135 REVIVING THE REAL BULLDOG
REVIVING THE REAL BULLDOG
Those of us who value dogs for what they can do rather than what they look like have long mourned the loss of the genuine Bulldog. From time to time Bulldog devotees have tried to reproduce the traditional type as opposed to the show ring specimen. Clifford Derwent, with his 'Regency Bulldog', produced some impressive specimens but couldn't get the temperament right. The late Ken Mollett, with his 'Victorian Bulldogs' did succeed and the society he formed lives on. The Dorset Bulldogge club is producing admirable dogs and have an annual show. In Australia, the improved 'Aussie Bulldog' is gaining ground; in Canada, John and Lolly Wilkinson have been breeding top-class Olde Englishe Bulldogges for many years. But now the Sussex Bulldog Association is succeeding too, producing active athletic dogs which live long healthy lives and look real characters.
Their club is well established, there are 7 registered breeders and roughly 1,700 registered owners. Their breeding programme is over 20 years old, and any randomly chosen Sussex Bulldog has a minimum of 11 generations behind it. They are now breeding for 19th generation dogs. Their club has a quarterly breeders' meeting and plans to hold its first annual show in 2008. They have a representative in Scandinavia, M Bernal of Orebro in Sweden. The Sussex Bulldog breeders are seeking an unexaggerated dog standing around 22-24 inches at the shoulder, ranging from 105 to 120 lbs, sturdy, powerfully-developed, with a muzzle between a third and a fifth of the skull length, which should allow natural whelping. This is in contrast to the KC-registered Bulldogs, which give birth by caesarean and all too often have breathing difficulties. The KC has now had to amend the breed standard for the breed they recognise, quite substantially, to repair the damage their show rings have inflicted on this great breed.
I have some concerns over the breed standard being worked to by the Sussex enthusiasts; it lacks detail and advises some features which need greater thought. Yellow eyes are desired and splay feet are not a fault; I would question the sense of both. A Bulldog of 120lbs is more the size of a Bullmastiff or American Bulldog; is that really what they are seeking? When I wrote a breed standard for the Victorian Bulldog Society some years ago, and contributed words for the Dorset Olde Tyme Buldogge design, it sought different criteria. I favour a weight of 65 to 80 lbs for males, with a height at withers of 17 to 19 inches. I stressed the word 'balance'; advised against heavy bone and sought the classic anatomy of the holding dogs, like the early-19th century dogs and their predecessors.
In his book on the Bulldog of 1899, Edgar Farman mourned the removal of Rosa and Crib as exemplars of Bulldog perfection from the new standard (1876) and expressed a view on the then scene with: '...to pause a moment before a pampered champion nowadays...will produce a feeling of sadness in the observer at the painful results of inbreeding for points.' And he was a Bulldog man! In his book on the breed of 1925, Barrett Fowler wrote: 'With greater and greater frequency distorted, crippled, and short-lived dogs were exhibited at the Shows and all too frequently were awarded prizes. It meant the utter degeneration of the Bulldog.' And he was the secretary of the London Bulldog Society! He would not have approved of the Crufts entry. Both these Bulldog men would have favoured the Sussex version. Real Bulldog men respect the legitimate article.
For a group of well-intentioned fanciers to come together as the Sussex Bulldog ones have, and produce not only a healthier dog, able to live a long and active life, but one resembling the real bulldog of past centuries, is heart-warming. The show ring specimens at Crufts are miles away from the agile, athletic dogs once renowned all over the world as gutsy, determined, never-say-die exemplars of our national character. These Sussex Bulldogs really do look and act like bulldogs and are a major step forward in restoring the national breed to us, in the form we once prized. All power to them. May they and their dogs go from strength to strength. They certainly deserve the support and interest of every patriotic dog-lover.
The Dorset Bulldogge Club now has representatives in America, Canada, Spain, Norway and Taiwan, with interest coming from kennels in Australia, Germany, Holland, France, Portugal, Greece and Malta too. The club members are maintaining two lines in the emergent breed: a straightforward 'bully' type and a lighter more agile 'performance' type. The terrier blood used in early breeding plans has restored activity to this style of dog, as well as removing health problems which affect Bulldogs with virtually no muzzle, hips too narrow to allow natural whelping, disproportionately large heads and an anatomy which only permits laboured movement. These healthier Dorset Bulldogges are a timely introduction. The UK may well sign up soon to European legislation banning the breeding of muzzleless dogs and perpetuating type irrespective of health issues. Our KC is anticipating this by rewording a number of breed standards; I do hope that both breeders and judges will react.
For a group of well-intentioned fanciers to come together as the Dorset Bulldogge ones have, and produce not only a healthier dog, able to live a long and active life, but one resembling the real bulldog of past centuries, is heart-warming. The show ring specimens at Crufts are miles away from the agile, athletic dogs once renowned all over the world as gutsy, determined, never-say-die exemplars of our national character. These Dorset Bulldogges really do look and act like bulldogs and are a major step forward in restoring the national breed to us, in the form we once prized. All power to them. May they and their dogs go from strength to strength. They certainly deserve the support and interest of every patriotic dog-lover.
CRITIQUE OF VICTORIAN BULLDOG SOCIETY'S FIRST ANNUAL SHOW:
Introduction: This was an important historic event - the first show of a new society, the first get-together of like-minded enthusiasts and, most important of all, the first public airing of a newly-created healthier and more historically correct Bulldog. Many now famous and well established clubs have started in such a way. This show represents a huge step forward in the promotion of the traditional English Bulldog and one able to live a less stressful longer life.
Other faults: Tiny teeth.
Some of these faults were present but not to an alarming degree; it is vital however to avoid breeding common fault to common fault. It is vital too that a fault is not ignored in an otherwise good dog. Seal in the good points; gradually eradicate the unwanted features. Don't be 'kennel-blind', i.e. overlook faults in your own dogs, or be led by your own preferences - there can only be one breed blueprint.