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All About Bulldogs

The English Bulldog is a small statured, medium-sized dog, and as its name suggests, it was originally bred for working with bulls. More to the point, the Bulldog was trained and bred to fight bulls for sport, beginning in England in the 1200s and throughout Europe until the mid 1800s. All of the features the modern Bulldog is known and admired for are the result of many long and arduous fights to the finish, with the strongest survivors selected to help create what would become one of the most popular breeds in the dog fancy. This once ferocious and tough dog, through careful and select breeding, has become today's docile and loving pet. The playful and devoted Bulldog is now a cherished member of many families, and has in recent years seen a growth in popularity as more people discover the warmth, charm and affection a Bulldog brings into a home.

Vital Stats

  • Breed Group: Companion Dogs
  • Height: 12 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 50 pounds
  • Lifespan: 8 to 12 years

Physical Characteristics

The English Bulldog's low-slung, heavy, thick-set body, along with its broad shoulders, provides a low center of gravity, allowing the Bulldog to crawl close to the ground, originally useful for staying out of range of a bulls horns. This ability was the difference between life and death, so the trait allowed the Bulldog to stay alive to breed another day, passing the characteristic along. The large circumference of the head is equal to the dog’s height at the shoulder, offering sufficient space for strong, developed muscles in the dog's wide jaw. Its distinctive undershot bite allowed it to hang on to the bull with amazing strength, even as it was violently shaken and pounded by the furious bull, and its scrunched up nose allowed it to breath, as its face pressed close to the bull's body until dog or bull finally fell. Even the loose-jointed, rolling and shuffling gait are a result of this selection, since the dog needed to be able to withstand severe shaking and thumping without having its spine or ribs broken. In addition, the Bulldog needed to have the ability to move swiftly and to make sudden leaps, which accounts for its surprising dexterity. The coat is glossy and fine, with standard colors including, red, white, yellow or a combination of these colors.

Personality and Temperament

Despite its violent training in the early days of breeding, the Bulldog always maintained a sense of reserved decorum outside the ring, befitting its British roots. Devoted, obedient and patient, without fail, the Bulldog has remained a favorite animal companion throughout the years. Always willing to please, the Bulldog yet preserves its own independent brand of stubbornness, keeping its own counsel once making up its mind to do so.

The Bulldog is highly appreciated for its patience and affection with children, making them excellent family pets. Most are pleasant towards strangers as well, or at worst, they are indifferent to new faces. Although some can be hostile to unfamiliar dogs, the breed is compatible with most household pets. Unfairly labeled a "sourmug" because of its appearance, the Bulldog is actually a comical, jovial, and charming animal.


Many Bulldogs tend to wheeze and snore, while some drool because of their short snouts and outward protruding lower jaw. These are normal physical side-effects of the breed. Because of the compressed nature of the jaw, extra care needs to be taken in keeping the teeth clean. Early dental care, with daily brushing, will get your Bulldog in the habit so that it is grooming time that is looked forward to. Minimal coat care is needed for this dog, but the folds around the tail and facial wrinkles should be cleaned every day to prevent build up of dirt or rubbish. Failure to perform this regularly can lead to infection of the skin.

Bulldogs love their daily outings, however, do not expect them to walk or jog long distances, or dart from great heights. The short-hair and snout of the Bulldog make it sensitive to extremely hot and humid climates, and most do not enjoy swimming. Using sun screen lotion on the dog's skin if you are going to be spending time in the sun, and making sure your Bulldog has plenty of water is essential for healthy days out.


The average lifespan for an English Bulldog is between 8 and 12 years. It is a member of the brachycephalic breed class, meaning that is has a short head and snout. This physical characteristic can lead to a number of possible health challenges, including those of the nose, eyes, teeth, and respiratory system. The nostrils are narrower, and the soft palate longer in the Bulldog (meaning that the skin of the palate can partially obstruct the airway), creating the potential for severe breathing problems, especially when the dog is overheated or over excited. Heat is a special concern with this breed, since it is not able to cool itself efficiently through panting, as other breeds do.

Because of the extra amount of work that is involved with bringing air into the body, any situation that requires breathing harder can lead to irritation and swelling of the throat, which can also lead to respiratory distress in the Bulldog. Heat stroke is also more common with this breed.

Some of the major health problems the Bulldog is susceptible to are keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), ventricular septal defect, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), shoulder luxation, internalized tail, stenotic nares, and elongated soft palate. The Bulldog has also been known to suffer from urethral prolapse or vaginal hyperplasia occasionally. Some minor problems affecting Bulldogs include entropion, cherry eye, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, distichiasis, ectropion, and demodicosis.

There are a few precautions when dealing with Bulldogs:

  1. Keep facial and other body wrinkles dry and clean, to help prevent skin fold dermatitis.

  2. This breed commonly requires a Caesarean delivery for giving birth -- consult your veterinarian before considering breeding your Bulldog.

  3. This breed commonly suffers from complications while under anesthesia because of their unusual airways -- you will want to address this concern with your veterinarian should your Bulldog require any surgeries.

History and Background

The history of the English Bulldog is as unique as its distinctive face. First bred in England as a cross between the pug and the mastiff, the Bulldog's main purpose was as an entertainment dog in the sport of bull-baiting, a popular game during the Middle Ages -- from the 1200s through the mid 1800s, when it was outlawed by an act of Parliament. The aim of the dog was to attack and bite the bull, not releasing its grip until the bull was brought down. Bulldog owners boasted of their dog's ferocity and courage, and their ability to fight to the finish even when suffering extreme pain.

It is recorded that all levels of society took part in this blood sport, and that even Queen Elizabeth enjoyed this form of entertainment. The longevity of the sport is owed in large part to the belief that the meat of the bull would be more usably nutritious if the bull was in an excited state before slaughter -- a belief that has been since grounded in fact.

After bull baiting was banned in 1835, a new chapter began for the Bulldog. Although the Bulldog lost much of its popularity because of the end of the fighting, there were still those who appreciated the breed for its devotion and fortitude. Ardent Bulldog enthusiasts rescued the breed from what appeared certain extinction, encouraging its most attractive physical and characteristic features, while replacing its ferociousness with a gentle and docile disposition. The dog maintains its ferocious tenacity in the face of danger however, fighting to the death, if necessary, in the protection of family. These qualities, altogether, make the Bulldog a very popular and friendly dog.

Today, with its clownish and amiable personality, it has also become a favorite among American pet owners, and a favorite of institutions throughout the world, who use the Bulldog as a mascot to denote their own strength in the face of adversity and battle. They include the United Kingdom, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, and hundreds of businesses, schools, universities and sports teams.

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