Owing to its appearance and bloody history, the British Bulldog is often mistaken to be a fighting dog at heart. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst the British Bulldogs of today still retain some of their former strength and tenacity, you’d be hard pressed to find a more affectionate and loyal companion with whom to share your home.
Height: 12-15 inches (30-38 cm)
Weight: 40-50 lbs (18.1-22.7 kg)
Average Litter Size: 4-5 puppies
Life Expectancy: Up to 12 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Utility Breed
The British Bulldog may be one of a variety of colours, including brindle (faintly striped), fawn, piebald, red or white.
As a rule, British Bulldogs have short, straight fur that requires minimal grooming. They don’t tend to moult a great deal and therefore usually only require weekly brushing to ensure the coat remains smooth. However, it is advisable to wipe your British Bulldog’s wrinkled face daily, ensuring that you dry and cleanse the heavy folds in the skin in order to minimise chafing and prevent any skin infections from developing.
Due to their unusual body shape – with their broad, muscular shoulders, comparatively narrow rear ends and short, flattish noses – British Bulldogs are sadly prone to a number of health conditions, most concerning their joints and respiratory systems. They sometimes struggle to breathe as a result of their snout shape and nostril positioning and some develop knee and hip problems over time. Female British Bulldogs often have difficulty giving birth due to the puppies’ large heads and delivery by caesarean section is common.
It is important to note that British Bulldogs have a low tolerance for heat and cold and should not be left outdoors for long periods of time. The British Bulldog will sometimes have difficulty breathing in hot weather and is susceptible to heatstroke. As such, you should be sure to consistently monitor your British Bulldog’s condition in warmer temperatures to ensure that it isn’t becoming distressed and/or overheated.
Whilst the brutish, wrinkled face, wide, low-slung body and incredibly strong jaws might give the impression of savagery, the British Bulldog actually possesses a very sweet and gentle nature. Innately human-oriented, British Bulldogs will actively seek attention from people and love nothing more than plodding along faithfully beside their owners or sprawling out on the sofa with their heads cradled on a lap.
Like the vast majority of dog breeds, British Bulldogs prefer to be kept clean and tidy. However, through no fault of its own, the British Bulldog does have a tendency to drool a little, and snoring or wheezing is not uncommon. British Bulldogs are also prone to a touch of flatulence and can be quite messy eaters – all of which, fervent fans of the breed insist, only enhances the British Bulldog’s endearing character and natural charms.
Although generally placid and relaxed, British Bulldogs can sometimes be territorial and possessive and are consequently occasionally used as guard dogs. However, these days, British Bulldogs are bred more for their roles as devoted and loving family pets, at which they unfailingly excel.
As with all breeds of dog, the British Bulldog’s training should begin at around 10-12 weeks of age. Whilst naturally a human follower, it is important to ensure that a British Bulldog knows its place by demonstrating strong leadership and firm but fair treatment. Even though many of the former British Bulldog’s behavioural and personality traits have altered greatly over the years, they still have considerable determination and tenacity, meaning that any bad habits should be discouraged straightaway. Easy-going, sometimes to the point of laziness, the British Bulldog can sometimes be a little slow to pick up new tricks, but once learnt, these will never be forgotten.
Dependably laidback by nature, the British Bulldog doesn’t generally need more than basic daily exercise. Although it is advisable to take your British Bulldog a walk of around 20-40 minutes in duration each day to ensure it remains fit and healthy and to prevent it from becoming overweight (something to which British Bulldogs are unfortunately prone), don’t expect displays of great enthusiasm at the prospect of having to leave the cosy comfort of home. Ideally, walks should take place in the early morning or evening to avoid more extreme weather conditions.
As you might guess from its name, the British Bulldog originated in Britain during the Roman era and was historically descended from the Asiatic mastiff. The British Bulldog was previously used in an aggressive sport known as “bullbaiting”, which involved the British Bulldog latching on to the bull’s snout with those formidable jaws and violently shaking the bull to provoke a response, which generally consisted of the bull flinging the British Bulldog into the air with its horns. Back then, the British Bulldog was considerably larger in size than the breed of today. Its narrow nostrils enabled the dog to breathe whilst maintaining its grip on the bull and the wrinkles in its brow were to prevent the bull’s blood from entering the dog’s eyes.
Bullbaiting once constituted a popular spectator sport, with events being advertised in advance and spectators betting on the outcome. In addition, this activity supposedly thinned a bull’s blood, making for more tender meat following its butchering. At one time, there were numerous laws in force across different parts of England requiring bulls to be “baited” prior to their slaughter. Bullbaiting was, however, banned in 1835 and the breed was expected to dwindle as a result.
Some continued to admire the British Bulldog’s courage and stamina, however, and more selective breeding resulted in a dramatic change in the offspring’s temperaments. From aggressive, brutal creatures, British Bulldogs were gradually transformed into docile and affectionate pets. In 1860, British Bulldogs were admitted to show rings in England for the first time and soon afterwards their popularity began to spread throughout the world. The British Bulldog was first recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1873 and by the American Kennel Club in 1890.
Cartoon British Bulldog Spike first appeared on-screen in the 1940s in the hugely popular Tom and Jerry show, quickly becoming a favourite amongst fans.