The English Bulldog’s origin lies in the horrific sport of bull-baiting, which emerged in England around the 13th century. The dog’s purpose was to grasp and hold the bull’s nose until the bull was rendered helpless. Not only was bull-baiting considered entertaining, but many believed baiting the bull before killing it made the meat tastier and more nutritious. The cruel sport of bull-baiting remained widely popular until it was outlawed in 1835, which nearly resulted in the extinction of the breed. Those who admired Bulldogs rescued the breed by carefully choosing those of distinct physical characteristics, not those with ferocious tendencies.
In an effort to tame the Bulldog’s tenacity, as well as tone down the dog’s appearance, early breed aficionados were believed to have infused other breeds, such as the Pug, into the breed’s lineage to result in the squattier, less-agile, and less-capable dog that we see today. Over the past century, the English Bulldog has undergone a profound transformation, which has resulted in a more endearing temperament but has also had devastating effects on the breed’s health and quality of life. In fact, the characteristics that make the English Bulldog a breed apart have also, unfortunately, resulted in an extremely unhealthy phenotype. The extreme brachycephalic skull type, heavy body, and wide chest and forequarters have resulted in breathing difficulties, heat intolerance, inability to whelp naturally, and a number of other debilitating ailments that plague this wonderful breed.
Today, many organizations are out to save the English Bulldog breed by adjusting stringent breed standards that reward physical extremes (such as a flat head profile) to be less punishing and extreme. By allowing the English Bulldog to have a muzzle and less wide forequarter, the dogs are better able to tolerate heat, whelp naturally, breath better, and generally enjoy a better quality of life. No other breed is more deserving than the English Bulldog. Responsible breeders are on board with the newer style of conformation, which, ironically, is more in line with how the Bulldog originally appeared. CKC encourages all who know and love the English Bulldog to read the English Bulldog standard and strive to apply it to their dogs and breeding stock.