The Difference Between a Boston Terrier and French Bulldog


Two of the most popular dog breeds in America are the Boston Terrier and the French Bulldog. They are both adorable, smaller dog breeds, and they easily capture the attention and hearts of everyone who crosses their paths. Yet these two breeds are often confused with each other, and as they are individual in their own respective ways, it’s essential to acknowledge and respect their differences.

If you are considering adopting one of these breeds, you will want to choose the one who fits best with your lifestyle. Where do the Boston Terrier and French Bulldog differ from each other? Let’s take a closer look.

Breed Histories

The creation and history of both the Boston Terrier and the French Bulldog breeds are quite different from each other and span the Atlantic Ocean. Here are the stories behind the breeds.

The Boston Terrier History

The Difference Between a Boston Terrier and French Bulldog. Boston Terrier Society
Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier breed was first bred around 1865 in Boston, Massachusetts, making the breed a true American dog. How the breed began lies with a Bostonian named Robert C. Cooper, who purchased a dog named Judge from William O’Brien. It is generally recognized that O’Brien had imported the dog from England, and Judge was a cross between a white English Terrier and an English Bulldog. 

Once the dog changed owners, he became known as Hooper’s Judge. The dog was sturdy, around 32 pounds, and had dark brindle coloring with a white blaze on his face. Judge’s head was blocky and square, and he had an even mouth. It is this dog who is considered the ancestor of nearly all true modern Boston Terriers. 

The Breads Making Up Today’s Boston Terrier

Judge was bred to a white dog named Burnett’s Gyp, nicknamed Kate, who was owned by Edward Burnett. Kate was low stationed, about 28 pounds, had a stocky build, and a square head. From this mating, the path to the modern Boston Terrier was paved. The male dog born to Judge and Kate was not a particularly handsome dog, but he had the personality that the Boston Terrier would become so well known for: gentle and kind. 

This dog, Well’s Eph, was mated to a female called Tobin’s Kate, and historians suggest that their offspring were then crossed with the French Bulldog. That crossing formed the foundation of the Boston Terrier breed.

Naming the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier did not carry that name at first. The fledgling breed was called several names, including round heads, bullet heads, Boston Bulldogs, and American terriers. In 1889, a group of 30 owners of the new breed formed the American Bull Terrier Club, and they settled on calling the breed Bull Terriers or Round Heads. Fanciers of the breed loudly objected to these names, so to please as much of the base as possible, the club changed their name to the Boston Terrier Club in recognition of the breed’s birthplace. 

The Boston Terrier Today

In 1893, the American Kennel Club formally recognized the breed, and the Boston Terrier’s popularity took off from there. Over time, and after some inconsistency within breed standards, the black-and-white Boston Terrier that we know today was settled on as the ideal type. 

In 1915, the Boston Terrier was the most popular dog in America, and by 1976, the breed was chosen as the American bicentennial dog. Three years later, the Boston Terrier became the state dog of Massachusetts. Today, the Boston Terrier remains one of the most popular dog breeds in the country.

The French Bulldog History

The Difference Between a Boston Terrier and French Bulldog. Boston Terrier Society
Frenchie

With the weight of three countries behind its making, the French Bulldog is genuinely an international breed. Its origins begin with the Old English Bulldog in England, a breed that was far different from modern bulldog breeds. The Old English Bulldog was extremely strong and athletic, and tall in the leg. The breed was typically used at that time for “bull-baiting,” a horrific blood sport that pitted the dog against a bull. 

Some English breeders began to refine aspects of this bulldog to create a bigger dog with more exaggerated features while others crossed the English Bulldog with smaller terrier breeds, producing a bull-and-terrier type of dog used for ratting and dogfighting. A third group crossed terriers with the English Bulldog to create a much smaller dog, around 12 – 15 pounds, with rose or upright ears, a pronounced underjaw, and round foreheads. It was the smaller dogs who became favorites of the artisan lacemakers in Nottingham. 

Birth of the modern Frenchie

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the shops in the lace industry closed, and the artisans moved to northern France, bringing their little bulldog terriers with them. The French were immediately enamored of the small dogs, and they became popular throughout the country. The British public turned their noses up at these little dogs, so the French left their imprint on what would become the French Bulldog breed.

By the late 1800s, the breed had become more compact and had lost the extreme underjaw. There were still two styles of ears, the erect “bat-like” ears, and the rose, or floppy, ears. Wealthy Americans touring France at this time saw the dogs, fell in love with them, and brought them to the United States. From that point on, the breed acquired the nickname “Frenchie.”

Deciding On The Proper Standard

For a time, there was a quite the scuffle about which type of French Bulldog should be recognized as the official breed standard, the dogs with “bat” ears or the ones with rose ears. The American Kennel Club leaned toward the rose-eared dogs which infuriated American breeders, who felt the bat-eared dogs should be the standard. This group created the French Bull Dog Club of America, and the breed’s popularity took off until World War I.

Replaced in demand by the Boston Terrier, the French Bulldog fell out of favor. It wasn’t until the last 20 years when the breed became popular again, especially with the advent of video and social media. Today, the Frenchie is one of the most popular breeds in the world.

Breed Features

There are both similarities and differences between the features of the Boston Terrier and the French Bulldog. They can sometimes be mistaken for each other, and as there may be a distant relative between them, that is somewhat understandable. Yet both breeds are distinct in these particular ways.

The Boston Terrier’s Features

Body

Compact and well-proportioned, the Boston Terrier is a dapper, handsome dog with naturally and distinctively small, erect, bat-shaped ears. The dog’s head is square and flat on top, the muzzle is broad and short, and the chest is sturdy and full. He has a slightly arched neckline and a boxy body shape. The tail usually is short and straight, although some dogs can have a corkscrew-shaped tail. Perhaps the most arresting feature of this breed is his large, dark, round eyes that express a sweet, loving nature.

The Boston Terrier has a shortened snout, meaning he is a brachycephalic breed. The nose on a brachycephalic dog is so short it makes a face appear pushed in or flat. It is a distinctive look that, for some dogs, can also cause health problems. 

There are three weight categories for the Boston Terrier breed: the 20 – 25-pound group, the 15 – under 20-pound group, and the under 15-pound group. Male Boston Terriers are generally around 17 inches tall, while females can reach 16 inches in height. 

If you want to learn more about Health Problems related to the Boston Terrier, check out my article, 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems.

Coat Colors and Care

The Boston Terrier has a clean, smooth, fine-haired coat that comes in three colors: brindle, black, and seal (a reddish black). All Boston Terriers have an all-white muzzle with an accompanying blaze down the middle of their head and a white chest. This pattern is one reason why the breed is remarked as “wearing a tuxedo.” There are no purebred Boston Terriers in any other color. 

As far as coats go, the Boston Terrier is low-maintenance and easy to groom. Weekly brushing with a firm brush and occasional baths is typically the extent of coat care needed for this breed. Because the Boston Terrier’s eyes are so prominent, this breed’s face should be washed daily and eyes checked for any signs of irritation or redness.

The French Bulldog’s Features

Body

The body of a French Bulldog somewhat resembles a small tank or a bulldog in miniature form. Like his Boston Terrier counterpart, the French Bulldog has erect “bat-shaped” ears that are natural and distinctive and also the leading cause for confusion between the two breeds. This breed’s body is compact and muscular. The French Bulldog’s head is large, and square as well as flat between the ears, and his dark, captivating eyes are widely set in his head. 

Like the Boston Terrier, the French Bulldog is also a brachycephalic breed with a squashed-looking, shortened snout. This nose style is one that poses health challenges to the breed, especially in terms of their inability to withstand extremely hot or cold environments.

Both male and female French Bulldogs can weigh in between 25 – 27 pounds. The males may grow as tall as 13 inches, while the females are typically no taller than 11 inches. 

Coat Colors and Care

The French Bulldog’s coat is fine, short, smooth, and shiny. The breed has loose, wrinkly skin around the head and shoulders that has a soft texture to it. The Frenchie can be found in a variety of coat colors, including cream, fawn, and a wide range of brindle shades; the brindle shades range from tiger brindle, a striking striped pattern, to black brindle and brown and white (pied) brindle. Purebred French Bulldogs cannot be solid black, mouse, liver, or black and tan and white in color.

Due to his fine, short coat, grooming a French Bulldog is a relatively straightforward affair. This breed is an average shedding dog, so a weekly brushing with a gentle brush can remove any loose or dead hair before it hits the carpets and floors. Bathing should be done monthly or on an as-needed basis.  

Breed Health Concerns 

As brachycephalic breeds, the Boston Terrier and the French Bulldog do share some similar health issues, one of which is brachycephalic syndrome. Short-nosed dog breeds often have difficulty breathing due to constricted airways and really struggle in extremely hot or cold temperatures. They are also more prone to allergies, especially ones caused by environmental conditions. 

Additionally, both breeds may suffer from patellar luxation, or “slipped stifles.” This congenital disease is common in small dog breeds and is caused when the patella, or knee, slips out of place. This condition causes an abnormal gait or lameness, and although it is present at birth, it may not appear until later in the dog’s life. Patellar luxation can cause chronic arthritis and must be addressed with surgery if it severely impacts the dog’s quality of life.

Aside from the brachycephalic syndrome and patellar luxation, the other medical issues both breeds have differ significantly. Here are some of the most common health issues in both breeds, respectively.

Boston Terrier Health Concerns

Cataracts, both juvenile and adult varieties, are a common health problem for Boston Terriers. When a cataract develops, it casts a cloudy film over the eye lens, limiting the dog’s vision.

Megaesophagus is a genetic defect in the structure of the esophagus. This defect causes a Boston Terrier to regurgitate undigested food. Over time, damage can be done to the lining of the throat.

Reverse sneezing is a condition that can impact a Boston Terrier at any stage of his life. If the dog gulps his food quickly, becomes overexcited, or has an allergic reaction to an environmental condition like pollens or grasses, reverse sneezing can occur. Nasal secretions fall onto the soft palate and close off the windpipe, causing the wheezing sound. Keeping the dog relaxed during the attack will shorten the length of the episode. 

Tip: One thing my wife and I do when Bella does a reverse sneeze is hold her chest with both hands applying slight pressure. This helps put her in a calm place. Applying this technique seems to help our Boston overcome the reverse sneeze rather quickly than letting her deal with it on her own.

Deafness is a condition that affects many Boston Terriers in one or both ears. Boston Terriers who have white on more than one-third of their heads are more likely to produce deaf puppies.

Heart murmurs are often a heritable issue wherein a defect in the mitral valve area of the heart cause a backflow of blood into the left atrium. The heart is incapable of performing efficiently when this condition occurs. Heart murmurs can be successfully treated through dietary and lifestyle changes.

Cherry eye is a heritable disease wherein the gland of the third eyelid prolapses. This condition typically affects Boston Terriers that are under a year old. Surgery to either remove the gland or reposition it can usually address this issue.

French Bulldog Health Concerns

Von Willebrand’s Disease is a blood disorder that prevents the body from effectively clotting blood. A French Bulldog with this disease may experience bleeding gums, nose bleeds, and prolonged bleeding after surgery or whelping. This disease cannot be cured but can be managed with medical treatments and transfusions.

An elongated soft palate is a brachycephalic breed issue particular to the French Bulldog. When the soft palate, or extension of the roof of the mouth, is too long it can block the dog’s airways, making it hard to breathe correctly. The excess palate can be removed through surgery.

Intervertebral Disc Disease happens when a disc in the spine herniates or ruptures, forcing the disc up into the spinal cord. Nerve transmissions can be impacted by this interference. This disease is a painful condition that can lead to weakness or temporary paralysis. A French Bulldog can be subject to this disease at any time, although it is often associated with trauma, age, or a misplaced jump or step. Steroids or surgery can address the effects of the disease.

Cleft palate is when the palate, which separates the oral and nasal cavities in the mouth, is split unilaterally or bilaterally. A cleft palate can occur in either the hard or soft parts of the palate and in some cases causes a cleft lip. Surgery can be done to close the hole, although not all French Bulldogs will require that step.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where the femur does not fit properly into the socket of the hip joint. Some French Bulldogs with hip dysplasia may experience a wide range of pain, lameness, hind end weakness, and difficulty walking up and down stairs. With age, the French Bulldog may also develop osteoarthritis. Hip dysplasia can be managed with low-impact exercises and pain medications.

Hemivertebrae occurs when one or more vertebrae are malformed, causing them to be shaped like a triangle. This condition may not impact a French Bulldog at all, or it may put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to weakness, pain, and paralysis. 

Breed Personalities

The Boston Terrier and the French Bulldog are two of the most sought after breeds in America, and their respective personalities are a big reason why. Yes, both breeds are cute, but it’s the look in their eyes and the spring in their step that tends to win over people’s hearts. What differences do exist between the breeds’ natures?

The Boston Terrier’s Nature

This breed isn’t called the “American Gentleman” for nothing. His origins may be with bullfighting dogs, but today, the Boston Terrier is best known for his loving, affectionate nature. The breed is rated highly in intelligence and loves to perform antics for the people they like best. 

More than some other dog breeds, the Boston Terrier retains an individualistic nature that is solely his own. Some Boston Terriers can be dignified and calm, some lively and high-spirited, some goofy and stubborn, and others sweet and gentle. There is probably a bit of all of these characteristics in a Boston Terrier, but their distinct personalities definitely attract people to them. Stubbornness can sometimes be an issue with training, but the Boston is smart, sharp, and eager to please his owner, and with positive reinforcement and consistency, he will pick up on training quickly. 

Absolutely Lovable

The Boston Terrier is highly sensitive to his owner’s mood and what he wants most out of life is to be a devoted companion to his family. Sometimes the Boston Terrier can be a one-person dog, but he is never aggressive and always friendly with whomever he meets. This breed takes his job seriously as a protector of his people, and he is an effective watchdog who will let you know if a stranger is on the property. More bluster than anything else, the Boston Terrier may occasionally put on a show for a neighboring dog, but a show is as far as things will go. This breed gets along well with children of all ages and with other household pets.

Due to his smaller size, the Boston Terrier is highly adaptable to multiple living environments. He is a good breed choice for people who live in small homes, condominiums, or apartments. 

The French Bulldog’s Nature

Smart, loving, and companionable, the French Bulldog has the perfect personality for a family dog. A small dynamo, this breed wows everyone he meets with his outgoing, gregarious personality. Highly intelligent, the French Bulldog has a tendency to develop his intuition in understanding what his owner wants or how his owner feels. 

French Bulldogs Love To Have Fun

Although some French Bulldogs can be calm and collected, the majority of these dogs are energetic adventurers. French Bulldogs do not require large amounts of exercise, but perhaps that is because they are so adept at bouncing from couch to couch and lap to lap in search of treats and cuddles. Some of this energy is lost as the French Bulldog ages; however, a healthy member of this breed will always retain some element of his mischievous nature, even as a senior. Note that males are typically more rambunctious and assertive in nature, while females more affectionate and reserved.

Without a proper upbringing and positive training, a French Bulldog can become aggressive and barky. Due to his relatively docile temperament and smarts, the French Bulldog is relatively easy to train and eager to please. He can become stubborn as he gets older, a trait that needs to be managed as soon as noticed. The French Bulldog is quite connected to his family; thus, he should not be left alone for long periods as he is prone to suffer from separation anxiety. 

Great With Everyone

The French Bulldog showers everyone he meets with love, and that means he is particularly good with children of all ages. This breed is usually good with other pets, but some French Bulldogs can have a prey drive that might make them unsuitable for living with small animals like rodents, ferrets, gerbils, or rabbits.

Pick Your Breed

The Boston Terrier and French Bulldog are popular breeds because they are adorable, affectionate, and loveable. They may be mixed up on occasion, and due to some similarities in aspects of their physical features and medical conditions, that is a mistake easily made. 

However, both breeds have distinctive histories, personalities, and traits that make them different from each other. Regardless of those differences, one thing is clear: you can’t go wrong bringing a Boston Terrier or French Bulldog into your life. In fact, you might just want one of each.

References:

Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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