by   David Hancock

Sporting Role: To seize and hold big game (when a bigger breed) such as bison, boar and wild bulls. To bait bulls.

Working Role: To pin wayward cattle, to drive stubborn stock, to provide support for butchers and cattle farmers. To guard.

General Appearance: A powerfully-built, well-muscled, broad-mouthed but strongly-muzzled, short-haired, substantial dog, around a foot and a half at the shoulder; brindle, red or white, or fawn in colour; active, athletic, formidable-looking and hinting at great power and determination.

Characteristics: Bold, confident and protective, without unwanted aggression, naturally inquisitive, physically and mentally reliable, possessing great stamina yet able to produce bursts of dynamic energy, alert and eager to learn, devoted to its own family but suspicious of strangers, tolerant of other dogs, impressively magnanimous. Not noisy by nature.

Temperament: Mentally stable, utterly trustworthy with children, spirited at times but mainly calm and phlegmatic, showing no sign of shyness or needless apprehension, able instinctively to discern between acceptable human activity and that warranting suspicion. Can be diffident when young.

Aptitude: Willingness to investigate suspicious activity, able to track, prepared to guard without hesitation but always  under control, possessing the instinct to seize and hold or 'pin' its quarry.

Construction: Must have the anatomy of an active dog, powerful but agile, strongly-made but never heavy-boned in a cumbersome way, really broad in the chest, with the ribs carried well back, strong in the neck and powerful in the head, with most of the weight on the forehand, showing appreciable width and ample length in the muzzle. A balanced dog with a low station.

Forefront: The head was designed for seizing and gripping sizeable quarry, it therefore needs: a jaw with width and length - roughly one third of the whole head length, the jaws closing in a scissor bite (slightly undershot permitted), with well-formed strong even teeth. The breed should not feature massive heads, with its accompanying whelping problems, severely undershot jaws, with its tendency to exaggerate itself with each generation, too short a muzzle, with its loss of gripping power and concomitant dentition problems, or excessive loose skin on the cheeks and foreface, flews or dewlaps; these are show ring whims not the requirements of a functional holding dog. The 'stop' is appreciable but not too deep or abrupt (associated with cleft palate). The nose is wide, displaying well-developed nostrils; the eyes are full, tight and dark. The ears are soft-leathered, high set, drop or rose,  never large or houndlike. The neck is extremely powerful, strongly muscled, clean without throatiness, sweeping into the shoulders without coarseness. A low head carriage on the move is characteristic, the occipital foramen, through which the spinal cord emerges, is placed a little lower in the skull in this breed.

Forehand: The shoulder blades are set well apart; the shoulders are well laid back; the upper arm is of sufficient length to allow good forward extension; the elbows fit closely, never displaying the 'out at elbow' structure once sadly favoured in the Bulldog; the 'elbow slash' must allow a good degree of forward reach; the forelegs are straight when seen from the front but show a forward slope of pastern when seen from the side, to allow spring when jumping and landing, an important feature in a hefty active dog; without this splay feet ensue. The forelegs should be powerful but not be over-timbered, with strong flat bone preferred to round heavy bone. The length of foreleg in adult animals should roughly equal the depth of chest. The feet are round and sizeable, with strong toes, robust pads and sturdy nails.

Torso: The chest is really broad, deep and well-sprung; the body is compact and short-coupled without losing flexibility; The underline of the abdomen shows discernible but not appreciable tuck-up; the loins are wide, slightly arched and strongly muscled; the topline is level, with the length from point of shoulder to point of buttock being slightly more than the height at the withers.

Hindhand: The croup is slightly lower than the withers, falling away gently towards the root of tail. The hindquarters are extremely powerfully muscled, with well let down hocks, a distinct turn of stifle, and straight legs when seen from the rear; The feet are round, compact without being bunched, with strong tough durable pads and sturdy nails, which must not be brittle. The tail is set-on low with a thick root, carried low. A tail which is set on too high indicates too flat a placement of the croup or sacrum, so often accompanied by straight stifles and then the inevitable slipping kneecaps.

Movement: This should demonstrate obvious determination, with a strong action, powerful drive from the rear, with minimal leg lift, apparent spring and  obvious economy of effort, based on good coordination of front and rear actions. The forelegs must retain separation when moving, so that the dog remains balanced. Strongly-built dogs should not 'pull' themselves along, but drive themselves along. The heavier the dog then the greater the importance of balance and sound movement, which indicates, more than any human visual judgement, sound construction.

Coat: Colour; in order of preference: red brindle, other brindle shades, solid white or white/pied, solid red, fawn or fallow. Black or black and tan is not desired.     

      Texture; short, close, hard, dense; softer on the head and ear leathers; the skin of the breed is thick apart from that on the head.

Size: Height at withers; 17-19" (males); 16-18" (females).        

      Weight; 65-80lbs (males); 55-65lbs (females). Always commensurate with height.

Faults: Disqualifying; Totally squashed nose, with no visible


                       Too straight at stifle.

                       Noticeably out at elbow.

                       Lack of 'spread' in the chest.

                       Cow hocks.

                       Wry mouth.

                       Visible incisors, when mouth closed.


       Serious;        Tiny teeth.                                    

                       Thin neck.

                       Severely undershot.

                       Plaiting (front feet crossing on the  


                       Ribs not carried back far enough.

                       Small head (in adult animals).

                       Lack of drive behind. 

                       Angle of the hock too closed.


        Others;        Too abrupt a 'stop'.

                       Poor pigmentation.

                       Splay feet.

                       Sway back.

                       Narrow across the hips.

                       Prominent eyes.

                       Any degree of haw.

                       Weak loins.


Note: Any resemblance to the Pug should be severely penalised. The pursuit of massive heads, excessive wrinkle, muzzleless skulls and a disproportionately small pelvis is alien to the Victorian Bulldog.


[First Draft: David Hancock, June 2000].

N.B. This is a discussion document not the finished article. It is intended to offer a comprehensive text for future draftees.