The Bulldog – he’s got a gruesome history, but this courageous dog shares little commonality with the brutal Bulldog of yore.

Alternate names: English Bulldog, British Bulldog.

OriginAKC GroupSizeHeightWeightLife
Expectancy
Coat TypeRecognised
Coat Colour(s)
Great
Britain
Non-SportingMedium12-16 in
31-40 cm
40-55 lb
18-25 kg
6-8 yrsShort, Straight,
Single Coat

White, Tan, Red, Fawn
+any combination
of the above
  • For novice owners
  • Apartment living
  • Exercise needs
  • Family friendly
  • Stranger friendly
  • Dog friendly
  • Overall health
  • Amount of shedding
  • Grooming needs
  • Ease of training
  • Prey drive
  • Watchdog ability

 

Bulldog history: What were Bulldogs originally bred for?

Bulldogs are suspected to have been developed around the 1200s from ancient Asian Mastiff-type breeds. These powerful dogs were revered for their protective abilities and effectiveness at bringing down large, dangerous animals.

In Great Britain, Bulldogs were used almost entirely for bull-baiting. This gruesome sport involved tethering an enraged bull and releasing a ferocious group of Bulldogs upon him. This was done entirely for human entertainment, with people placing wagers on which dog would be the first one to bring the hefty beast down. Bulldogs accomplished this by staying low to the ground, watching their opponent and waiting for the right moment to launch themselves at the bull’s face and grab his nose.

Fatalities were high for these dogs, with the raging bull trampling, flinging and impaling anything it came across. As a result, only the most courageous, tenacious (and sometimes luckiest!) Bulldogs lived to see another day. These highly revered fighters were readily bred from, spreading their genes and bringing in more cash for their owners. Bulldogs were fiercely loyal, but far from being the typical, gentle companion. In fact, they were largely considered a danger to society when not in the arena. 

When bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, Bulldogs lost their purpose and faced extinction. A handful of fanciers refused to lose their beloved fighters and endeavoured to pacify the ferocious Bulldog, in order to keep him from dying out. By breeding only the friendliest, softest-tempered Bulldogs in each litter, breeders were successfully able to revolutionise the once fearsome Bulldog, and mould him into the kind, patient, lovable companion you see today.

 

bulldog appearance photosAppearance

Bulldogs are a short, strong, medium-sized, breed of dog with wide shoulders, solid limbs, and a low swung body.

They tend to have loose skin, particularly around the neck and face, a smooth coat and a short tail, which can be straight or screwed.

 

 

bulldog headThe Bulldog head

The Bulldog’s head is perhaps his most iconic feature. The AKC breed standard describes it as massive. Ideally, the skull’s circumference is equal to, or larger, than his full height at the shoulders.  

Bulldogs are brachycephalic, which means that their faces are shorter, muzzles are flatter, and skulls are more compressed than most other breeds of dog.

While such a large, and curiously shaped head served an important purpose in his fighting days, Bulldog lovers around the world adore the look it gives this unique breed.

 

The Bulldog’s size – How big do English Bulldogs get?

By FCI standards, a Bulldog’s weight should generally not exceed 50-55 lbs (23-25 kg) for males or 40-50 lbs (18-23 kg) for females. Both sexes can be 12-16 in (31-40 cm) high at the shoulder.

If you’d like to view the full-length AKC breed standard for the Bulldog, click here.

 

Temperament

Among their fanciers, Bulldogs are well-known for being kind, courageous and generally unflappable. 

Bulldogs can be a challenge to train if they are not sufficiently motivated, but have an excellent memory. Fair, force-free methods of training such as positive reinforcement are heavily advised.

english bulldog temperament infoBulldogs make excellent family dogs, showing tremendous patience and affection toward children. They have a high tolerance for pain due to their history as a successful fighter and are wonderfully dependable thanks to their cool, calm temperament. Keep in mind, however, supervision around children is always recommended, regardless of breed.

Bulldogs do not make great watchdogs due to their placid nature. Towards strangers, individual Bulldogs tend to range somewhere between completely aloof and hilariously social. Hostility towards non-threatening strangers should never be present, however.

Bulldogs are generally peaceful with other pets, including the family cat, but it’s not unheard of for males to exhibit aggression towards other dogs, particularly those of the same sex.

Owners of all breeds are urged to socialise and expose their pups to a number of people, sounds, children, animals, surfaces and other scenarios while they’re young, curious and impressionable. Ensure their experiences are safe and positive, to prevent negative associations later on.

Energy and exercise needs

Bulldogs are a relaxed breed who have low to moderate exercise requirements. A daily walk is recommended, in order to keep them healthy and moving.

Due to their brachycephalic skulls, Bulldogs can have trouble breathing and regulating body temperature in particularly hot or cold weather. They are especially susceptible to heat stroke, so utmost care should be taken on hot days.

 

pictures of english bulldogs coat

Bulldogs: White (top left), Brindle & White (top right), Tan (bottom right), Red (bottom left)

Coat

Bulldogs come in a number of recognised colours, including reds, whites, fawns, fallows and any combination of the above, including brindling and piebald.

The coat itself is short and smooth, while the skin is loose over a muscular frame.

Bulldogs are moderate shedders, which means you will often find hairs on your clothes and furniture. Groom your Bulldog regularly to minimise the impact of shedding.

Grooming needs

The Bulldogs smooth coat is low maintenance.

Groom once or twice per week with a rubber brush or hound glove to remove dead hairs and skin cells and keep your Bulldog looking sharp.

Bulldogs skin folds should be wiped through daily with a damp cloth to prevent infection and skin irritations.

Avoid bathing too often with harsh shampoos. Instead, opt for gentle dog-specific shampoos as needed, to preserve natural protective oils on the skin.

Inspect ears, nails, skin folds and teeth as part of your regular grooming routine, maintaining as needed.

 

Health

Sadly, Bulldogs are not an especially healthy breed overall. They are commonly plagued by a number of conditions, including:

  • Allergies and general skin trouble – both environmental and diet-related.
  • An assortment of eye conditions including Corneal Ulcers, Cataracts, Cherry Eye and Dry Eye.
  • Brachycephalic Syndrome. The shape of their skulls causes a host of respiratory problems, including smaller nasal cavities, which hamper the Bulldog’s ability to breathe and regulate body temperature. This can become deadly in particularly hot or cool temperatures.
  • Cancer. Mast cell and perianal gland tumours are especially common in Bulldogs.
  • Hip & Elbow Dysplasia –  Hip dysplasia is more prevalent in Bulldogs than any other breed. Over a 30 year survey period, 74% of Bulldogs were afflicted with hip dysplasia and 40% were found to have elbow dysplasia.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Heart disease
  • Patellar Luxation– spontaneous and periodic dislocation of the knee.
  • Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This deadly condition can appear suddenly, particularly in large, deep-chested dog breeds. To prevent bloat, feed your dog 2+ times per day, as opposed to than one large serving, and avoid physical activity for at least an hour after each meal.

Many diseases faced by Bulldogs are inherited, and therefore avoidable. By choosing a breeder who conducts relevant screenings and health clearances, and only breeds physically and temperamentally sound Bulldogs, you are dramatically improving your chances of having a strong, happy, healthy Bulldog of your own.

English Bulldog Life expectancy

On average, Bulldogs live 6-8 years. This is very low in comparison to other breeds in its weight range. However, if well-bred and cared for, it’s not unheard of for Bulldogs to live more than 10 years.

 

Quirks

Bulldogs commonly demonstrate a number of quirky traits, including wheezing, snoring, flatulence and slobber, as well as an assortment of snorts, grumbles and grunts.

 

Other Bulldog types

The following Bulldogs are actually considered completely different breeds from the English Bulldog, and each other, however, there tends to be confusion between which Bulldog is which.

 

American Bulldogs

Developed in the United States in the 1800s, the American Bulldog was bred from Old English Bulldogs who had been brought over by working class immigrants. American Bulldogs are large, powerful, athletic and active with a smooth, low maintenance coat. They are generally healthy, free from may of the problems faced by the English Bulldog, and can live for 15+ years. They are often more assertive than their English cousins and do best with experienced owners.

 

 

bulldog types frenchFrench Bulldogs

Developed in the 1800s from Old English Bulldogs, French terriers, and Pugs, the French Bulldog is a highly popular brachycephalic breed of dog. Affectionately referred to as Frenchies, French Bulldogs are a small breed with large erect ears, dark eyes and a short low maintenance coat. As they were originally bred to be companions, French Bulldogs are calm, affectionate, patient and clownish. They adore their families and make excellent apartment dogs due to their low exercise needs and infrequent barking. Unfortunately, French Bulldogs suffer from many of the same health conditions as their English counterpart and only live 8-10 years on average.

 

Olde English Bulldogges

Despite what the name suggests, the Olde English Bulldogge (different from its ancestor, the Old English Bulldog) is a modern breed of dog, developed in the U.S in the 1970s in an attempt to recreate the original bull-baiting Bulldog, without the aggressive disposition. The Olde English Bulldogge owes its ancestry to English Bulldogs, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs and Bull Mastiffs. This combination of dog breeds is intended to produce a healthier, more athletic and better-proportioned Bulldog. Breeders are working hard to continue improving the health, heat tolerance and breathing capabilities in each successive litter.

 

 

english buldog factsInteresting English Bulldog facts

 

Buying a Bulldog from a breeder

If you’d like to get a purebred Bulldog as a puppy, be sure to look only at reputable breeders who care for the welfare of their puppies. You can determine whether a breeder is reputable by observing whether they go through the effort of health testing their breeding stock for hereditary conditions like those mentioned above, and only breed dogs who are physically healthy, and emotionally sound. They should also be involved in relevant avenues with their dogs – be it conformation, obedience, or any other dog sport that showcases their dogs’ temperament and suitability for work and breeding.

Often puppies from reputable breeders cost more money upfront due to the breeder’s high expenses, and Bulldogs are no exception. However, poorly bred dogs from breeders who do not conduct health screening can have hidden costs in the form of silent (at the time of purchase) conditions that should never have been allowed to be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, and terribly expensive to deal with as an owner, on top of causing unnecessary suffering and a shortened lifespan for the dog.

 

Bulldog Rescue

As one of the more popular breeds around, Bulldogs are not hard to find in rescues and shelters. If you would like to adopt a Bulldog in need of a new home, search for Bulldog rescue organisations in your area. Alternatively, you could take a look at pet-rehoming websites like Petfinder.

 


 

References and recommended reading:

  • Evans, K. M., & Adams, V. J. (2010). Proportion of litters of purebred dogs born by caesarean section. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 51(2), 113-118
  • Collins, T., Martin, J., & Vamplew, W. (2005). Encyclopedia of traditional British rural sports. London, England: Routledge.
  • Cassidy, K. M. (2008, February 1). Weight and Lifespan. Retrieved from http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/weight_and_lifespan.htm
  • Dog Breed Health. A Guide To Genetic Health Issues for Dog Breeds: Bulldog. Retrieved from http://www.dogbreedhealth.com/bulldog/
  • OFFA. Hip Dysplasia by Breed. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Retrieved from http://www.offa.org/stats_hip.html
  • AKC. The most popular breeds in America. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org/
  • Sgt Baez, D. M., “Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. Welcomes Future Marine Corps Mascot.” Marine Barracks Washington DC. Retrieved from http://www.barracks.marines.mil/
  • Sidder, A. (2016, July 28). Demand for ‘cute’ Bulldogs is destroying the breed. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/bulldogs-dogs-animals-science-breeding/