History and Breeding
Barely any other dog breed has lived through such great change in the course of its history as the English Bulldog. Broadly speaking, once bred as aggressive “fighting machines” who courageously faced every battle, they are now kept as devoted, sensitive family dogs that detest violence.
Initially used to break up fights between bulls
The reason behind the emergence of this dog breed lies in the 6th century BC when the Phoenicians brought their Molossers to the British Isles for trade purposes. They crossed them with large mastiff dogs native to the area. Historically, the dogs are first mentioned under the name “bond dog” or “bold dog” in the 13th century. In 1209, these fearless dogs broke up fights between two warring bulls. Impressing with their bold nature and strong conduct, the intial dogs of this breed were soon regularly deployed as so-called “bull biters”. The struggle with the bulls made these powerful dogs very famous in the course of the Middle Ages. Hence, why they are called “Bulldog” to this very day. So-called bull baiting was a highly popular society event in Great Britain particularly from the 16th to 18th century, with large betting sums often involved.
Fights against other predatory animals became popular
In-demand dog fights against bulls were soon expanded into fights against other large animals, such as bears, monkeys or even lions. Pure dog fights involving two dogs fighting each other were also popular at this time. Bulldogs were considered pure fight dogs, with breeding focused solely on the characteristics that would serve them well in battle. Their nature was predominantly defined by courage and aggression. A wide jaw and nose withdrawn as far as possible to ensure sufficient air intake when biting bulls were highly valued.
English Bulldog: From fighter to lovable companion
When dog fights were banned in Great Britain by the government in 1835, the Bulldog was deprived of its breeding foundation. Consequently, the once popular fight dog disappeared from the scene almost entirely. This breed would probably have become extinct. However, individuals recognised the Bulldog’s adaptable and lovable character behind the cultivated “fight dog façade”.
New type of bulldog
In the mid-19th century, a new type of Bulldog breed came into existence, which was characterised by its friendliness and placidity and shunned its combative side and aggressive behaviour. In 1864, the newly founded Bulldog Club presented the first breed standard. This standard also held true for the Bulldog Club Incorporated founded in 1875, which defined English Bulldog breeding from that point onward. Thanks to their skilled breeding selection, the breeders succeeded in forging a well-tolerated and lovable family dog from the former fight dog. Adaptable and striking in appearance, Bulldogs soon became the Brits canine companion and eventually a kind of British national dog.
Overbreeding is the bulldog’s main struggle
The subsequent breeding process unfortunately resulted in the dogs being extremely overbred. Over-typification such as incredibly large heads, too short noses and legs and extremely wrinkled faces led in some cases to so-called torture breeding. Along with respiratory and fertility problems, the extreme characteristics meant that it was no longer possible for bitches to give birth naturally. The proportion of Caesarean sections increased to over 80 percent.
In order to combat such extremities of torture breeding, the leading British Kennel Club lay down a new standard in 2009. Shockingly, this caused protests from many established breeders. Consequently, the dogs’ health and wellbeing is to be the main focus of breeding Bulldogs in the future. Fortunately, in October 2010, the FCI adopted this standard which is still in place to this day.