Published on March 14th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
If there’s a more quintessentially British animal than the Bulldog, then we haven‘t heard of it. When it comes to Britishness, this squashed-face pooch is right up there alongside the Spitfire and Fish ‘n’ Chips. It’s forever been associated with steadfastness, resilience, loyalty, and every other positive attribute that we Brits imagine ourselves to be bursting with. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this national treasure; we’ll determine its origins, attributes, and see just what it’s like to own.
Profile: What is a Bulldog?
The British Kennel Club describe the Bulldog as ‘delightfully ugly’ – and that seems an apt summary, for the Bulldog is indeed inescapably hideous. But it’s that hideousness that gives the breed its character, without which it just wouldn’t be the same dog.
The bulldog is a squat, muscular breed, with short stumpy limbs and a barrel-shaped body. Its enormous head is beset with thick folds of drooping skin, particularly around the squashed-in nose. The skin around the neck is similarly free-hanging, while the jaw is massive – in many cases to the point of deformity – and the mouth is filled with pointed teeth and, in many cases, an under bite.
History: Where did the bulldog come from?
The Bulldog first came to be in England around five hundred years ago. It was used in blood sports, most notably in bull baiting, the sport from which it draws its name. Bull baiting was a particularly gruesome spectacle, in which a pack of dogs would be set loose upon a bull for the edification of a baying crowd. Spectators would place wagers on the victor – whichever dog managed to pin the bull to the ground by grabbing it by the nose.
While we might cringe at the thought now, at the time blood sports of this sort were common practice, and represented considerable moral progress from the barbarity of the colosseums of the ancient world.
Whatever the ethics of the practice, it’s clear that it required a certain sort of dog – one that was both strong, fearless, and tenacious. This early breed of bulldog needed to be built to withstand a blow from an angry, terrified bull – and so only the chunkiest dogs made the cut.
Eventually, the British decided that the practice of bull-baiting was indeed a cruel one, and outlawed it in 1835 with the Cruelty to Animals Act. Sometime later, the breed was crossbred with a pug to produce the animal we know and love today. It’s worth noting that the modern bulldog is markedly dissimilar to the one that actually fought bulls centuries ago – for one thing, its short, small muzzle would be unable to grip a bull by the nose and drag it over. Moreover, its small body would be unable to outmaneuver an opponent as fierce and large as a bull. Nowadays, the bulldog is more suited to being a companion dog than a fighter.
Personality: What is a bulldog like to own?
Since the abolition of bull-baiting, bulldog breeders have had to overcome the breed’s innate aggression. Thanks to their heritage, bulldogs have a reputation as being overly pugilistic. But the modern bulldog is no longer required to actually do any fighting, and these aggressive traits have largely been bred out.
This reputation is therefore perhaps undeserved – most bulldogs are good-natured and generally passive, and with proper training and discipline can be fantastic pets. Any aggressive tendencies that remain are almost always dominance aggression. This is the dog’s way of asserting its position in the social hierarchy of a household. If you’re not strict with them, then they’ll start to become too big for their proverbial boots. A firm hand is therefore called for.
Bulldogs are loyal and protective, and so are great around children. They also make exceptional guard dogs, as they’re intimidating enough to see off even the most persistent intruder. The mere sight of a bulldog would likely be enough to deter even the most determined burglar.
Another misconception that Bulldogs are faced with is that they are slow. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth; Bulldogs are capable of exceptional speed over short distances. Young bulldogs tend to be very energetic, and need regular intensive exercise (though not too much when they’ve yet to reach full size). As bulldogs age, however, they’ll become slower and more slovenly, and will need to be persuaded to go for a walk. For this reason, older bulldogs are suited to life in a small space like an apartment, as they don’t need a garden to expend their spare energy in.
Bulldogs are prone to a few different health problems. Many of these are not especially harmful, and represent mere nuisances – though prospective owners should consider them carefully before deciding to give a home to a bulldog.
Of these nuisances, perhaps the most obvious is slobber. The bulldog’s jaw is not capable of forming a tight seal, and consequently the animal is a messy eater, and will often deposit a trail of slimy saliva where it’s not required.
Other minor problems stem from the animal’s digestive system. They’re especially prone to flatulence, particularly when they’ve been fed something that isn’t targeted at dogs, like leftovers from your Sunday roast, or the remainder of your Friday-night chicken bucket.
Bulldogs are also prone to more severe problems. They’re vulnerable to heatstroke, and will deteriorate rapidly if left in a hot place, like a car on a summer’s day. Their eyesight is poor, and they’re also prone to ‘cherry eye’, a disorder of the so-called ‘third eyelid’. If you’re ever seen a bulldog with a sore-looking redness in the corner of its eye, then you’ll be familiar with this particular problem.
The bulldog’s head has, through selective breeding, made to be so large that difficulties are created during childbirth. Consequently, many bulldog puppies are born via caesarian section, though there is some dispute as to whether this is because of the difficulty of natural birth or a fear among breeders of attempting it.