Bulldogs: Origin, Stereotypes, and Temperament
Bulldogs are the most distinguishable breed of dogs and it’s impossible to mistake them for any other breed. Loose skin especially on the head, small ears, chops hanging on either side of the jaw, punched nose, all distinctive features altogether say ‘we are bulldogs and you better like us’. And it’s true, people really adore them and that’s why they are among the top 5 most popular breeds in the United States according to the AKC (American Kennel Club).
A bulldog’s coat can be quite variable in means of color, pattern, and length. They can weigh up to 50 pounds but still act as babies while trying to position themselves on your lap. Although they are prone to a few more health issues than others, their popularity is stable as they make one of the most adorable family companions out there, despite the high cost of buying a puppy. Breeders keep the prices high-level because most of the Bulldogs are artificially inseminated and they are born with c-section. This is because the puppies’ heads are too big to exit the womb naturally. Along with the gassiness, typical bulldog sounds, and constant slobbering you also get a dog you will fall in love with faster than the blink of an eye.
The popular and affectionate pets we today know as bulldogs are different in so many ways in comparison to the origins of the breed. What used to be one of the most vicious and aggressive kinds of dogs, used in barbaric sports, today are a kind and children friendly breed.
Bulldogs appeared for the first time in England in the 5th century and they were referenced in the literature in the 16th century as ‘bolddogges’ or ‘bondages’. Initially, these dogs were used to help the farmers and the butchers control the livestock more easily. These activities required for the Bulldogs to be a bit aggressive and dominant around cattle, horses, and boars. Such aggressive traits were the reason why people started using dogs in bull-baiting sports in the 15th century. In bull-baiting, trained dogs were put against a tethered bull to purposely bite the bull by his nose and pull the animal to the ground. Of course, sometimes the bulls were winning too. After nearly four centuries of misusing the dogs, this gambling sport was banned in 1835 with the passing of the CAA (Cruelty to Animals Act), but the name ‘bull-dog’ remained.
Bulldogs were introduced in the United States in the 17th century and around this period and later on, representatives were taken to other parts of continental Europe as well. Since the bull-fighting activities were put to an end, the future of the breed remained uncertain. In New York, Bulldogs were hired by officials of the government to help with wild bulls round-ups due to their infamous sporting skills. In shape, the Bulldogs managed to perform their duties very well. In the American South, they continued to help with the herding of cattle and keep the animals contained.
Crossbreeding the original bulldog with other breeds at the time led to the creation of the Boxer in Germany. In England, smaller breeds of dogs being mixed with bulldogs resulted in a smaller and wider version with a pug-like appearance. Crossbreeding made the Bulldogs lose their original temperament while still keeping their ‘fighter’ look. Soon enough the Bulldog Club was created and acquired many fans. Once the club members decided to hold a competition between two competitive bulldogs to see which of them can walk 20 miles. One of the dogs more similar to the original types of the breed won the competition while the other one collapsed before reaching the finish line (sounds like your casual bulldog).
John D. Johnson, with selective breeding of herding bulldogs created the American bulldog in the 1930s in Georgia. The effort of saving the breed resulted in a short-muzzled dog known as the classic American bulldog. In Alabama, more athletic and smaller variations appeared and were named ‘Scott’ bulldogs. The crossbreeding went on and many modern breeds and bully breed dogs have bulldog origins.
After the Bulldogs became ‘unemployed’ in the early 1800s some of them were bred with ratters and terriers, with the result being toy bulldogs. This new miniature type of bulldog was introduced in France when workers from Nottingham started settling in Normandy, France after the industrial revolution and brought their dogs along. Breeders from England kept sending these small bulldogs with their ears up to France, which were later recognized as French bulldogs – the fourth most popular breed in the UK in 2015 and the third most popular in Australia in 2017. French bulldogs are considered to be a different breed from the classical English or British bulldog we are referring to.
Rumors and stereotypes surround every dog breed so bulldogs aren’t an exception form the rule. These stereotypes are more or less harmful (ex. when pit-bulls are pointed out), so we need to set a few things straight.
Bulldogs and bully breed dogs can become ferocious and dangerous. These labels are utterly wrong as the media reports scary encounters based on individual perception of specific dogs. The bulldog is characterized as ‘equable, resolute and dignified’ dog according to the AKC (American Kennel Club). On the ATTS (American Temperament Test Society), which is a temperament evaluation for a dog breed, more than 86% of bulldogs passed. Any dog has the potential to develop aggressive behavior when an irresponsible owner neglects it, but that doesn’t reflect the dog’s true personality.
Bulldogs can’t swim. Although they won’t be anywhere close to qualifying at the Canine’s Swimming Marathon Finals, bulldogs are able to swim. It’s true that they have a hard time maneuvering in the water because of their tiny backsides and large heads. In any case, keep a close eye on your bulldog whenever they are near a body of water.
Bulldogs don’t need to exercise. Hip problems, knee-cap problems, cardiac issues, and respiratory problems don’t mean that bulldogs dislike exercise and are just supposed to lie around the house. They must enjoy their fare-share of activities during the day to keep them healthy and fit. Exercise and a nutritious diet will allow your bulldog to live a longer and happier life. There is the risk of over-exercising, so be careful especially during hot weather.
Bulldogs must undergo surgery when they are young. Cherry eye, brachycephalic syndrome, excessive skin folds, and hip dysplasia - every bulldog is very prone to develop. But if the dog has any of the aforementioned conditions it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be surgically fixed as they can be managed with medications as well. Also, if the dog is a bulldog, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will develop all of the conditions. Every breed is prone to some health issues, and Bulldogs aren’t an exception either.
Bulldogs are lazy. Lazy is not the correct term when describing a bulldog’s drive – easy going is more compatible. Every dog lives with the purpose of spending more time with its owner and doing things together. Bulldogs enjoy walking and fun activities, so as long as you show your dog you too are enjoying the activity, he/she won’t hesitate to go out with you again and again.
Despite the beefy and vicious appearance, the bulldog is among the most amiable of all dog breeds. While most of the Bulldogs are very friendly with strangers, some tend to be more politely reserved and careful. They are not your typical barking watchdog when something unusual is going on, but intruders will definitely pause when they observe their blocky build and shuffling gait. Bulldogs are sweet-natured dogs, tolerant and can handle a serious amount of teasing. The problem is when they are aroused, they are really a force to be reckoned with, so don’t exaggerate when you tease them.
These dogs are quite tenacious and once they decide to do something it’s really hard to change their mind. This can be due to their stubbornness, which doesn’t interfere with the dog’s sensitive side and the capability of learning and responding well to persistent and patient training.
The vast majority of Bulldogs get along pretty well with other dogs and even cats. There are cases when male bulldogs may show aggressive behavior towards other males, although this is rare. Chasing and barking at cats is always possible, though some bulldogs may show not interest when they encounter one.
What you really need to pay attention to is the way bulldogs become very possessive when they are being fed. The smartest thing to do is keep away any other animal and children when you feed your bulldog. However peaceful and kind the bulldog may seem, every dog can be easily triggered when there is food involved. Aside from this, you get a quite lovable and affectionate family member that will easily share his/her home with other pets, and will enjoy feeling like an equal human being in your home.