The Bulldog is known to have been domiciled in this country for
several centuries. Like the Mastiff, of which it is a smaller form,
it is a descendant of the Alaunt, Mastive, or Bandog, described
by Dr. Caius, who states that the Mastyve or Bandogge is vaste, huge,
stubborne, ougly and eager, of a hevy, and burthenous body, and
therefore but of little swiftnesse, terrible and frightful to beholde,
and more fearce and f
ll than any Arcadian curre.
The first mention of Bulldog as the distinctive name of this now
national breed occurs in a letter, written by Prestwich Eaton from
St. Sebastian to George Wellingham in St. Swithin's Lane, London,
in 1631 or 1632, for a good Mastive dogge, a case of bottles
replenished with the best lickour, and pray proceur mee two good
bulldoggs, and let them be sent by ye first shipp. Obviously the
name was derived from the dog's association with the sport of
bull-baiting. The object aimed at in that pursuit was that the dog
should pin and hold the bull by the muzzle, and not leave it. The
bull was naturally helpless when seized in his most tender part. As
he lowered his head in order to use his horns it was necessary for
the dog to keep close to the ground, or, in the words of the old
fanciers of the sport, to play low. Larger dogs were at a
disadvantage in this respect, and, therefore, those of smaller
proportions, which were quite as suitable for the sport, were
selected. The average height of the dogs was about 16 inches, and
the weight was generally about 45 lbs., whilst the body was broad,
muscular, and compact, as is shown in Scott's well-known engraving
of Crib and Rosa.
When bull-baiting was prohibited by law the sportsmen of the period
turned their attention to dog-fighting, and for this pastime the
Bulldogs were specially trained. The chief centres in London where
these exhibitions took place were the Westminster Pit, the Bear Garden
at Bankside, and the Old Conduit Fields in Bayswater. In order to
obtain greater quickness of movement many of the Bulldogs were crossed
with a terrier, although some fanciers relied on the pure breed. It
is recorded that Lord Camelford's Bulldog Belcher fought one hundred
and four battles without once suffering defeat.
The decline of bull-baiting and dog-fighting after the passing of
the Bill prohibiting these sports was responsible for a lack of
interest in perpetuating the breed of Bulldogs. Even in 1824 it was
said to be degenerating, and gentlemen who had previously been the
chief breeders gradually deserted the fancy. At one time it was stated
that Wasp, Child, and Billy, who were of the Duke of Hamilton's
strain, were the only remaining Bulldogs in existence, and that upon
their decease the Bulldog would become extinct--a prophecy which all
Bulldog lovers happily find incorrect.
The specimens alive in 1817, as seen in prints of that period, were
not so cloddy as those met with at the present day. Still, the outline
of Rosa in the engraving of Crib and Rosa, is considered to represent
perfection in the shape, make, and size of the ideal type of Bulldog.
The only objections which have been taken are that the bitch is
deficient in wrinkles about the head and neck, and in substance of
bone in the limbs.
The commencement of the dog-show era in 1859 enabled classes to be
provided for Bulldogs, and a fresh incentive to breed them was offered
to the dog fancier. In certain districts of the country, notably in
London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, and Dudley, a number of
fanciers resided, and it is to their efforts that we are indebted
for the varied specimens of the breed that are to be seen at the
In forming a judgment of a Bulldog the general appearance is of most
importance, as the various points of the dog should be symmetrical
and well balanced, no one point being in excess of the others so as
to destroy the impression of determination, strength, and activity
which is conveyed by the typical specimen. His body should be
thickset, rather low in stature, but broad, powerful, and compact.
The head should be strikingly massive and large in proportion to the
dog's size. It cannot be too large so long as it is square; that is,
it must not be wider than it is deep. The larger the head in
circumference, caused by the prominent cheeks, the greater the
quantity of muscle to hold the jaws together. The head should be of
great depth from the occiput to the base of the lower jaw, and should
not in any way be wedge-shaped, dome-shaped, or peaked. In
circumference the skull should measure in front of the ears at least
the height of the dog at the shoulders. The cheeks should be well
rounded, extend sideways beyond the eyes, and be well furnished with
muscle. Length of skull--that is, the distance between the eye and
the ear--is very desirable. The forehead should be flat, and the skin
upon it and about the head very loose, hanging in large wrinkles.
The temples, or frontal bones, should be very prominent, broad, square
and high, causing a wide and deep groove known as the stop between
the eyes, and should extend up the middle of the forehead, dividing
the head vertically, being traceable at the top of the skull. The
expression well broken up is used where this stop and furrow are
well marked, and if there is the attendant looseness of skin the
animal's expression is well finished.
The face, when measured from the front of the cheek-bone to the nose,
should be short, and its skin should be deeply and closely wrinkled.
Excessive shortness of face is not natural, and can only be obtained
by the sacrifice of the chop. Such shortness of face makes the dog
appear smaller in head and less formidable than he otherwise would
be. Formerly this shortness of face was artificially obtained by the
use of the jack, an atrocious form of torture, by which an iron
instrument was used to force back the face by means of thumbscrews.
The nose should be rough, large, broad, and black, and this colour
should extend to the lower lip; its top should be deeply set back,
almost between the eyes. The distance from the inner corner of the
eye to the extreme tip of the nose should not be greater than the
length from the tip of the nose to the edge of the under lip. The
nostrils should be large and wide, with a well-defined straight line
visible between them. The largeness of nostril, which is a very
desirable property, is possessed by few of the recent prize-winners.
When viewed in profile the tip of the nose should touch an imaginary
line drawn from the extremity of the lower jaw to the top of the
centre of the skull. This angle of the nose and face is known as the
lay-back, and can only properly be ascertained by viewing the dog
from the side.
The inclination backward of the nose allows a free passage of the
air into the nostrils whilst the dog is holding his quarry. It is
apparent that if the mouth did not project beyond the nose, the
nostrils would be flat against the part to which the dog was fixed,
and breathing would then be stopped.
The upper lip, called the chop, or flews, should be thick, broad,
pendant and very deep, hanging completely over the lower jaw at the
sides, but only just joining the under lip in front, yet covering
the teeth completely. The amount of cushion which a dog may have
is dependent upon the thickness of the flews. The lips should not
The upper jaw should be broad, massive, and square, the tusks being
wide apart, whilst the lower jaw, being turned upwards, should project
in front of the upper. The teeth should be large and strong, and the
six small teeth between the tusks should be in an even row. The upper
jaw cannot be too broad between the tusks. If the upper and lower
jaws are level, and the muzzle is not turned upwards the dog is said
to be down-faced, whilst if the underjaw is not undershot he is
said to be froggy. A wry-faced dog is one having the lower jaw
twisted, and this deformity so detracts from the general appearance
of the dog as seriously to handicap him in the show-ring.
The underjaw projects beyond the upper in order to allow the dog,
when running directly to the front, to grasp the bull, and, when
fixed, to give him a firmer hold. The eyes, seen from the front,
should be situated low down in the skull, as far from the ears, the
nose, and each other as possible, but quite in front of the forehead,
so long as their corners are in a straight line at right angles with
the stop, and in front of the forehead. They should be a little above
the level of the base of the nasal bone, and should be quite round
in shape, of moderate size, neither sunken nor prominent, and be as
black in colour as possible--almost, if not quite, black, showing
no white when looking directly to the front.
A good deal of a Bulldog's appearance depends on the quality, shape,
and carriage of his ears. They should be small and thin, and set high
on the head; that is, the front inner edge of each ear should, as
viewed from the front, join the outline of the skull at the top corner
of such outline, so as to place them as wide apart, as high, and as
far from the eyes as possible. The shape should be that which is known
as rose, in which the ear folds inward at the back, the upper or
front edge curving over outwards and backwards, showing part of the
inside of the burr. If the ears are placed low on the skull they give
an appleheaded appearance to the dog. If the ear falls in front,
hiding the interior, as is the case with a Fox-terrier, it is said
to button, and this type is highly objectionable. Unfortunately,
within the last few years the button and semi-tulip ear have been
rather prevalent amongst the specimens on the show bench.
If the ear is carried erect it is known as a tulip ear, and this
form also is objectionable. Nevertheless at the beginning of the
nineteenth century two out of every three dogs possessed ears of this
The neck should be moderate in length, very thick, deep, muscular,
and short, but of sufficient length to allow it to be well arched
at the back, commencing at the junction with the skull. There should
be plenty of loose, thick, and wrinkled skin about the throat, forming
a dewlap on each side from the lower jaw to the chest.
The chest should be very wide laterally, round, prominent, and deep,
making the dog appear very broad and short-legged in front. The
shoulders should be broad, the blades sloping considerably from the
body; they should be deep, very powerful, and muscular, and should
be flat at the top and play loosely from the chest.
The brisket should be capacious, round, and very deep from the
shoulder to the lowest part, where it joins the chest, and be well
let down between the fore-legs. It should be large in diameter, and
round behind the fore-legs, neither flat-sided nor sinking, which
it will not do provided that the first and succeeding ribs are well
rounded. The belly should be well tucked up and not pendulous, a small
narrow waist being greatly admired. The desired object in body
formation is to obtain great girth at the brisket, and the smallest
possible around the waist, that is, the loins should be arched very
high, when the dog is said to have a good cut-up.
The back should be short and strong, very broad at the shoulder and
comparatively narrow at the loins. The back should rise behind the
shoulders in a graceful curve to the loins, the top of which should
be higher than the top of the shoulders, thence curving again more
suddenly to the tail, forming an arch known as the roach back, which
is essentially a characteristic of the breed, though, unfortunately,
many leading prize-winners of the present day are entirely deficient
in this respect. Some dogs dip very considerably some distance behind
the shoulders before the upward curve of the spine begins, and these
are known as swamp-backed; others rise in an almost straight line
to the root of the tail, and are known as stern-high.
The tail should be set on low, jut out rather straight, then turn
downwards, the end pointing horizontally. It should be quite round
in its whole length, smooth and devoid of fringe or coarse hair. It
should be moderate in length, rather short than long, thick at the
root, and taper quickly to a fine point. It should have a downward
carriage, and the dog should not be able to raise it above the level
of the backbone. The tail should not curve at the end, otherwise it
is known as ring-tailed. The ideal length of tail is about six
Many fanciers demand a screw or kinked tail, that is, one having
congenital dislocations at the joints, but such appendages are not
desirable in the best interests of the breed.
The fore-legs should be very stout and strong, set wide apart, thick,
muscular, and short, with well-developed muscles in the calves,
presenting a rather bowed outline, but the bones of the legs must
be straight, large, and not bandy or curved. They should be rather
short in proportion to the hind-legs, but not so short as to make
the back appear long or detract from the dog's activity and so cripple
The elbows should be low and stand well away from the ribs, so as
to permit the body to swing between them. If this property be absent
the dog is said to be on the leg. The ankles or pasterns should
be short, straight, and strong. The fore-feet should be straight and
turn very slightly outwards; they should be of medium size and
moderately round, not too long or narrow, whilst the toes should be
thick, compact, and well split up, making the knuckles prominent and
The hind-legs, though of slighter build than the fore-legs, should
be strong and muscular. They should be longer, in proportion, than
the fore-legs in order to elevate the loins. The stifles should be
round and turned slightly outwards, away from the body, thus bending
the hocks inward and the hind-feet outward. The hocks should be well
let down, so that the leg is long and muscular from the loins to the
point of the hock, which makes the pasterns short, but these should
not be so short as those of the fore-legs. The hind-feet, whilst being
smaller than the forefeet, should be round and compact, with the toes
well split up, and the knuckles prominent.
The most desirable weight for a Bulldog is about 50 lbs.
The coat should be fine in texture, short, close, and smooth, silky
when stroked from the head towards the tail owing to its closeness,
but not wiry when stroked in the reverse direction.
The colour should be whole or smut, the latter being a whole colour
with a black mask or muzzle. It should be brilliant and pure of its
sort. The colours in order of merit are, first, whole colours and
smuts, viz., brindles, reds, white, with their varieties, as whole
fawns, fallows, etc., and, secondly, pied and mixed colours. Opinions
differ considerably on the colour question; one judge will set back
a fawn and put forward a pied dog, whilst others will do the reverse.
Occasionally one comes across specimens having a black-and-tan colour,
which, although not mentioned in the recognised standard as being
debarred, do not as a rule figure in the prize list. Some of the best
specimens which the writer has seen have been black-and-tans, and
a few years ago on the award of a first prize to a bitch of this
colour, a long but non-conclusive argument was held in the canine
press. Granted that the colour is objectionable, a dog which scores
in all other properties should not be put down for this point alone,
seeing that in the dog-fighting days there were many specimens of
In action the Bulldog should have a peculiarly heavy and constrained
gait, a rolling, or slouching movement, appearing to walk with
short, quick steps on the tip of his toes, his hind-feet not being
lifted high but appearing to skim the ground, and running with the
right shoulder rather advanced, similar to the manner of a horse when
The foregoing minute description of the various show points of a
Bulldog indicates that he should have the appearance of a thick-set
Ayrshire or Highland bull. In stature he should be low to the ground,
broad and compact, the body being carried between and not on the
fore-legs. He should stand over a great deal of ground, and have the
appearance of immense power. The height of the fore-leg should not
exceed the distance from the elbow to the centre of the back, between
the shoulder blades.
Considerable importance is attached to the freedom and activity
displayed by the animal in its movements. Deformed joints, or
weakness, are very objectionable. The head should be strikingly
massive and carried low, the face short, the muzzle very broad, blunt,
and inclined upwards. The body should be short and well-knit, the
limbs, stout and muscular. The hind-quarters should be very high and
strong, but rather lightly made in comparison with the heavily-made
It must be acknowledged that there are many strains of this breed
which are constitutionally unsound. For this reason it is important
that the novice should give very careful consideration to his first
purchase of a Bulldog. He should ascertain beyond all doubt, not only
that his proposed purchase is itself sound in wind and limb, but that
its sire and dam are, and have been, in similarly healthy condition.
The dog to be chosen should be physically strong and show pronounced
muscular development. If these requirements are present and the dog
is in no sense a contradiction of the good qualities of its
progenitors, but a justification of its pedigree, care and good
treatment will do the rest. It is to be remembered, however, that
a Bulldog may be improved by judicious exercise. When at exercise,
or taking a walk with his owner, the young dog should always be held
by a leash. He will invariably pull vigorously against this restraint,
but such action is beneficial, as it tends to develop the muscles
of the shoulders and front of the body.
When taking up the Bulldog fancy, nine out of every ten novices choose
to purchase a male. The contrary course should be adopted. The female
is an equally good companion in the house or on the road; she is not
less affectionate and faithful; and when the inevitable desire to
attempt to reproduce the species is reached the beginner has the means
at once available.
It is always difficult for the uninitiated to select what is likely
to be a good dog from the nest. In choosing a puppy care should be
taken to ensure it has plenty of bone in its limbs, and these should
be fairly short and wide; the nostrils should be large and the face
as short as possible. The chop should be thick and heavily wrinkled
and the mouth square. There should be a distinct indent in the upper
jaw, where the bone will eventually curve, whilst the lower jaw should
show signs of curvature and protrude slightly in front of the upper
jaw. The teeth from canine to canine, including the six front teeth,
should be in a straight line.
See that the ears are very small and thin, and the eyes set well
apart. The puppy having these properties, together with a domed,
peaked, or cocoanut shaped skull, is the one which, in nine cases
out of ten, will eventually make the best headed dog of the litter.
The breeding of Bulldogs requires unlimited patience, as success is
very difficult to attain. The breeder who can rear five out of every
ten puppies born may be considered fortunate. It is frequently found
in what appears to be a healthy lot of puppies that some of them begin
to whine and whimper towards the end of the first day, and in such
cases the writer's experience is that there will be a speedy burial.
It may be that the cause is due to some acidity of the milk, but in
such a case one would expect that similar difficulty would be
experienced with the remainder of the litter, but this is not the
usual result. Provided that the puppies can be kept alive until the
fourth day, it may be taken that the chances are well in favour of
Many breeders object to feeding the mother with meat at this time,
but the writer once had two litter sisters who whelped on the same
day, and he decided to try the effect of a meat versus farinaceous
diet upon them. As a result the bitch who was freely fed with raw
beef reared a stronger lot of puppies, showing better developed bone,
than did the one who was fed on milk and cereals.
Similarly, in order that the puppy, after weaning, may develop plenty
of bone and muscle, it is advisable to feed once a day upon finely
minced raw meat. There are some successful breeders, indeed, who
invariably give to each puppy a teaspoonful of cod liver oil in the
morning and a similar dose of extract of malt in the evening, with
the result that there are never any rickety or weak dogs in the
kennels, whilst the development of the bones in the skull and limbs
is most pronounced.
Owing to their lethargic disposition, young Bulldogs are somewhat
liable to indigestion, and during the period of puppyhood it is of
advantage to give them a tablespoonful of lime water once a day in
their milk food.
Many novices are in doubt as to the best time to breed from a Bull
bitch, seeing that oestrum is present before she is fully developed.
It may be taken as practically certain that it is better for her to
be allowed to breed at her first heat. Nature has so arranged matters
that a Bull bitch is not firmly set in her bones until she reaches
an age of from twelve to eighteen months, and therefore she will have
less difficulty in giving birth to her offspring if she be allowed
to breed at this time. Great mortality occurs in attempting to breed
from maiden bitches exceeding three years of age, as the writer knows
to his cost.
It is desirable, in the case of a young bitch having her first litter,
for her master or mistress to be near her at the time, in order to
render any necessary assistance; but such attentions should not be
given unless actual necessity arises.
Some bitches with excessive lay-back and shortness of face have at
times a difficulty in releasing the puppy from the membrane in which
it is born, and in such a case it is necessary for the owner to open
this covering and release the puppy, gently shaking it about in the
box until it coughs and begins to breathe.
The umbilical cord should be severed from the afterbirth about four
inches from the puppy, and this will dry up and fall away in the
course of a couple of days.
In general, it is true economy for the Bulldog breeder to provide
a foster-mother in readiness for the birth of the expected litter;
especially is this so in the case of a first litter, when the
qualifications for nursing by the mother are unknown. Where there
are more than five puppies it is also desirable to obtain a
foster-mother in order that full nourishment may be given to the
litter by both mothers.
The best time of the year for puppies to be born is in the spring,
when, owing to the approaching warm weather, they can lead an outdoor
life. By the time they are six months old they should have sufficient
stamina to enable them to withstand the cold of the succeeding winter.
It has been ascertained that Bulldogs which have been reared out of
doors are the least liable to suffer from indigestion, torpidity of
the liver, asthma or other chest ailments, whilst they invariably
have the hardiest constitution.
Bulldogs generally require liberal feeding, and should have a meal
of dry biscuit the first thing in the morning, whilst the evening
meal should consist of a good stew of butcher's offal poured over
broken biscuit, bread, or other cereal food. In the winter time it
is advantageous to soak a tablespoonful of linseed in water overnight,
and after the pods have opened to turn the resulting jelly into the
stew pot. This ensures a fine glossy coat, and is of value in toning
up the intestines. Care must, however, be taken not to follow this
practice to excess in warm weather, as the heating nature of the
linseed will eventually cause skin trouble.
With these special points attended to, the novice should find no
difficulty in successfully becoming a Bulldog fancier, owner, and
In conclusion, it cannot be too widely known that the Bulldog is one
of the very few breeds which can, with perfect safety, be trusted
alone to the mercy of children, who, naturally, in the course of play,
try the patience and good temper of the firmest friend of man.