The English Bulldog is descended from the ancient Mastiff breeds of Asia. These muscular dogs were used in the 17th century sport of bull baiting – a bull was tied to a post, and the Bulldog attacked its neck and snout from beneath, so the bull couldn’t fight back. Although this cruel sport wouldn’t be permissible today, in those days people enjoyed gambling on the outcome of the battle between bull and Bulldog. Butchers of the day also appreciated the Bulldog’s help in keeping unruly bulls in line.
The original Bulldog was taller than the breed of today, with longer legs. There is a theory that the Pug was crossed with the Bulldog to produce the squat, wide dog with the short muzzle that we recognize as the English Bulldog. These changes mean that they are no longer able to run well, and breathing is a challenge. Today, they couldn’t keep up with a bull if they had to.
This breed was recognized by the AKC in 1886.
The English Bulldog looks fierce. They have a massive head with folds of loose skin, and pendulous upper lips. A significant under bite means that their lower front teeth are exposed, which makes them look even more cranky. Their body is compact and muscular, and their tail is often screwed.
They have a short coat which comes in a variety of shades, including white, red, fawn, and brindle.
These dogs aren’t tall, only growing to 16 inches, or 40cm at the shoulder. They can weigh up to 55lbs (25kg).
In the case of the English Bulldog, appearances can be deceiving. Fanciers have carefully selected their dogs for a good temperament, and there is now very little aggression in the breed. These are a gentle and affectionate dog, and love to be in the company of people. They are good companions for children, because they are patient, but strong enough to cope with the enthusiastic cuddles of a youngster. However, as with any dog, they should be supervised around children.
These dogs are courageous, and will certainly look after their own if they feel threatened.
If you measure dog intelligence as the ability to learn behaviors such as obedience activities, the Bulldog is considered to be one of the least intelligent breeds in the dog world. They are in fact extremely stubborn and persistent, which can make them a challenge to train.
If you are considering welcoming an English Bulldog into your home, you will need to have a generous dog care budget. These dogs have a number of health issues that can plague them throughout their lives.
Because of the skin folds on their face and around their screw tail, these dogs may suffer from frequent bacterial skin infections.
They also have an extremely high incidence of hip dysplasia, which can lead to painful arthritis as they age. To some extent, this can be prevented by careful selection of breeding stock. However, research completed between 1979 and 2009 suggested that over 70% of Bulldogs have hip dysplasia. This makes breeding difficult; choosing only those dogs with the healthiest hips means there is only a small gene pool to select from. This then increases the risk of other hereditary problems occurring.
The Bulldog’s muscular hind legs are prone to luxating patella, or slipped kneecaps. This too can lead to arthritis, but can be surgically corrected.
If you notice a small red lump on the inside of your Bulldog’s eye, it is probably a “cherry eye”. This lump is the gland of the third eyelid, which has prolapsed and become swollen. The gland is usually surgically replaced, which prevents it from becoming dry and infected.
Bulldogs don’t cope well with the heat. Their short muzzle makes it less likely that they can reduce their body temperature through panting. In fact, heat stroke can be life threatening. Bulldogs shouldn’t be exposed to high temperatures, and shouldn’t be exercised when it is warm. Their owners must be able to identify signs of heat stress in their dog, and have them treated as soon as possible.
Most Bulldog puppies are delivered by caesarian section, because their big head is often too large to fit through the birth canal. If you plan on breeding your Bulldog, be prepared for this as their pregnancy draws to a close.
These dogs are relatively easy to care for. Their short coat doesn’t need bathing very often. A quick brush or rub with a grooming mitt will remove loose hair and keep them looking tidy. They will need their skin folds wiped clean on a daily basis to prevent infection.
They also don’t need much exercise. They are not built to walk or run long distances, and if they do, they may overheat. A gentle stroll once a day should be enough to keep your Bulldog happy.
While it looks like the Bulldog is the ideal low maintenance dog, any prospective owner must be aware of the cost of health care, both in time and dollars.
The Bulldog is a delight to own. Easy going and amiable, they will form a close bond with their owners and thrive in their company. They aren’t active indoors, and will happily live in an apartment.
These dogs also drool, snore and make a mess when they are eating. If that, plus the potential health risks of the breed, haven’t put you off, your Bulldog will share your life for up to 8 years.