The breed is considered one of the oldest canine breeds today. There are many theories as to the Pug's origin in theory states that the breed is a descendant of the short-haired Pekingese; another theory postulates that the Pug is a cross of a small Bulldog; and, a third theory speculates it is a miniature form of the French Mastiff (Dogue de Bordeaux).
Aside from Tibetan monasteries, only members of the Chinese imperial household were allowed to own these small-nosed dogs who always stayed by their master's side even during royal occasions when foreign guests were present. It is said that female pugs were held in high esteem so much so that they had the same rank with the wives of the emperor. This was true during the time of the great emperor Ling To (168-190 A.D.) who also ordered that his pugs be guarded by the palaces soldiers and be fed with only the best food. He greatly loved his pugs that anyone who was caught attempting to steal a pug was meted a death sentence.
During the 16-17th centuries, Pugs became highly popular and were imported to Europe with the aid of the Dutch East India Company. In 1572, a pug named Pompey alerted his master, the Prince of Orange William the Silent, to the approach of the Spaniards thus saving his master's life. As a result, the Pug was declared as the official dog of the House of Orange. When Prince William ascended to the throne, his pugs came to the ceremony adorned with orange ribbons.
Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, Josephine, had a Pug named 'Fortune'. On the night that they were wed, Josephine refused to sleep in their bed unless her Pug was allowed to sleep with them. It was her Pug whom she used to send secret messages to Napoleon when she was thrown in prison. Her secret messages were placed under the dogs collar and delivered to her husband.
During the British invasion of China in 1860, they found Pugs in the Chinese Imperial Palace and brought them back to England. In 1886, England imported black pugs from China. Black Pugs were made fashionable by Lady Brassey.
Queen Victoria took a liking to the breed and she played an active role in their breeding. In fact she had a couple of Pugs that were named Minka, Venus, Fatima, Olga, and Pedro among others. It was Queen Victoria's active involvement in the breeding of Pugs that helped established the Kennel Club in 1873.
The famous English painter, William Hogarth, was very much devoted to his Pugs that he included them in his paintings. One of the most famous is a self-portrait where he painted himself with his Pug.
The breed became very popular in Europe that they were the subjects of paintings of famous European artists. Many Pugs owned by royalty were fitted with matching suits and pants and rode on the front with the coachman.
It was in 1885 when the Pug was recognized by the AKC. Pugs were soon members of homes of many American families and participated in shows and competitions. Pugs have garnered awards in many international shows. In 1981, a pug named Dhandy's Favorite Woodchuck became the only pug to win the Westminster Kennel Club show since 1877, the year when the show first started. In 2004, a pug named Double D Cinoblu's Masterpiece became the World Champion of the World Dog Show held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Long ago, the breed was known in China as lo chiang-sze which later on evolved to become lo-sze. As the pug were introduced to different parts of the world, its name also changed from place to place. In Holland, the Dutch had named the pug as mopshond meaning to grumble, Doguillo in Spain, while in Germany it is called 'mops' and in France the French calls it 'carlin'. The name pug came about when some people found a similarity between the pug's facial expression to that of a marmoset monkey called Pug, a most popular pet in 1700s.