by   David Hancock

“Methinks, too, that the modern Bull-terrier has lost much of its character, and that touch of the devil which the old-timers used to display. Mark you, I do not mean savagery. No dog should be ‘a savage’, certainly not a Bull-terrier, which should be – and generally is – an affectionate and good-natured creature; but he should be able to take his own part when grossly insulted or assaulted. This trait should show itself in the dog’s bearing and expression, and that is just lacking in some of the ‘moderns’.”
Major Harding Cox in his Dogs and I, Hutchinson, 1928.

We once had a breed of dog, created here in England but eventually known throughout the British Empire, admired for its bravery, respected for the staunchness of its character, revered for its indomitable spirit and popular, not just because of these qualities, but because it was also robust, unexaggerated, sensibly constructed and stable in temperament. Once its dog-fighting ancestry had been bred out, this breed, the Bull Terrier, became rather more than the 'Bill Sykes' character of the dog world, with its blood being utilised to inject gameness into other breeds from the heelers of Australia to the hunting mastiffs of Argentina. Referred to early on in its history as the bull-and-terrier, from its ingredients of terrier and Bulldog, this no-nonsense breed seemed the perfect companion for growing boys and the feared adversary of house-thieves. Writing in the 1890s, the dog writer "Idstone" reported that: "In the country house he is almost indispensible, as he is the resolute and determined enemy of vermin, and an efficient, vigilant guard to stables and outbuildings. His admirable form, combining in an exact proportion the frame best suited for activity, endurance, pace...”

GP Sanderson writing in his Thirty Years among the Wild Beasts of India of 1896 gave a powerful recommendation for the breed:  “Previous to the time when my duties led to my living entirely in the jungles, I always kept one or two good bull-terriers for encounters with jackals, wild cats, etc. On the few occasions when I had the chance of using these dogs at formidable beasts they so distinguished themselves as to impress me with a high opinion of their prowess, and of their ability to overcome larger animals than might be thought possible.” Nowadays we have a very different view of hunting big game, and rightly so. But we should never underestimate the courage of the dogs used in such conflicts. And, of course, this breed has long been famed as a ratting terrier and is a major ingredient in most Bull-Lurchers.

I go to 'alternative' dog shows, unlicensed by the KC, and see what are termed 'Irish Staffies' and they look exactly like the old prints of our renowned Bull Terrier. Lyndon Ingles of Tredegar has kept the faith and perseveres with the classic type of white Bull Terrier; his dog, aptly named ‘Hinks’ is as good a specimen of the breed as you are likely to find. This breed used to be owned by gruff characters, who didn't set much store on conforming - just as bull-and-terrier owners didn't in the 19th century! Our Bull Terrier is a very special English breed and it is being ruined by a bunch of misguided show breeders, who have no regard for the breed's classic physique and truly typical head. How can any rational person, especially an alleged lover of that breed, justify the imposition of a sheep's head on a dog's body? It isn't traditional; it isn't an improvement, if anything it is a deformation, a disfigurement. It is an outrageous liberty taken by faddists and condoned by the KC. Any admirer of our native breeds of dog, especially one as characterful as this one, should frown when they see this travesty, this parody being paraded as the real thing. Come on, terrier-men of England, let’s put this right!

Show breeders seem to overlook the fact that their breed was once very much a sporting terrier - long before it was a fighting dog. It is not right to perpetuate the gladiator and not respect the field dog. There is an abundance of antique prints and old paintings which depict the bull-and-terrier in action in the field. Breeders need to look at the American Pit Bull Terrier to spot the genuine anatomy for the pit; whatever their misuse by man, this breed resemble powerful canine athletes not waddling brutes. They are in fact more like the old depictions of the bull-and-terrier ancestors of the contemporary breed of Bull Terrier than the show Bull Terrier. There is a vital question for show breeders of Bull Terriers to answer: which do you want your breed to resemble, the fighting dog or the sporting dog? We need to restore the Bull Terrier of England to its rightful form.