Among the most popular dog breeds in America the Bulldog is one of the oldest. First mentioned in European literature in 1500, the Bulldog’s history is one born out of sport. The term “bulldog” simply meant a dog that was used for bull baiting, where multiple dogs were tethered to a bull and the winner was the one which pinned the bull to the ground. Through natural selection, the dogs which excelled at this activity tended to have stockier, more muscular bodies with large jaws, which is how the bulldog’s characteristic traits were developed. Bull-baiting (and subsequent bear-baiting) continued until the mid 1800’s until it was outlawed by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835. Bulldogs made their way to the United States with early settlers, who used the dogs for herding wild bulls in the New World. Today, the modern bulldog is a far cry from its aggressive ancestor.
Despite their bad reputation as a “bully” breed, Bulldogs are actually clowns of the dog world, more likely to delight you with their adorable antics than chase away an intruder. Through careful breeding any traces of mean-spiritedness have been eliminated, and instead dogs with calm demeanors described as friendly and courageous have been produced. Bulldogs also bond strongly with children, which largely accounts for their status as the 4th most popular dog in the United States. Unable to handle long bouts of exercise, this breed is also perfect for apartment dwelling, as they much prefer hanging out on the couch than going for long walks.
Bulldogs have a body type unlike traditional dogs, one that is short and stout, with a flat face and “squished” nose. They also have a wrinkled appearance, and some Bulldogs may have a curled tail. Despite their short stature, males can weigh up to 55 lbs while females may weigh up to 45 lbs. A number of colors are admissible for the Bulldog’s short, flat coat, including red, white, fawn, piebald, and brindle. Bulldogs should also have a characteristic under-bite, as well as wrinkling above their nose (called a rope or nose roll) and drooping lips.
Bulldog health is a controversial topic due to their short lifespan, physical limitations, and inability to breed naturally. According to a study performed in the UK of 180 Bulldogs in 2004, the median lifespan was 6.3 years for the breed. The most concerning issues for Bulldog health relates to their bracycephalic nature, due to their “smooshed” faces. The shorter airway leads to a number of respiratory issues, including exercise intolerance and a high risk for heat stroke/exhaustion. Because of the Bulldog’s lack of endurance, females must be artificially inseminated for breeding, and up to 80% of litters are delivered via Caesarean section due to discrepancies in size of the mother’s birth canal and the puppies’ heads. In addition, joint conditions are common, as are skin infections if the dog’s wrinkles are not properly maintained.
Overall, while Bulldogs are an amazing addition to any home or family, they do require additional care relative the average dog. Potential owners should research the breed extensively and look for a reputable breeder through a national Bulldog association.