During the early reigns of the English Kings (1154 to as late as 1778) bull and bear baiting was a sport supported by the upper classes. Queen Elizabeth 1 organised special spectacles for visiting ambassadors and it is said she was personally very fond of this form of entertainment. When bull-baiting ceased to be as fashionable the British Bulldog fell into the hands of the lower classes and continued its barbarous cruelty. These blood sports were outlawed in the 19th Century.
‘The breed continued to be promoted by Bill George in the mid 1800s along with other enthusiasts, who began developing and improving them by crossing Old English Bulldogs with Pugs. The result was a much friendlier and less aggressive character that made for a loyal companion and great choice as a family pet.’ 1.
The shorter faced and squatter dog we see today came about in the mid 1800s and the breed first appeared in the show ring in 1860. The Bulldog Standard (the first dog standard published) was drawn up in 1875 in England by a group of fanciers determined to ensure that the purity of this native breed was not diluted or amended and that the breed retained the characteristics required for its perceived function.
The British Bulldog’s build is low in stature, compact and heavily built, short coupled and active with a broad, powerful front and stout muscular limbs.
The breed is proud and noble, if somewhat delightfully ‘grumpy’ looking in character. They are a smooth coated dog that boast being thick set, broad and compact, standing low to the ground. The large face and head of this breed is its defining physical trait, together with their very pronounced undershot jaw, with canine teeth pointing upwards, making the British Bulldog one of the most recognised dogs in the world.
Average Weight: Males 25 kg, Females 23 kg
The British Bulldog is considered a national treasure in the UK and is known worldwide as the personification of determination and courage. This impression, coupled with his strength and activity, should be conveyed in the dog’s temperament.
'Considered to be a wonderfully gorgeous, yet ugly looking dog, the British Bulldog is among one of the most popular choices of family pets, due to their delightfully kind and loving natures. They are especially good and tolerant around children of all ages, although they can get a little protective of them. The British Bulldog is a comical character, yet they can be extremely dignified too, which are just two of the traits that make the breed so endearing to owners the world over.' 2.
The average life expectancy of the British Bulldog is between 8-10 years, although some dogs have been known to live longer, especially when properly cared for and fed an appropriate, good quality diet to suit their ages.
There are some myths about the health of the British Bulldog. The most common problems seen would be with the eyes: cherry eye (bulging extra tissue showing from the conjunctiva); entropion (inward rolling eye lids), ectropion (loose lower eyelids) and ectopic cilia (extra eye lashes along the lids), which can all cause irritation to the cornea and may require surgery. These conditions, if left unattended can result in dry eye, which requires ongoing daily treatment.
Most British Bulldog puppies are born via caesarian section, due to the large heads that puppies have, and also due to narrow hindquarters, which makes it hard for dams to give birth naturally. As a brachycephalic breed, some Bulldogs have long soft palates and can experience breathing difficulties. Some may require surgery. Care should be taken with these dogs in the heat.
"The Bulldog is renowned for being extremely tolerant and good around children of all ages. However, because they are such heavy dogs, it’s never a good idea to leave toddlers and Bulldogs together unsupervised. They can become very protective over family and children, which means you need to keep an eye on things when other people are about.
If well socialised as puppies, British Bulldogs generally accept being around other animals and family pets, although it’s always a good idea to keep a watchful eye on things when they meet other animals for the first time." 3.
British Bulldogs are known to be intelligent dogs, but with this said they have a bit of a stubborn streak and they are not that easy to train. However, in the right hands and with the correct amount of consistent training, starting when dogs are still young, the breed responds well to voice commands. British Bulldogs are very sociable and love to be around their family as much as possible. They do not respond well to being left on their own for long periods.
As a general rule the breed is easy to look after because they have nice, short coats. This means a weekly brush will not only keep their skin and coats in good condition, but it will help keep any shed hair under control.
"The folds on a British Bulldog’s face, which are known as “ropes” need to be checked and cleaned daily, otherwise moisture and debris can collect in them, leading to infections. This is best done with a damp, not wet, cloth before towelling dry. Some have very tightly curled tails and these need to be regularly checked, cleaned and an ointment applied if necessary. Bulldogs don’t need to be bathed more than three times a year. Over bathing can result in an imbalance of the naturals oils found in their coat and skin, which could lead to an irritation and skin allergies." 4.
As with every dog, British Bulldogs need to be given regular daily exercise, but you have to be careful how much exercise these dogs are given during the hotter summer months. This breed does require special attention during hot weather due to them being a brachycephalic breed. British Bulldogs have short noses, which makes it harder to regulate their core body temperature in the heat. Some individuals may suffer from Brachycephalic Airways Syndrome and should NOT be exercised in the hot weather. They must be left in a well ventilated, shaded area and kept cool and quiet with plenty of access to water. They should be checked often and left undisturbed on hot days. Cool mats and shallow wading pools can be useful in hot weather.
The breed do have a tendency to put on weight all too easily and will happily become couch potatoes if they are allowed. This is especially true of older more mature dogs. In short, it’s really important to keep a watchful eye on a dog’s weight and to ensure they are given enough regular daily exercise to burn off their calorie intake.
Now you know a little about the British Bulldog, you may think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your State controlling body for purebred dogs. They will be able to give you information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the British Bulldog and its needs, and whether this breed would suit your lifestyle.