The exact origins of today’s Bulldogs, as well as the many ‘Bully Breeds’ of today, seem to be shrouded in impenetrable mist, perhaps some of the most hated and misunderstood dog breeds in existence.
In truth, few people, even avid dog enthusiasts, are aware there is a distinction between the Olde English Bulldogge of 350 years ago, the one today, and the English Bulldog.
Origins of the Olde English Bulldogge
Originating in England between 1600 and 1700, Olde English Bulldogges were ancestors to many of the common breeds that exist today, including the English Bulldog, American Bulldog, and all subsequent breeds.
Many sources claim the Olde English Bulldogge was first bred to participate in such blood sports as ‘Bull Baiting’, whereby they would ‘bait’ the bull, sometimes literally clinging to the face of the much larger animal.
The Olde English Bulldog’s odd appearance was no accident. Facial wrinkles provided convenient channels for blood to flow away from the eyes. The Bulldog’s odd jaw structure made it easier to latch on to opponents. A stout, muscular body covered by loose skin helped the Bulldogs of the time shrug glancing blows that would have fallen much larger animals.
The ‘sport’ became extremely popular during those early English years, until finally deemed illegal during 1835. Having lost their main purpose of the day and a main source of revenue for their owners, the breed’s popularity began to decline.
Note on Aftermath: This outlaw on bull baiting led to breeds such as the Pitbull, not bred primarily for dog fighting as is often believed, but first conceived for the sport of Ratting. Even hundreds of years after the outbreak of the Bubonic plague we know today as the black death, one of the deadliest outbreaks in human history, rats were still feared and equally disliked.
- The majority of today’s ‘Pit Bulls’ are in fact not Pit Bulls at all, but the result of several breeds & multiple cross breedings.
The Olde English Bulldogge faced a very real threat of extinction at that point. The next ten years nearly saw an end to the Olde English Bulldogge, until breed fanciers finally stepped in to alter the unfortunate tide.
National Olde English Bulldogge Association
Crossing remnants of the existing Olde English Bulldogge stock with other breeds, these fanciers aimed to breed out the aggression common to the dogs, slowly developing a much more docile English Bulldog of today.
Unfortunately, today’s English Bulldogs tend to suffer from a myriad of health problems as a result, not to be confused with the general healthier ancestor.
Thanks to perpetuated media, the ‘one in ten thousand’ scenario becomes the average for these unfortunate dogs. Ignorance of the breed, and dog behavior in general, has led to widespread fear and abuse. Certain courts have passed legislation mandating the elimination of any breed in resemblance within their district. In many areas, police are trained to shoot such dogs on sight, as their natural instinct to protect, which causes a hinderance to bully breed pet owners. Most apartment complexes rarely allow such breeds.
But are such ‘precautions’ warranted at all?
Myth: Olde English Bulldogges and all Bulldogs alike are big and dumb.
Truth: Until recent ‘designer breeds’ became popular, all selectively bred dogs were bred for a purpose, and their personalities often reflected that purpose. Many of the most ‘intelligent’ breeds, by human standards (ex. Border Collie, German Shepherd), were often bred for herding purposes originally.
That being said, training any dog, regardless of the breed, depends upon the knowledge and experience of the handler. Even the most intelligent breed in existence would have great trouble learning human behaviors from the owner who doesn’t wish to devote any time learning himself. On the flip side, knowledgeable and experienced handlers, versed in animal behavior, would have the same easy time training Bulldogs as Labradors or Border Collies.
In the end, no dog, no matter the breed or intelligence, is capable or human intellectual thought or rationalization. It would be much more accurate to state ‘the human is dumb, or more accurately simply ignorant’ for his/her inability to train the dog, rather than say the dog is ‘dumb’ for its inability to learn.
Myth: Olde English Bulldogges are mean or vicious.
Truth: Where they once were aggressive, early enthusiasts focused great effort in selectively breeding out, and thus eliminating, that aggression. You would be hard pressed to find a friendlier or more playful pup out there then today’s good old Bulldog!
Myth: The Olde English Bulldogge and the English Bulldog are one in the same.
Truth: The Olde English Bulldogge of 1600/1700 England is the likely progenitor to all Bulldog, and ‘bully breeds’ following (Bulldogs mated with various breeds to produce subsequent offspring breeds). Saying they are the same breed would be like saying a Bulldog is the same as a Mastiff because Bulldogs are believed to have been produced as a result of Asian Mastiff/Pug pairing.
In turn, the modern day Olde English Bulldogge is not the same as the Olde English Bulldogge of the 1600’s; many years of cross and selective breeding has altered today’s breed. The modern Olde English Bulldogge is a reconstruction of the original Olde Bulldogge of the 17th and 18th century. Various genetic crosses have been used in carefully and thoughtfully planned breeding programs to obtain this goal (International Olde English Bulldogge Association).
Aside from that, the Olde English Bulldogge is not an American Kennel Club recognized breed.
Myth: Olde English Bulldogges are unhealthy dogs.
Truth: Olde English Bulldogges of today are relatively healthy. English Bulldogs (not the same breed) tend to suffer from many health problems, however, due to human interference in selective breeding.
Olde English Bulldogges are docile, but capable and protective, fearless and athletic, fierce-looking, determined and courageous, bold and friendly around their family and friends, but fearless adversaries to anyone who threatens their masters or property (dogbreedinfo.com).
Eager to please, the Olde English Bulldogge might actually end up over-exerting itself in an effort to satisfy its owner! However, this particular breed especially enjoys chewing, and should be supplied with plenty of durable chew toys.
Importance of Socialization
Any dog is very much a product of its’ environment. For example, the most docile breed in existence might react defensively if feeling threatened. That being said, socialization is not just important for this breed but all dogs alike! Introduce your Bulldogge to other animals, people and children at a young age, preferably beginning during puppyhood, promoting happy and fun interactions!
All that aside, today’s Olde English Bulldogge is an overall friendly breed!
Olde English Bulldogge History. International Olde English Bulldogge Association. Retrieved from https://www.ioeba.net/olde_english_bulldogge_breed_history.htm
Personality, Temperament, and Character of the Bulldog. The Bulldog Information Library. Retrieved from http://www.bulldoginformation.com/temperament-personality-character.html
Meet the Bulldog. American Kennel Club. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/bulldog/detail/
(Feb. 17, 2016). Is the Olde English Bulldogge the Right Breed For You? PetHelpful. Retrieved from https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Is-The-Olde-English-Bulldogge-The-Right-Dog-Breed-For-You
Olde English Bulldogge, Information and Pictures. Dog Breed Info Center. Retrieved from https://www.dogbreedinfo.com/oldeenglishbulldogge.htm
American Pit Bull Terrier (ABPT) Breed History. American Pit Bull Registry. Retrieved from http://pitbullregistry.com/PitBull%20History.htm
Olde English Bulldogge History. Anderson Olde English Bulldogges. Retrieved from http://www.andersonbulldogges.com/BREED_INFO.htm