and furriest companions.

Pugs would even by guarded by the royal guards and protected like furry royalty. In Holland, the Dutch royals made them the official dog of the House of Orange, which is why Marie Antoinette owned many pugs.

Crossing to the United Kingdom by 1861, the Victorian Era also adopted these little scoundrels, and Queen Victoria would have the dogs bred for her personal ownership.

The American Kennel Club recognized this breed officially in 1885, which makes it one of the oldest official breeds on record. This is just one year before the Bulldog was recognized by the AKC in 1886, making it the Club’s 26th official breed.

Completely contrasting to the rough start for the Bulldog breed, the pug had it incredibly easy in comparison. The bulldog may not have led a privileged start of pampering, but each has eventually found its way to domestic peace within the twenty first century.

The intelligence of Bulldogs Vs. Pugs

The Dog IQ Ranking of Each Dog’s Intelligence ranks these breeds in the following order:

  • Pug’s originating in China – #57
  • Bulldogs originating in France – #58
  • Bulldogs originating in England – #77

In this depiction, the French Bulldogs are nearly akin to the Chinese Pug’s level of intelligence. However, the English bulldog ranks considerably lower in intelligence, perhaps linked to their rough history of mishandling and ill-care.

Bulldog: This breed is very intelligent and capable of learning many tricks. They love to please their owners and learn, but will not be as intellectually inclined as say, a Golden Retriever, or even a pug. They are known for being stubborn, but don’t mistake this for unintelligence. They probably just need stronger discipline or a regimented routine. 

Pug: This breed is certainly known for being more astute, alert, and present than the Bulldog breed. Pugs sometimes receive a bad reputation for being unintelligent, but if you’ve ever met one of these little pups, you’ll know that’s not the case.

They are just intelligent enough to understand when they have a weak owner that is behaving as a Beta instead of the Alpha. Since dogs have pack mentality from their wolf ancestors, they are always looking for an Alpha to lead them.

A pug will notice if they can overpower their human, take over control, and be a stubborn little tot. If you notice a pug that is badly behaved or doesn’t seem to have manners, they probably were not given strict boundaries because their owner is lax in their discipline.

Both dog breeds are slightly stubborn and will try to get away with bad behavior if you allow it.

However, both are also open to training and being led by a confident leader. You will find that pugs are more alert, aware of their surroundings, slightly less stubborn, and slightly easier to train than bulldogs (especially English bulldogs as compared to French).

Personality and Temperament of Bulldogs Vs. Pugs

You’ll find that bulldogs and pugs are both affectionate and fun pets, but their personalities and temperaments tend to differ. Of course, every dog is different.

Personality and Temperament of Bulldogs

This breed will be slightly more stubborn than the Pug breed, but also more relaxed. They are calm little potatoes, happiest when they can cuddle with you on the couch. Bulldogs won’t like to play as much as pugs, and they are kind of the hippie-couch-potatoes of dog breeds (speaking of being potatoes).

You may notice some bulldogs being territorial, and although this isn’t abnormal for a bulldog, it’s also not acceptable behavior that should be tolerated. If you have a territorial bulldog, you will need to take steps to make them feel safer in their environment and tone down the defensiveness before behavioral concerns worsen.

Bulldog aggression can mostly be prevented with proper socialization early-on and enough time with their mother and siblings to understand the etiquette of acceptable dog behavior. The mother will teach the puppies proper conduct and help to mellow out their chemical reactions to others, so you don’t want to rip a bulldog away from their mother before 9-10 weeks of age.

Again, aggression is not normal behavior, but it is also not surprising given their brutal roots. It is an instinctual trait that may appear more in certain bulldogs than others. You will need to let them know they are in a safe place and that they don’t need to be ‘on-guard’ against you, the family, or strangers.

Personality and Temperament of Pugs

Since the Pug is known for being slightly more present and self-aware, they will feel very connected to you as their owner. You will notice them staring at you with that silly underbite face of wrinkles and seemingly being incredibly honed-in on you. You may feel like they’re staring through your soul because they just might be!

They will love to play and can be class clowns! Especially since they are smaller/less stocky in physical build, they have a better build for moving around and playing with children. Pugs can be territorial as well, but on a smaller scale and with less aggression than the bulldog can lean towards.

Pugs have the same small-dog temperament of other dogs – wanting to be a big dog and acting like a ‘tough-guy’ to overcompensate for his adorable size. Call it the Napoleonic Complex, wanting to self-preserve despite shrimpiness, or just short guy issues, but pugs have a propensity to not want to look as tiny as they are.

Both bulldogs and pugs are affectionate and want lots of love from their families. They each do well with children and will only mellow out more with age. Treats will always be welcomed by each breed and are the best way to train each.

Physical Appearance

Clearly, bulldogs and pugs will have strikingly different appearances.

Physical Appearance of Bulldogs

Bulldogs are listed in the Nonsporting Group of the AKC and will look like a tiny, wrinkly bull. They will be wide and densely built with muscle, with round faces that are nearly square. The jaws should protrude with a natural underbite, but sometimes the underbite is severe and can lead to jaw issues.

Bulldog’s tail will hang lower and be less curly than a pug’s tail, but each will have flat-nosed faces.

Their ears will fall to the sides of their heads instead of standing up straight, and Bulldog puppies have an adorable ear formation known as Rose Ears.

They will often be found in the colors of:

  • Red brindle (the most popular)
  • White
  • Beige
  • Fawn (a blonder shade)
  • Piebald (a patterned animal)

They also commonly boast white freckles and other colorful patterns or spots.

In terms of size, bulldogs are not as tiny as you may believe, weighing up to 90+ pounds, the average weight for this breed will be between 40-60-pounds.

Their height will be between 12-19 inches on average.

Physical Appearance of Pugs

Pugs are listed in the Toy Group of the AKC and will also have an underbite, but a less extreme one than the Bulldog breed. These adorable Toy dogs are much tinier, which will be the major difference between these two breeds (size specifics in the next section).

Pugs will be famously recognized by their curly-Q tail that makes them so endearing along with bug-eyes and a flat face full of wrinkles. Pugs are only accepted into the American Kennel Club if they are fawn-colored or black, the only two permissible colors for this bred that are recognized officially.

Other common colors for pugs to possess are:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Apricot Fawn
  • White (most rare)
  • Silver

In terms of size, the Pug breed is smaller and, as an adult, will weigh under 20-pounds, often between 13-18-pounds. Neither breed has an official height limit (as some breeds can within AKC standards); however, Pugs will often stand to be about one-foot-tall (12-inches), with females often being shorter than this.

Both dogs are Brachycephalic Dogs, which means they have short heads and, therefore, shorter snouts, which can lead to health issues. Hill’s Pet describes, “While not all of these dogs have associated health problems, the shape of the nose and head of a brachycephalic dog can place them at risk for a condition called brachycephalic airway syndrome.”

A bulldog can easily weigh three to four times the weight of a pug. Both breeds are prone to being overweight without proper exercise. Be certain they are getting daily time outside to walk around with you and also that they are not overfed.

The Athleticism of Bulldogs Vs. Pugs

Neither of these dog breeds is known for being highly athletic. But they still need time outside to move around, play, do their business, and soak up Vitamin D just like all living things.

Bulldogs: Being that they are over 50-pounds with short legs, they don’t want to do a ton of tricks or exert themselves too much.

The AKC describes bulldogs as having a ‘peculiar,’ way of moving, which they call ‘rolling and shuffling.’

Pugs: Being slightly more athletic, these tiny pups are still too small to overly exert, so you won’t need to offer them any extreme form of exercise. AKC describes the pugs’ form of movement as slightly more athletic than the Bulldog, stating it is, ‘a free, self-assured, and jaunty gait.’

Both breeds are excellent for small spaces like apartments and won’t require a full-backyard, although that is always a bonus when owning a canine. Each dog enjoys daily walks or just a few loops around the block throughout the day, nothing grand.

Important: Be careful in extreme heat due to these canine’s Brachycephalic issues and their elongated palates. Overheating can be deadly and high-risk for their underdeveloped respiratory systems.


Both dogs are what many would call, ‘so ugly they’re cute!’ Neither is overly high in maintenance, but daily brushing will always help to clear off dead skin and hair cells. You will need to clean their faces, especially because all of those precious wrinkles can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

They each have thin, short hair and will require minimal grooming, but they will shed year-round. The shedding is minimal, and you may not even notice it unless you have furniture in the opposite color-tone of their fur.  

Bulldogs Maintenance

Will require basic grooming, which includes brushing, annual haircuts, monthly baths if you desire to do it this frequently, and seasonal hair/nail trimmings. You should take your dog to a professional groomer to avoid hurting their cuticles or ears if you are unfamiliar with these more complex grooming steps.

Bulldogs are known for being slightly more fragrant and commonly farting more than most dog breeds, so be prepared to keep them downwind.

Pug Maintenance

Most of what is covered by Bulldogs related to what Pugs need as well, basic grooming, but sometimes pugs can have longer hair, which requires more in-depth grooming. You may need to take your pug to a professional groomer to get the knots and tangles out of their hair, which can be longer and finer than Bulldog’s fur.

The scary issue that Pugs can suffer from is Proptosis, which causes their eyes to literally pop out of their skulls. It will require immediate action, and you should take your dog to your local veterinarian or animal hospital promptly. Ways to reduce your risk of causing Proptosis are:

Behavioral Issues

If either breed is left alone too often and not receiving socialization from their family, they can each get depressed and volatile. You may find torn up furniture, shoes chewed, and neighbors annoyed at their barking while you’re gone during the day.

These are all signs that your canine is not receiving enough mental stimulation or affection. You should purchase toys, games, chew toys, puzzles to stimulate them mentally, increase walks slightly as long as you are not in a climate of extreme heat, and schedule more cuddle time!

What most dogs require is similar to what humans require – love, focused attention, and a balance of physical/mental stimulation.

Bulldogs: Aggression has been covered above, and the only other major behavioral issue to watch out for is if they bark. Bulldogs are known for being quiet and at peace, but if you have a bulldog that is often barking, they are probably trying to communicate something to you in frustration.

A barking bulldog means that they are communicating something they see as necessary, whereas a Pug will just bark at anything and doesn’t need a reason to consider it necessary.

Pugs: Since they are more active, they can sniff out trouble slightly easier than the Bulldogs tend to.

Important: Do not leave your dog alone with a bone that is thin or easily slices like a cooked bone of any type. These can easily splinter off, and your dog can choke, so do not serve your dog a real bone to chew unless you are there to supervise, and it should never be cooked.

Health Issues

Sadly, each of these breeds suffers from hereditary health issues and do not have the cleanest bill of health. With English Bulldogs often only living to age 8, they suffer the worst between the two breeds, as Pugs can live twice this long. This is normal for smaller dogs compared to bigger dogs, but as you can see, both breeds have their own ailments to be aware of.

Because of their Brachycephalic issues, each breed is very susceptible to anesthesia and they will react more sensitively to it than other breeds. They each also suffer from:

  • Heart Conditions
  • High risk of obesity
  • Overheating or heat stroke
  • Luxating Patella
  • Hip Dysplasia

The common ailments to watch out for in your Bulldog are:

  • Brachycephalic Issues
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Arthritis
  • Skin Disorders
  • Bladder Stones

The common ailments to watch out for in your Pug are:

  • Proptosis and various eye conditions
  • Brachycephalic Issues
  • Skin conditions

Life Span

Bulldogs: The average lifespan will be 8 to 12 years

Pugs: The average lifespan will be 12 to 15 years.

The factors which largely impact these are:

  • Weight
  • Overall health
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Climate

And many other lifestyle factors such as how well they are cared for.

Cost to Adopt

Bulldogs: Will cost an average of $1,500 to $4,000 to adopt from a reputable breeder.

Pugs: Will cost an average of $1,500 to $2,000 to adopt from a reputable breeder.

The factors which will largely impact this are:

  • The breeder selected
  • The reputation of this breeder
  • The area you are located in
  • The economy
  • Health and status of the breeds at that time
  • Supply and demand

French Bulldogs can be the most expensive because they aren’t able to naturally give birth independently as other canine breeds do. Frenchies will require a veterinarian to help with the birth and reproduction process which can ultimately increase the expenses of breeding French Bulldogs.

Final Verdict: Bulldogs or Pugs?

Both of these wrinkle-faced cuties make wonderful family pets and will offer you love for years to come. These two breeds are not related, besides looking similarly wrinkly and boasting brooding underbites.

Some major takeaways to help you in deciding between the two breeds are:

  • If you have children, Pugs may be more playful and active
  • If you are older or less mobile, Bulldogs love to cuddle and lay around, requiring less exercise than pugs.
  • If your budget is lower, Pugs will be more affordable
  • If you like a dog with a grumpy frown face, Bulldogs will have Grumpy-cat vibes in spades!
  • If you want a smaller dog, Pugs will be about a third the size of Bulldogs
  • If you want a dog with fewer health issues and a longer life-span, Pugs will live longer
  • If you want a dog that will bark less, Bulldogs are known to be quieter and calmer than pugs
  • If you’ve never had a dog, Bulldogs will be easier than Pugs, according to owners and experts
  • If you’re an experienced dog owner, you may be happier with a more trainable Pug

As you can see, there is no wrong answer. Only the breed is best suits your family and lifestyle! Both will require little grooming, be great for small spaces like apartments, and be at risk for Brachycephalic issues.

AKC ranks these dogs in regard to popularity as:

  • French Bulldogs – Top 10 most popular in the United States, 4th overall in 2017
  • English Bulldogs – Also in the Top 10, 5th overall in 2017
  • Pugs –  Ranked 31st overall in 2017 but are on a steady rise

If you still don’t know which to choose, have them both! Have you ever heard of a Bulldog-Pug Mix?

Learn More

If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.