Breed Introduction: Bulldogs

You can't take your eyes off this breed!

The Bulldog is a medium-sized breed of dog commonly referred to as the English bulldog or British Bulldog. Bulldogs were the fourth most popular pure breed in the US in 2015 according to the American Kennel Club. If all you’re talking about is personality and temperament, the Bulldog is just about perfect. It loves children and is very easy to train as a family pet. He’s an endless source of amusement, clever and very affectionate. He’s also an attention magnet everywhere he goes. In general, the Bulldog is an easy-care breed. His exercise needs are manageable. It has a short coat that doesn’t require any fancy grooming, but he does have some special needs when it comes to skin care. Last but not least, it’s important for him to live in air-conditioned comfort, not only to prevent heatstroke but also because he loves his family and wants to be with them. He’s not a dog who can or should live outdoors.

Bulldog Origin

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The Bulldog is a much different dog today than his ancestors. Descended from ancient mastiff-type dogs, the Bulldog breed was developed entirely in England. The first mention of the breed was in 1500, a description of a man “with two Bolddogges at his tale…” The then-fierce dogs were used in a practice called bull baiting, which involved the dog grabbing onto the bull’s nose and roughly shaking it. Bull baiting actually had a purpose; it was thought to tenderize the bull’s meat.  These early Bulldogs were taller and heavier than today’s Bulldog, and they were bred to be especially adept at this bloody sport.

Typically, they crept on their bellies toward the enraged bull so he couldn’t get his horns under their bodies and toss them up in the air. And their wide mouths and powerful jaws were impossible for the bull to shake off once the Bulldog had a firm hold on its snout. His short, flat nose enabled the Bulldog to breathe while holding onto the bull’s snout. He needed to be tenacious to hang onto the bull no matter how much the bull tried to shake him off. The Bulldog’s high tolerance for pain was developed to enhance his ability to excel at this barbarous spot. Even the wrinkles on his head are said to have had a purpose: to direct the blood that resulted from his grip on the bull to flow away from his eyes so he wouldn’t be blinded. In 1835, after many years of controversy, bullbaiting was outlawed in England, and many thought the Bulldog would disappear since he no longer had a purpose. At the time, the Bulldog wasn’t an affectionate companion.

The most aggressive and courageous dogs had been selectively bred for generations to be bull-baiters. They lived to fight with bulls, bears and anything else that were put before them. In 1875, another Bulldog club was founded, and it developed a breed standard that was similar to the Philo-Kuon. This breed club is still in existence.

Bulldog Characteristics

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Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height: 1 foot to 1 foot, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 40 to 50 pounds
Life Span: 8 to 12 years

Bulldogs have round, dark eyes. Their ears are small and thin, folded back like a rose. Their short tails are carried low on their rumps.

The Bulldog’s muscular body leads him to have a distinctive gait. Because his stocky legs are set at each corner of his body, he moves with more of a waddle than a walk. It resembles sort of a loose-jointed, shuffling, sideways roll. Because their shoulders are much wider than their rear ends and they have such large heads, it’s difficult for the females to whelp puppies without assistance. Most have to have caesarean sections to deliver their puppies, so breeding a Bulldog is an expensive proposition.

Despite cartoon depictions of them as ferocious dogs, today’s Bulldogs are bred to be affectionate and kind. They are, indeed, resolute and courageous, but they aren’t out to pick a fight. They often have a calm dignity about them when they are mature, and while they are friendly and playful, they can be a bit stubborn and protective of their families. Bulldogs love people. They seek people out for attention and enjoy nothing more than languishing next to their masters, and perhaps snoring while sleeping with their heads in their laps.

Bulldogs can be stubborn and lazy. Your mature Bulldog may not be very enthusiastic about going to a walk, but it’s important that he is exercised every day to keep him fit.

Bulldogs can’t tolerate heat and humidity. When your Bulldog is outdoors, watch him carefully for signs of overheating and take him inside immediately if he starts to show distress. Some people put kiddy play pools filled with water in a shaded spot for their Bulldogs to lie in when the weather is warm and everyone is outside. They definitely are housedogs and should not live outdoors all of the time.

Bulldogs are sensitive to cold weather.

Bulldogs wheeze, snort, and snore. They also are prone to sleep apnea.

Bulldogs are well-known for having flatulence. If this problem seems excessive with yours, talk to your vet.

Bulldogs’ short noses make them prone to a number of respiratory ailments.

Bulldogs can have pinched nostrils that make it difficult for them to breathe and may require surgery to correct.

Updated: September 21, 2017.

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