Breed Spotlight: the Bull Terrier

In the nineteenth century, the Bull and Terrier, a cross between a number of British Terrier breeds and the now-extinct Old English Bulldog, ancestor to the Bull Terrier, rose to prominence as a breed primarily suited for three bloody tasks: pest control, dog fighting, and bull-baiting. Typically, a bull-baiting setup consisted of a bull being attached to a stake via nine meters of rope, inside of a rope enclosure. The goal of the Bull and Terrier was to incapacitate the creature by scoring successful and sustained bites on the bull's snout, one of the bull’s most sensitive areas. If the dog hoped to survive the encounter, he needed to steadily advance while keeping as low to the ground as possible. As long as the dog stayed close to the ground, as he was trained to do, he could move closer toward the bull while avoiding its horns. Sadly, a large number of bull and terriers were severely injured or killed while participating in the bull-baiting, with many breaking bones and losing limbs. It was not until the passing of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 that the blood sport was made illegal in the United Kingdom.

Near the middle of the nineteenth century, James Hinks, of Birmingham, England, crossed a Bull and Terrier with an English White Terrier. He aimed to give more attention to improving the offspring’s appearance than Bull and Terrier breeders of the past, who tended to focus solely on honing the dog's fighting capabilities. Hinks's goals were to lengthen the head of the dog, straighten its crooked front legs, and to make its body balanced and proportional. The end result of Hinks's work was an all-white breed with enough unique features to distinguish it from its progenitor, the Bull and Terrier. Though the dog still lacked its iconic, egg-shaped head, Hinks had effectively created a one-of-a-kind Bull Terrier. 

Originally, the Bull Terrier exhibited a large range in sizes, including a toy variety that was recorded to be under ten pounds and could be as small as three pounds! However, some of the miniaturized varieties were found to suffer from health issues associated with the small size, and as a result, fell out of favor in the early nineteenth century. However, although the dogs still weren’t bred for extreme miniature sizes, perfectly healthy, yet somewhat smaller specimens still appeared within the breed from time to time. In the 1930s, a new appreciation for these healthier and smaller dogs was revitalized, and fanciers began to revive the smaller dogs in a more conscientious and careful manner. By breeding smaller Bull Terriers and selecting for health and longevity, care has been taken to produce a smaller version of the larger standard dogs without health problems or extremes. This has resulted in the Miniature Bull Terrier variety that we see today.

Want to learn more about the Bull Terrier? Click here to see the full breed standard. 

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