English Bulldog

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English Bulldog: History and Appearance


The English Bulldog’s history begins in the British Isles. It is believed to date all the way back to the 1200’s, when the breed was used in the unfortunate sport of bullbaiting. This is where the bulldog earns its name, as it was often thrown into the arena and tasked with chasing down bulls, biting them on the nose, and hanging on for any length of time.

The sport is believed to have started after a nobleman witnessed the butcher’s two dogs chasing down and attacking a pair of bulls. Delighted by the sight, he set aside some land and invited the butchers to find him a “mad bull” every spring so that dogs could be set upon it. Bullbaiting has a reputation as an extremely cruel sport. There was little regard for the health and safety of either the dogs or the bull. The Bulldog was bred to be a vicious and successful fighter. With this breed there was no concern for appearance or beauty; what mattered was strength, courage, and an absolute fearlessness. It is believed that over time, the breed reached a point where it was so ferocious it actually became desensitized to pain.

In the 1800’s dogfighting was declared illegal in England. It appeared there was no longer a need for the Bulldog, as its vocation had been outlawed. The Bulldog population began to decline. Fortunately, there was a group of dog fanciers that held the breed in high regard and did not wish to see it die out. The group set themselves to the task of saving the breed.

There were a few challenges however, in bringing back the Bulldog and developing a standard. With dogfighting no longer in style, it was important to breed out the dog’s ferocity and aggression, while still preserving the many other positive traits.

Within a few generations, the English Bulldog was considered to a remarkable breed in both physical characteristics and personality. It is believed that the old Bulldog was actually crossed with the Pug in an effort to refine its temperament and form. What resulted was a dog that was wider, not as tall, and possessing a shorter muzzle. Still “tough” in appearance, this new form of Bulldog did not have the strength, nor the ability to run down a bull, nor would it have the desire to, with its natural aggression and ferocity weeded out of the genetic pool.

The oldest Bulldog club is the Bulldog Club, which was formed in 1878 in England. This is the club that wrote the standard for the Bulldog breed and began showing the dog. The Bulldog was accepted to the American Kennel Club in 1886.

The modern Bulldog is recognized as a family companion, treasured pet, and as a standout show dog because of its fine temperament and unique appearance.


Bulldogs are a medium sized dog, with a thick set, low body. They have a head that is massive and short faced, with a very wide muzzle. They have a vigorous and sturdy appearance. The Bulldog should be about 40 to 50 lbs, depending on sex.

The Bulldog’s head possesses specific features that are unique to its breed. They have a large skull whose circumference measures the same as the dog’s height. The forehead is flat, and the cheeks well rounded. They protrude out the sides and beyond the eyes. The face is considered to be extremely short. The muzzle is broad and turns upward; it too, is extremely short. The nose is wide, flat, and black, with the tip set between the eyes. Nostrils are wide. The dog’s lips are thick and broad. They hang over the lower jaw and cover the teeth. The jaws are massive and feature an undershot bite, or “underbite.” Teeth are large, with the bigger canine teeth set far apart.

The Bulldog’s eyes are placed low on the skull and far from the ears. They are set far apart with the outer corners within the outline of the cheeks. The eyes are round, moderately sized, and dark. The ears are set high on the head and some distance apart. They are small, thin, and in a shaped termed “rose ear.” The ears fold inward at the back edge, with the upper edge curving over.

The neck of the dog is thick. There is a slight fall in the back, and the body has full sides, and a deep, full chest. The dog will have a broad, short legged appearance. Shoulders are muscular, and heavy, while the forelegs are stout. The hindquarters feature muscular legs that are longer. The tail is either straight or “screwed.”

The coat is straight and short. It is dense and grows flat to the skin. The coat is fine and glossy. The skin is loose, and the head and face should be covered in numerous wrinkles.

The Bulldog has a variety of coat colors, though there is a ranking for the colors that are considered “preferred” starting with red brindle. All other brindle colors come after, followed by solid white; solid red, fawn, or fallow; piebald; and any coat with inferior traits.

Showing a Bulldog

When showing a Bulldog, the gait should be loose jointed, yet unrestrained. The temperament is expected to be kind and resolute. The dog should have a muscular, “tough” appearance. The eyes should not be flat, nor bulge out. Ears should not be erect, prick eared, or cropped. Any nose color other than black is considered to be a disqualification.

The expectation is that the dog’s coat is uniform and that the coloring is brilliant. Brindles should have an even disposition of their colors. Piebalds should feature well defined patches. Brindles and solids may have a white patch on the chest, but it should not be large. White patches should not appear elsewhere.

The Bulldog should exhibit a demeanor that is peaceful and dignified. When showing, the expression, demeanor, and carriage of the dog are all taken into account.

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