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Tiny dogs are taking over this country

A French bulldog competes at the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

America is in love with little dogs.

The American Kennel Club is out with its latest rankings of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, which, among other things, shows the ascent of the French bulldog, a small scrunch-faced hound which generally weighs no more than 20 some odd pounds. The breed, which was the ninth most popular last year, cracked the top 10 for the first time in more than 100 years, joining the beagle and Yorkshire terrier—the 5th and 6th most popular, respectively—as the only small(er) dog breeds to be among America's favorites.

And it's all part of a trend.

Back in the early 2000s, the United States was still a country content with medium to large dogs (which weigh more than 20 pounds and 40 pounds, respectively). But ever since the pet dog landscape has changed — and rather dramatically, at that.

Now you might want to slow down here as you read this, because what comes next is a pretty astounding bit of information: Since 1999, the number of big dogs has fallen off by nearly one million pets, the number of medium-sized dogs has dipped by roughly half a million pets, and — wait for it — the small pet dog population has grown by almost 15 million pets.

In 2008, for the first time ever, small dogs were the most popular sized dogs in America. And they haven't looked back.

"You do not have to go to many pet shows to realize that the numbers of small and tiny dogs are on the increase," said a 2010 report (pdf) by Pets International.

Indeed, more than 50 percent of U.S. households have a small dog now, according to a recent survey by market reseach firm Packaged Facts.

Why are America's pet lovers choosing to raise smaller and smaller dogs?

The clearest reason is likely tied to the national migration to urban areas. Almost 80 percent of the country now lives in cities and their surrounding areas,  where space is harder to come by. It's of little coincidence that big dogs are much more popular in the south, where land is more plentiful.

"Smaller homes and apartments are helping drive the growing popularity of smaller dogs," Damian Shore, an analyst at market-research firm Euromonitor, told Quartz last year.

Another reason might be that Americans are delaying marriage and kids. It's possible that while delaying offspring, Americans still enjoy the opportunity to care for an adorable mammal.