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The Bulldog, also known as the English Bulldog, is a native of Great Britain, and is in fact considered the country's national dog. Its appearance is unmistakable-huge head, big jaws, flat face,and droopy jowls-and it is one of the best liked dogs going. In the United States it ranks perennially at fourth or fifth in popularity. It comes in many colors, from white and fawn to black or red, and some are piebald.

Here is the Bulldog at a Glance
Name Bulldog
Other Names English Bulldog
Nicknames None
Origin England
Average size Medium
Average weight Males 50-55 lbs. Females 40-50 lbs.
Average height 12-15 inches at the shoulder
Life span Five to eleven years
Coat type Short, straight, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, fawn, white, red, piebald
Popularity High
Intelligence Very High
Tolerance to heat Low
Tolerance to cold Low
Shedding Fairly little
Drooling A lot
Obesity Very
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate
Barking Not a barker or howler
Exercise needs Moderate
Trainability More difficult
Friendliness Extremely friendly
Good first dog Probably not
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Extremely
Good with other dogs Yes
Good with other pets Average
Good with strangers Yes
Good apartment dog Yes
Handles alone time well Yes
Health issues Heart attack, stroke, dysplasia, joint problems
Medical expenses $200-$400 annually
Food expenses $150-$300 annually
Miscellaneous expenses $150
Average annual expense $500-$700
Cost to purchase $1,000-$2,000
Biting Statistics Human attacks: 20 Maimings: 14 Deaths: 1 Child victims: 12

The Bulldog's Beginnings

The Bulldog has a well-deserved reputation nowadays as a loveable, if not all that beautiful, beast; but that was not always so. For the first several hundred years of its existence, the Bulldog was a terror, a cantankerous canine that specialized in tearing the throats out of other critters.

Initially bred in England to herd and drive cattle, the Bulldog fell into bad company. Because of its huge head and oversized jaw muscles, it became the animal of choice for a vicious medieval sport known as bull baiting. Its popularity in that sport, in fact, was how it earned its name-bulldog-which made its first appearance in the early seventeenth century.

Bull baiting worked like this: A bull was tethered to a post by a fairly long rope. Next, spectators made bets on their favorite dogs. Then the dogs were released and went after the bull. The winning dog was the one that managed to grab the bull by the nose, wrestle it down, and pin it to the earth. The bulldog's massive jaws, big teeth, and powerful grip, made it a natural for this kind of work. At the same time, of course, the bull was not taking this calmly, but was trampling and goring as many dogs as it could manage; one or more dogs commonly died in the melee. In the same manner, bears were often tied down and used as targets for the dogs.

One result was that the Bulldog, originally a herder, was bred over the generations to become bigger, stronger, more heavily jawed, and more vicious and aggressive. By the beginning of the nineteenth century Bulldogs had a well-earned reputation for ferocity-definitely not pets you would want to bring home to play with the kids.

New Lease on Life

Then, in 1835, England passed the Cruelty to Animals Act, which among other things outlawed bull baiting, bear baiting, dog fights and cock fighting. That left the Bulldog, as it had developed, with no real purpose in life. It couldn't bait bulls and bears anymore because that had been outlawed. It couldn't be a herder, because that had been bred out of it and replaced with aggressiveness and a taste for combat and blood. It couldn't really be a pet, because it didn't relate well to kids, or to people in general.

In spite of that, a lot of people were pretty attached to Bulldogs, and didn't want them to simply vanish. So dog breeders came to the rescue. First, Bulldogs were crossbred with Pugs, which have among other things, really flat faces and short noses. At that point Bulldogs began to develop the physical characteristics that now make them one of the most recognizable dogs around-pushed in noses, pushed out jaws, and oversized teeth that look a little too big for the mouth they have to fit into.

The Dog You See Today

That is the shape of the modern Bulldog. It is a heavy dog and fairly large, with very wide head and shoulders. Males typically weigh 50 to 55 pounds, and females in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 pounds. Both males and females stand about twelve to fifteen inches at the shoulder. Above the eyebrows Bulldogs have one or more thick rolls of skin, and similar folds above the nose. The skin around the lips hangs loose. The teeth are sharply pointed, and a marked overbite is common. The Bulldog's coat is very short, sleek and smooth, and comes in a variety of colors-from white or fawn, to black and even red. Some are piebald, with patches of different colors, usually, but not always, black and white. The Bulldog's tail is short by nature, usually curled, sometimes very tightly, and never cropped.

The Inner Bulldog


Breeding has played a major role in the Bulldog's temperament. Where once it was aggressive to the point of viciousness, foul tempered, and would rather fight than eat, it has become one of the most pleasant breeds to be around. Extremely friendly, the Bulldog gets along famously with people.


You should not plan on having Bulldogs as watchdogs. They are not barkers, so they won't alert you to an intruder; and if someone actually broke into the house, while your Bulldog might scare them to death with its looks, it might as easily likely just nuzzle them to see if they had anything good to eat.

Bulldogs are also very popular as mascots. In the United Kingdom they are practically the canine symbol for courage, loyalty and power. Think of Winston Churchill. He even looked a little like a cigar-smoking Bulldog. Bulldogs also found homes in more than one British navy ship. In the United States more than three dozen universities have the Bulldog as a mascot, including such schools as Drake University, Georgetown University, Mississippi State University, and Yale. On top of that, the Bulldog is the official mascot of the United States Marine Corps.

Living with a Bulldog

Training needs

Bulldogs are not easy to train. They are intelligent and easygoing, but they are not one of those breeds that are eager to please. They tend to be stubborn and obstinate, and need to be carefully and intensively worked with. Unless you are experienced and knowledgeable at training dogs, you will need the services of a good obedience trainer. As a result, they may not make a good choice as a first pet for someone who has not had dogs before.

How active is the Bulldog?

Despite their size, Bulldogs make good apartment dwellers. They don't need or want huge amounts of exercise or activity. They are perfectly happy to lie around with their people, head in lap or curled up close. In fact, because of their small nasal passages and short noses, they tend to be short winded and not handle hard running and other stringent exertion.

Bulldogs are also not the best choice for people who live in areas prone to extreme temperatures. Because of their relatively constricted nasal cavities and lung area, it is difficult for them to regulate their internal temperature through breathing, and they can become dangerously overheated or chilled. Overheating is especially common, and dangerous. Bulldogs have been known to die of hypothermia when they are kept in spaces where there is insufficient ventilation. One of the ways any dog can stay cool is by panting, but Bulldogs don't do that efficiently because of their flat faces and small nasal cavities. One of the main ways they stay cool is by sweating through their feet, so places with cool floors can make a difference to their comfort. If you plan to keep one in an apartment, especially in the southern or southeastern parts of the United States, or in any hot and humid part of the world, good air conditioning is probably a must.

Caring for the Bulldog

Grooming needs

The hair sheds only moderately-a quick brushing does the trick-and grooming is seldom necessary, assuming you are not trying to raise a show dog. Brush a couple of times a week though to keep it healthy and clean. There will be some clean up needed from the loose hair. Bathing should just be done when the Bulldog is particularly dirty as too often has a negative impact on the oils in its skin.


Nails will need to be clipped should they get too long but there are live blood vessels and nerves in dog nails so care has to be taken. If you do not have experience take it to the vet or dog groomer. Check and clean its ears once a week and give its teeth a brush at least twice a week. This will see to any bad breath and prevent dental issues which dogs can get just as much as people.

Feeding time

The Bulldog should be fed 1½ to 2½ cups of high quality dry dog food daily. The quality is important, the cheap brands tend to be far less nutrient rich and have a lot of filler ingredients. Feed your Bulldog at least two meals a day dividing that above amount into equal meals. Bulldogs love their food and can have issues with obesity so keep track on of what it is eating.

What is the Bulldog like with children and other animals

It relates well to other pets and are truly wonderful with kids, and tend to bond closely with them. This is the kind of dog that will let a child sit on him, roll over him, tug at his ears, pull at his sloppy folds of skin, and generally make a nuisance of himself, while the Bulldog just lies there and grins. That is undoubtedly one of the reason it is perennially the fourth or fifth most popular pet dog in the United States.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

For all their size and strength, Bulldogs are not the healthiest of canines, right from the day of their birth. The majority have to be delivered by caesarian section, because their heads are too big to pass comfortably and safely through the birth canal. Although they can have a life span of up to ten or eleven years, most do not live that long. One study of the breed put the median age of death at a little over six years.

Bulldogs are commonly prone to joint disorders. One of these is known as patellar luxation, where the kneecap is dislocated. Bulldogs are vulnerable to this disorder because they start out life knock-kneed, and even young pups have been known to suffer from this. Bulldogs also have a very high incidence of dysplasia. One long-term study by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found that close to three quarters of the Bulldogs studies had some degree of hip dysplasia, more than any other breed of dog. This means of course that you must expect higher than average medical expenses for your Bulldog over the course of its life.

Bulldogs are very prone to obesity, partly from genetics and partly from their disinclination to run around a lot, and so making sure they get regular exercise is very important. But while the exercise should be regular, it should not be too rough and tumble, because of the propensity for joint problems.

Bulldogs also have a high rate of cardiovascular problems, which may be in part a result of their sedentary habits and heavy bodies. Heart attacks and strokes are leading causes of Bulldog deaths. They also have a somewhat elevated risk of various cancers.

Biting Statistics

The Bulldog is a very different dog to what it once was, but that history of aggression can occasionally come up in a dog especially if it is not being treated well and has not been trained or socialized. Looking at data that compiles 34 years of dog attacks reports the Bulldog has been involved in 20 human attacks. Of those 20, 12 were child victims. 14 of those attacks were maimings, where a limb was lost, disfigurement occurred and permanent scarring. There was 1 death as a result of a Bulldog attack. 20 attacks of 34 years amounts to less than one attack a year. With the right owner, training, socialization and care a Bulldog is not likely to be aggressive at all.

Your Pup's Price Tag

What does a Bulldog cost? Let's start with the purchase price. If you are buying one from a breeder expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, with an average of $1,600. Or you may get lucky and locate a Bulldog at an animal shelter. Shelter dogs typically have nothing wrong with them. They are usually brought in, not because of bad behavior, but because their owners are no longer able to care for them. Sometimes the dog's owner has died. Sometimes people have to move to a new state or city and cannot have their pets with them. Sometimes people get a dog for the first time and have to face the reality that they don't have the energy, or time, or simple willingness, to give the dog the care and attention it needs. In cases like that, and this means most of them, you have a dog that needs a home and will make someone a wonderful pet.And, of course, if you are able to find a shelter Bulldog, it will only cost you a couple of hundred dollars to adopt. That is quite a price break. There are also organizations that specialize in locating, rescuing, and placing dogs, including Bulldogs, up for adoption. One of these organizations is located in the town of Marysville, north of Seattle in the state of Washington-Bulldog Haven NW-that specializes in rescuing and finding homes for Bulldogs.

After you get your dog, of course, the expense does not end. Your new puppy will, of course, need to be neutered or spayed. Having that done will run around $200.

Decent dog food-and with a dog like a Bulldog it really is important not to skimp here--will run anywhere from $150 to $300 a year, not counting treats and doggie snacks. Like any big dog, Bulldogs need to eat. As puppies, they should be given dog food designed for large breeds. This kind of food is formulated specifically to prevent the pup from growing too quickly, so that its bones and joints will have the time to develop strongly. There are, in fact, brands of dog food created especially for Bulldogs-more expensive, of course, but better for the dog. As adults, Bulldogs usually eat between one and a half to two and a half cups of dry dog food a day.

Veterinary costs can be expected to run another $200 or more a year-and that is if nothing much goes wrong. Bulldogs rank as the 15th most expensive breed where medical costs are concerned. Obedience training, which is a real must for this breed, can cost $100 to $250 for initial sessions.


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The Bulldog is not the least expensive dog to buy or own. The initial purchase price is not small. It eats a lot for a dog that mostly lies around and happily watches the world go by. It is not the easiest to care for and train. It is genetically vulnerable to some pretty serious medical problems. It may die disappointingly young. On the other hand, it is a joy to live with, loves everyone, and is undemanding-give it good stuff to eat and a comfortable place to sleep, and it will be happy. You will be, too.

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