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RETRO Pug: The Facts Behind The Face

Have you heard of retro pugs yet?

They’re the new craze taking over breeding circles as an alternative to the famous squash-nosed pug we think of as traditional.

This article looks at what makes a retro pug and how that’s different from a “traditional” pug.

Let’s jump right in.

What is a Retro Pug?

Where did Retro Pug come from illustration

A Retro Pug, a.k.a. the “Retro Mop” or jug dog, is an adaptation of a pure breed pug, crossed with the Jack Russell Terrier. 

This has been a more common crossbreed in recent years, but some breeders now consider it more faithful to how the pug breed used to look.

Retro Pug Appearance

The pug is probably most famous for its squashed face, which is one of the reasons it’s considered cute.

However, being brachycephalic (having a squashed nose) leads to several health complications for the pug.

In contrast,

The retro pug has a longer snout than a typical pug, and this is where the Jack Russell cross comes in.

The longer snout reduces the risk of breathing issues associated with brachycephalic breeds.

retro pug has longer snout vs regular pug

Other than that, a retro pug is still very similar to an old-fashioned pug, and it is simply a pug without a flat face. The longer face also solves the problem of bulging eyes, which is another bonus.

A retro pug’s ears are slightly longer, but this isn’t bad either.

The combination of Jack Russell also changes the retro pug’s color slightly. The dogs are generally still fawn but with more black around their faces and along their backs.

You might want to compare Brindle Pug’s unique color.

Retro Pug Temperament

Both Jack Russells and pugs have similar temperaments: friendly, energetic, playful, loving.

This means that the retro pug is also all of these things, making it an excellent pet for all, particularly around kids.

Retro Pug Evolution

Retro pug old photo

We think this mixed breed is a recent development, perhaps within the last 10-15 years.

As more is understood scientifically about dog breeding, it’s been possible to produce more varied crossbreeds.

While people may have bred pugs and Jack Russells in the past, it’s only recently been given a name.

However, the interesting thing is that what we think of as the “traditional” pug, the one with the squished face and bulging eyes, is a more recent change.

The pug can trace its history back thousands of years to ancient China.

Pug dog sitting outside a chinese garden

Until the 19th century, the retro pug or the “original pug” look was just the look.

It’s only been within the last 100 years that breeders have created the flat face or the “new” pug breed.

Like many other popular breeds in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, it was bred too aggressively to produce forced characteristics.

What Did Pugs Use to Look Like?

original pug vintage photo with owner

Before selective breeding, the original pug breed used to look like regular dogs, with long faces and floppy ears. This is, of course, why retro pugs are called what they are: they’re a retro look for the breed.

If you ever see old paintings featuring pugs, and there are plenty of them, the pugs look strikingly different. Check out the image above.

While there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for why the change happened, it was probably just a result of changes in fashion.

This fashionable flat face leads to several health complications, as any pug owner will know. These include problems breathing and eating and a wide range of eye conditions.

Old-school breeders didn’t consider these things when making fashionable breeds.

Luckily, this is something the “pug with a snout” is looking to fix.


Let’s take a closer look at the differences between retro pugs and regular pugs.

Retro Pug vs. Pug Comparison

retro pug vs pug comparison

The addition of Jack Russell into the pug bloodline has led to a few differences, although retro pugs are still pretty faithful to the pugs we all know and love.

Standard pugs are brachycephalic, which means they have squished faces.

This affects their breathing and can result in them having operations to alter their soft palette, which is expensive and ridiculous.

brachycephalic word meaning illustration

However, the retro pug has a longer nose, which results from introducing Jack Russell into the mix.

Snout length will vary until the breed has been stabilized, but introducing more Jack Russell than pug will result in a more consistent length.

Having a long face also means the retro pug has less bulgy eyes, although it’s still noticeably a pug.

This is another massive health benefit to the breed, as standard pugs can have eye problems, including ulcers and corneal disorders.

Another notable difference is that retro pugs have longer ears than pugs, and their ears are floppy (sometimes varies-See Infographic), whereas the pug’s breed standard states they should have rose or button ears.

retro pug in the backyard

Both are pretty small ear types, so it’s quite a significant change to the pug’s appearance.

One big difference between pugs and retro pugs is color. Pugs are either fawn or black, although a small amount of black is permitted along the spine and saddle, and fawn pugs are also black around the face and ears.

However, with the addition of Jack Russell, retro pugs are a bit darker than pugs. Also, they usually have more black around their faces and along their backs.


This is a bit of variance from how the pug looked initially but isn’t too much of an issue.

Retro pugs also typically have thinner bodies than pugs, but this isn’t bad. Jack Russells are skinny dogs, whereas pugs often suffer from obesity, particularly in old age.

Retro pugs are skinnier than pugs, but their body-leg ratio is different.

That said, retro pugs and pugs are about the same size overall, which means retro pugs still make great apartment dogs and are ideal for small families.

Most of the differences between pugs and retro pugs are in an attempt to correct the health problems of brachycephalic dogs.

See the difference?

Let’s recap.

Retro Pug vs. Pug Differences (Summary)

retro pug vs pug differences summary image

  • Retro pugs have longer snouts, while pugs have short, squashed faces.
  • Retro pugs have more significant color variation, resulting from adding Jack Russell. Pugs are either fawn or black.
  • Retro pugs have less bulgy eyes as a result of their long faces.
  • Retro pugs are generally healthier than standard pugs.
  • Pugs have squat, barrel-like bodies, while retro pugs are typically thinner with longer legs.
  • Pugs have rose or button ears, whereas retro pugs have longer, floppy ears.

Retro Pug Infographic

Retro Pug Infographic illustration

How Long Do Retro Pugs Live For?

Being a non-Brachycephalic breed, Retro pugs are healthy dogs. Their average lifespan  is between 12 and 15 years, but some can live much longer.

Retro Pug And Your Lifestyle

Retro pugs will suit households of any size and are ideal for apartment living.

They don’t need very much space when at home, and much like normal pugs, they love to sleep.

However, the addition of the Jack Russell breed does mean that they’re more energetic than normal pugs.

Pug and Jack Russell photographed in front of white background

Also, you won’t be limited by the breed’s breathing problems when exercising, meaning you can take them out for longer and in warmer temperatures.

This is probably one of the most important things to consider when adopting this dog breed. They will need plenty of exercises because they’re energetic dogs.

Obviously, it won’t be as much as you’d need to give a big dog, but it’ll probably be much more than you expect.


Is Getting A Retro Pug A Good Idea?

retro pug lying in bed

Despite their potential health concerns, pugs are great dogs.

They’re fun, loving, very playful and make excellent pets for all. There are a few situations in which a pug wouldn’t be a fantastic choice of dog.

However, the health concerns related to the breed are a good reason for not adopting one. Any operations a pug will need are costly and quite complicated.

It’s not something any dog should be subjected to, particularly if you’re aware it could happen.

Therefore, a retro pug is an excellent alternative for anyone thinking of adopting a pug.

You still get all the good things about owning a pug but aren’t at risk of all the expensive vet bills and dangerous procedures.

Are you ready to get a Retro pug?

In the United States, the retro pug price is around $800-$1600.

I listed the retro pug breeders links below where you can get this lovely dog.

Retro Pug Puppies For Sale or Adoption Sites



You can find all the jug dog breeders here: Registered Australian Pug Breeders.

Worldwide Search


Retro Pug and CRUFFA

Pug at a dog competition

Public awareness is growing about the health complications associated with brachycephalic breeds, so people are looking for alternatives.

A British movement called the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat-Faced Animals (CRUFFA) is a big advocate for the “long nose” pug.

They’ve campaigned for the education of owners and breeders on the reasons to choose long nose pugs for a long time.

In fact, they pressured Crufts to allow retro pugs into the competition.

Crufts is an umbrella term for an international canine event held annually in the United Kingdom.


Traditionally, Crufts only takes purebred dogs, which the retro pug technically isn’t.

The campaigners argue that making an allowance for the breed is the only way to break the cycle.

That said, there’s still not much known about retro pugs. Some breeders and vets are also campaigning for greater awareness of the breed, hoping that more people will make the switch.

Hopefully, by introducing Jack Russell into the breed, these beautiful dogs will be healthy and lovable.

Final Thoughts

RETRO PUG pinterest pin

A retro pug is an excellent alternative to a pug because it solves all of the major health concerns associated with the breed.

What’s more, they’re still playful and fun-loving dogs that make great family pets.

If you’re thinking of adopting this breed, make sure you do plenty of research and search out reputable retro pug breeders.

It’s definitely worth making sure you’re getting a happy and friendly dog to take home. Hopefully, it won’t be difficult for you to find retro pug puppies for sale near you.

Still interested in a pug, or Are You Looking for Pug Look-Alikes?

Check Out My Article about 25 Dogs That Look Like Pugs Now!

dog paw prints


About the author: Chalene Johnston graduated with honors from University with a BA in psychology. She is a proud stay-at-home mom to her 2-year-old French Bulldog puppy, Stella! When she is not looking for adventure travel destinations, she loves to write! She writes for a wide variety of topics – with animals being one of her favorites.

1 comment… add one
  • Robyn Bordelon May 22, 2021 @ 13:37

    Thanks, Robyn Bordelon for dogbreedsfaq.com

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