French Bulldogs are Britain’s second most popular breed. We see lots of ‘Frenchies’. They have great personalities, but because of their squashed (brachycephalic) faces they have long soft palates that interfere with breathing. And regrettably, most that are seen here at Elizabeth Street have thin, tight nostrils rather than round ones. That makes breathing even more difficult! It means that many, if not most modern French Bulldogs, need corrective surgery, preferably before they are two years old, to breath normally.
The ‘first’ French Bulldog
Today’s French Bulldogs have a needlessly high incidence of obstructive airway disease but we can’t hide the fact that the breed got its start here at Elizabeth Street 120 years ago.
Alfred Sewell, an illustrious previous occupant of the ‘Veterinary Infirmary’ here at 55 Elizabeth Street was by Royal Warrant, ‘Canine Surgeon’ to Queen Victoria’s son the Prince of Wales.
In 1901, just before the Prince of Wales’ coronation as King Edward VII, his ‘Toy Bulldog’ Peter, elderly and almost blind, reached the end of his natural days. (Peter had an eventful life having previously been operated on at Elizabeth Street by Mr. Sewell after being run over by a butcher’s cart.)
Sewell travelled to Paris and purchased a brindle, white patched, French Bulldog, ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’, from a respected breeder, M. Sedze.
Napoleon Bonaparte, photographed in 1901 on arrival in England.
Our veterinary antecedent at Elizabeth Street presented Napoleon Bonaparte to his prestigious client but unexpectedly the King declined Sewell’s gift!
Napoleon Bonaparte captures Frederick Cousens
Alfred Sewell already had many dogs living here at Elizabeth Street including the oddly named ‘Queer Street’, an English bulldog, who was one of his favourites. An 1897 newspaper item says that at Crufts Dog Show that year, ‘Mr. Alfred Sewell’s famous “Queer Street” busily engaged in collecting contributions for a Children’s Cot at the Great Northern Hospital. The cot is to be called “The Doggies’ Cot”, and is endowed and maintained by the dogs of Britain in gratitude for the love which little children bear them.’
So, Napoleon Bonaparte joined the home of Sewell’s new young veterinary partner, Frederick Cousens who with his wife lived around the corner from Elizabeth Street, at 32 Eaton Place. They were enchanted by Napoleon Bonaparte and in 1902 they brought together other French Bulldog owning clients from Elizabeth Street and at a meeting in their home, the ‘French Bulldog Club of England’ was established, with Mrs. Cousens its first Honorary Secretary.
Frederick Cousens, the Elizabeth Street vet who in 1902 founded the French Bulldog Club of England. This photo is from 30 years later.