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.

What Is A Retro Pug?

what is a retro pug illustration

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.

A retro pug a.k.a. the “retro mop” is an adaptation of a pure breed pug, which is crossed with the Jack Russell Terrier.

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

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

retro pug in 1880.

Other than that, a retro pug is still very similar to a normal pug. The longer face also solves the problem of bulging eyes, which is another bonus. (image source)

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

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

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

Retro Pug Evolution

Retro pug old photo

A favorite Pug bitch depicted in 1802, by Henry Bernard Chalon

What we think of as the retro pug is quite 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.

Until the 19th century, the retro pug look was just the look. (image source)

It’s only been within the last 100 years that breeders have created the flat face.

Like many other popular breeds, it was bred too aggressively to produce forced characteristics.

If you ever see old paintings featuring pugs, and there are plenty of them, the pugs look different.

This is because they 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.

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

Pugs were immensely popular in European courts and were a particular favorite of Queen Victoria. (image source)

Family group with Queen Victoria and a pug, Balmoral 1887

Family group with Queen Victoria and a pug, Balmoral 1887

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

Old-school breeders didn’t really consider these things back when they were making fashionable breeds.

Luckily, this is something the retro pug is looking to fix. Public awareness is growing about the health complications associated with brachycephalic breeds, and 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 retro pug.

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

In fact, they recently pressured Crufts to allow retro pugs into the competition.[1]

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 in the hopes that more people will make the switch.

Hopefully, by introducing Jack Russell into the breed, retro pugs will be healthy and lovable.

Retro Pug Vs. Pug: Comparison

retro pug and pug playing

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. (image source)

Below are the differences between pugs and retro pugs.

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 both expensive and ridiculous.

The retro pug, however, has a longer nose, which is the result of 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 normal pugs can have some eye problems, including ulcers and corneal disorders.[2]

Another notable difference is that retro pugs have longer ears than pugs. Their ears are more floppy, whereas the pug’s breed standard states they should have rose or button ears.

Both of these are quite small ear types, so it’s quite a big 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. 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 originally looked but isn’t too much of an issue.

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

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

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

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

Differences Between Pug And Retro Pug:(Summary)

Retro pug vs pug comparison

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

Is Getting A Retro Pug A Good Idea?

retro pug a.k.a. retro mop

Despite their potential health concerns, pugs are great dogs. They’re fun, loving, and very playful, and make excellent pets for all.

There are few situations in which a pug wouldn’t be an amazing choice of dog.

Worth A Look: “Pugs pros and cons”

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.

A retro pug, therefore, is an excellent alternative for anyone thinking of adopting a pug. (image source)

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.

Retro pugs will be suitable for households of any size and would be ideal for apartment living.

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

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

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 thinking of adopting a retro pug. 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.


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 a retro pug, then make sure you do plenty of research and search out reputable 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 pugs for sale near you.


1. [^] Lyons, Izzy. “Crufts Urged to Admit ‘Retro Pugs’ without Squashed Faces to Wipe out Cruel Breeding.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 4 Aug. 2019,

2.[^] O’Neill, Dan G, et al. “Demography and Health of Pugs under Primary Veterinary Care in England.” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, BioMed Central, 10 June 2016,

Avatar About The Author: Jacob Powell is studying Ph.D. in English Literature. He has ten years of experience in writing with specific expertise in proofreading, editing, and creative writing. He loves all animals, but dogs are his favorite. His current dog is a 5-year-old pug called Merlin.