While there's no denying the cuteness factor of canines with pushed-in faces, these breeds also come with drawbacks. Many of them suffer from breathing trouble because of their unusually short noses—something to take into consideration if you live in a humid climate. Short-nosed dogs come in all sizes.
That adorable pushed-in face belongs to a brachycephalic dog, a term literally meaning "short head." No matter the individual breed, all brachycephalic dogs have shorter skulls than normal, which changes the rest of the dog's facial anatomy. Besides breathing issues, brachycephalic dogs might suffer from eye problems, as the eyes are pushed further out of the skull than most breeds'. Dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome have undersized nostrils and elongated soft palates. The former means that taking in air is more work, while the latter results in a soft palate that partially blocks the windpipe.
Bulldogs and Bostons
How can you take one look at a bulldog's face and not be smitten? Once he was bred to actually fight bulls. Today he's pretty much a lovebug. Of the brachycephalic breeds, the classic English bulldog is among the most likely to experience brachycephalic airway syndrome. Heat and humidity are hard on him. The French bulldog, with his distinctive bat ears, also needs to stay in an air-conditioned environment when the temperature climbs. The Boston terrier, born wearing a tuxedo, originated from the crossing of an English bulldog with an English terrier. He makes an excellent companion.
Many brachycephalic dogs originate from Asia. These include the Pekingese and pug from China and the shih tzu and Lhasa apso from Tibet. Pugs and Pekingese probably share some ancestry, while there's more documentation concerning the relationship between Lhasas and shih tzus. While the shih tzu lineage traces back to Tibet, the breed was a favorite of Chinese royalty during the Ming Dynasty. The Lhasa apso, known in his native land as the "bark lion sentinel dog," was in charge of guarding his owner's home, a task he still performs admirably today.
Not all brachycephalic breeds are on the small side. Perhaps the best-known of the larger breeds is the boxer, whose bloodlines contain bulldog and terrier ancestors. If you want a really big dog with a pushed-in face, there's the Dogue de Bordeaux—"dogue" is French for mastiff—a first-rate guard dog. There's also the standard mastiff, a name synonymous with size. According to the American Kennel Club, the minimum size for a grown male mastiff is 30 inches tall at the shoulder, making this one of the largest breeds the organization registers.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.