Labs once owned the hearts of N.J. dog lovers. But this breed has stolen them.

Labs once owned the hearts of N.J. dog lovers. But this breed has stolen them.

The French have conquered America.

French bulldogs, that is.

In a move Napoleon himself wouldn’t sniff at, the small breed has officially deposed the Labrador retriever, which spent more than three decades as America’s top dog.

Frenchies were crowned No. 1 Wednesday when the American Kennel Club announced its annual breed ranking. The latest top 10 reflects AKC registrations of purebred dogs for 2022.

French bulldogs — a “bat”-eared breed that hails from France and England — are now the most popular breed of dog in both the United States and New Jersey.

Labs held the top spot for 31 years. Now they fall to No. 2.

Frenchies, a breed in AKC’s non-sporting group, have been steadily rising through the ranks over the past decade. In 2012, they were the No. 14 breed in the nation, but by 2021, they were No. 2.

In 2022, they finally did what might’ve seemed impossible — outnumber those winning Labs (who also hail from England … via a Newfoundlander bloodline).

“Frenchies are going through the roof,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter Munden tells NJ Advance Media. “There’s a demand for them … People are really excited about this breed that’s having a resurgence — because let’s be clear, this breed has been recognized since the 1800s.”

A French bulldog named Winston, seen here with his owner-handler Perry Payson, won the 2022 National Dog Show.Courtesy of The Kennel Club of Philadelphia/NBC

The AKC welcomed the French bulldog into the fold way back in 1898, just 14 years after the dog-fancying group formed. The kennel club recognized the Labrador retriever in 1917.

Originating as smaller versions of English bulldogs that were bred to be companion dogs, French bulldogs became known as best friends to lace makers who lived in Nottingham, England.

Those artisans moved to France during the Industrial Revolution, seeking work after machines replaced their jobs in England. There, breeders crossed their smaller bulldogs with terrier dogs.

Frenchies, with their adorable expressions and affectionate demeanors, became a hit in the U.S.

But for a good while, the French bulldog was a true underdog.

By World War II, the total population of Frenchies had dwindled so much they became a “rare” breed.

French bulldog

An example of a French bulldog with a coat color outside of the breed standard. Such colors are popular but not accepted by the AKC.Astrid Stawiarz | Getty Images

Decades later, the AKC reports that Frenchie registrations have increased more than 1,000% from 2012 to 2022.

“They’re not the dog that’s gonna go hiking with you or swimming with you,” Hunter Munden says, though some Frenchies have been known to compete in dog agility events. “But a lot of people who are getting this breed aren’t doing it for that. They’re getting it to cuddle on the couch. They’re getting it to be cute. They’re getting it to hang out with their kids.”

Frenchies are an especially popular pick for apartment dwellers.

“It’s a really fun breed. They’re extremely smart. They do need training, because they have a stubborn personality … but they’re very affable,” Hunter Munden says. “They love being around their owners. They love just really getting that human-canine bond, and they’re so stinking cute to look at.”

French bulldog

French bulldogs can be comfortable in apartments and small living spaces.Manan Vatsyayana | AFP via Getty Images

The AKC breed standard calls for French bulldogs to be white, cream, fawn or any combination of those colors. They can also have brindle markings, be piebald (patches of black and white), have black “masks,” white markings and black shadings.

Other coat colors, like “blue” (gray), “lilac” (brown-gray) and merle (mottled mix of different colors), while popular, are not accepted by the AKC.

A cream-colored French bulldog named Winston, co-owned by Oklahoma handler-breeder Perry Payson and NFL player Morgan Fox of the Los Angeles Chargers, won the 2022 National Dog Show.

English bulldogs, officially known simply as bulldogs in the AKC breed standard, rank No. 6 in the nation and No. 7 in New Jersey. Nationally, bulldogs held their own, also ranking sixth in 2021. Statewide, Bulldogs dropped one place from No. 6 in 2021.

Bulldogs, the canine cousins of French bulldogs, held their own at No. 6 on the U.S. top 10, but in New Jersey dropped one place from sixth to seventh.Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media

Nationally, the 2022 AKC breed rankings showed differences only toward the bottom of the list. The Rottweiler and beagle swapped places — the Rottweiler moved up a notch — as did the dachshund and the German shorthaired pointer (the dachshund rose).

For the most part, New Jersey is a mirror of the nation when it comes to AKC-registered dogs.

But there are two breeds that made Jersey’s top 10 that didn’t make the same list nationally: the Doberman pinscher (No. 8), which rose a spot from No. 9 in 2021 (taking the German shorthaired pointer’s place), and the Yorkshire terrier (No. 10).

The Havanese, which ranked No. 10 in Jersey last year, dropped out of the top 10 for 2022.


Doberman pinschers didn’t make the AKC’s national top 10, but are on the rise in New Jersey. Steve Russell | Toronto Star via Getty Images

Dachshunds and beagles, which both made the U.S. top 10, didn’t make the cut for the Garden State’s top group in 2021 or 2022.

Here are the AKC rankings of top breeds for both the U.S. and New Jersey.

1. French bulldog

2. Labrador retriever

3. Golden retriever

4. German shepherd

5. Poodle

6. Bulldog

7. Rottweiler

8. Beagle

9. Dachshund

10. German shorthaired pointer

1. French bulldog

2. Labrador retriever

3. Golden retriever

4. German shepherd

5. Poodle

6. Rottweiler

7. Bulldog

8. Doberman pinscher

9. German shorthaired pointer

10. Yorkshire terrier

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Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at and followed at @AmyKup on Twitter.

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