by   David Hancock

The English Bulldog - The Small Mastiff of England

“We might suggest…that the word ‘mastiff’ was dropped when describing these smaller mastiffs, as the mastiff proper was found too slow for butcher’s work and at a disadvantage when facing a bull.”
From Edward Ash’s Dogs : Their History and Development of 1927.

" In the 'good old times', when this dog was kept by all classes, its characteristic qualities were so highly prized as to cause it to be chosen as the type of the national character of that famed 'British Bulldog courage' and tenacity of purpose which has earned for the nation the rank it has attained amongst the first powers of the world..."
'British Dogs' by Hugh Dalziel, Vol II, Upcott Gill, 1897.

The National Breed

 Of all our native breeds of dog the Bulldog is the one used the most to represent our desirable national characteristics. In times of national peril, the breed appears in cartoons, festooned in the union flag, jaw thrust forward with immense determination, eyes indicating that not one inch of ground is to be yielded. When breeds of dog are used in such times to epitomise nations, the Poodle is sometimes used to depict France and the Dachshund Germany, but the Bulldog, staunch and stoical, is the symbol used for Britain, England especially. For any native breed of dog to decline is sad; for what many regard as our national breed to do so is a catastrophe.

The Demands of Baiting

 The barbaric sport of bull-baiting demanded the production of savage, ferocious, fearsomely aggressive dogs. Any thirty pound dog prepared to attack an enraged one ton bull has to be both extraordinarily brave and almost irrationally determined, valuable characteristics but not ones without dangers. A savage, aggressive, recklessly-brave dog, however much admired in its time, has a more limited future once an unpleasant recreation like bull-baiting is discontinued. Writing in his "The Bulldog - a Monograph" of 1899, Edgar Farman observed that: "From that time forward the breed began to deteriorate, and, with the era of modern dog shows, the appearance of an up-to-date specimen became a caricature of the active and plucky animal that baited the bull".

Loss of Function

 The abolition of bull-baiting in 1835 and the advent of dog shows at the end of the 19th century combined to remove the essential ingredient in the protection of 'type' in our Bulldog, that of function. No civilised person mourns the passing of the truly cruel 'sport' of bull-baiting but it led to the Bulldog losing its purpose and never finding a new role. Breeds of dog produced mainly for exhibition need no function just cosmetic appeal. Terriers, gundogs and hounds still have a function and, although a show type has developed in many breeds, those retaining a function still have a better chance of surviving as sound healthy dogs. This retention need not of course be at the expense of handsomeness, as the Foxhound, the Beagle, the English Basset Hound and especially those quite magnificent Harriers, once bred by Betty Gingell for the Cambridgeshire pack, aptly illustrate.

Retaining Capability

 Once, for example, breeds like the Old English Sheepdog ceased to be a drovers' dog, the Standard Poodle lost its function as a water dog and the Airedale Terrier was replaced as a police dog and was no longer needed to hunt polecats, their conformation changed. There were no working criteria to be respected any longer. Fad breed points and fashion dictated their shape, appearance and temperament. The Bulldog has suffered more - perhaps more than any other breed of dog in this respect, although the show Basset Hound and Bloodhound are now rivals. It does not matter that a breed is no longer required to perform its original role, to be truly a member of that breed then today's dog with a breed name has to be capable of carrying out its original function.

Promoting Incapability

 In his 'The British Dog' of 1888, Hugh Dalziel quotes the Bulldog and Mastiff fancier Adcock as stating: "In such a combat (i.e. bull-baiting) as this, it is needless to point out that the toy dog at present cherished by a few as the English Bulldog is - notwithstanding he is frequently possessed of unflinching courage - quite incapable of the part assigned him by Claudian and the subsequent writers; indeed, the dwarfed body and limbs would not only prevent his ever being able to catch an active and unfettered bull, but would also deprive him of the ability to make good his escape should he feel so disposed, whilst the absurd, excessive, and unnatural shortness of face would render a firm and lasting hold almost an impossibility." It is difficult to disagree with that last sentence. The last quarter of the nineteenth century sounded the death knell for the old bull-baiting type of Bulldog. In his "Dogs: their History and Development" of 1927, Edward Ash wrote: "When bull-baiting...ended, the dog was bred for 'fancy', and characteristics desired at earlier times for fighting and baiting purposes were exaggerated, so that the unfortunate dog became unhappily abnormal. In this translation stage huge, broad, ungainly heads were obtained, legs widely bowed were developed, and frequently the dog was a cripple." In the pursuit of a smaller, less aggressive animal, breeders resorted to the blood of the Pug, an equable companionable breed of great charm.

The Introduction of Pug Blood

 I know of only one book on the KC Bulldog that acknowledges this cross and describes its undesirable consequences. This is the first book devoted to the breed, Robert Fulton's 'The Bulldog' of 1889, in which he states: "...I firmly believe the pug was in a measure used, judging from the structural formation of many specimens." It is flatly denied by Bulldog breeders today but all the authoritative writers on dogs at the end of the last century and at the start of this: Vero Shaw, Rawdon Lee, Sydenham Edwards, Robert Leighton and the celebrated 'Stonehenge', state that it did. How can any breed prosper in an atmosphere of deceit and harmful concealment? Outside blood can have value but only when it is planned for improvement rather than from some influential clique's whim. Some see the Pug cross with the Bulldog as somehow demeaning to the latter, perhaps through being over-conscious of the Pug's classification as a Toy dog breed. The significance of this infusion of Pug blood however lies in the effect it has had on the muzzle length, or rather the lack of it, in the Bulldog. The game little Pug has managed to cope with the Asiatic "smashed face" for at least three centuries in Europe and perhaps two millennia in its native country. The Bulldog is not coping as well and is suffering both as an individual breed and as a subject living creature from such an unnatural design. The legacy of Pug blood is covered in an ensuing section.

Absurd Wording

 The Bulldog breed standard has historically drawn disapproval. In 1888, it was being accused, by a well-known breeder, Adcock, of being: "absurd...founded upon no basis...been foisted upon breeders...in advocating the production of a small, thin ear, he is unconsciously but certainly diminishing the thickness and volume of the skin covering the head and neck, so necessary for the protection of an essentially gladitorial animal...the tail must be destitute of rough hair, which practically means that the coat of the dog must be of an extremely fine nature...this peculiarity tends to, and has actually resulted in, diminution of the bony structures; the inferior dentition; and weakness of constitution." Certainly today's pure-bred Bulldog suffers from a number of problems created by its own approved design.
Sounder Show Dog
It is only fair however to say that, in the last twenty years, some show-ring Bulldog fanciers have taken steps to make the breed sounder, with tighter mouths and a more symmetrical build for example. But it is also fair, I believe, to say that the pedigree Bulldog still lacks the mobility, muzzle-length, leg-length and health and vigour of its prototypal ancestors. To survive in the bullring, a bulldog had to be lightning fast; agile and athletic, as well as fearless and tenacious. We cannot claim to be breeding real Bulldogs unless the breed is still physically able (although thankfully never asked) to carry out its original function.
Against this background, it is pleasing to come across Bulldog breeders in Canada and Australia, using stock handed down from migrating ancestors, who are perpetuating the breed much more in its classic mould than many show-ring fanciers in this or any other country. Bulldog devotees here would no doubt claim that only a "Kennel Club Bulldog" is the real Bulldog. To them one can only say: Look at the early paintings, even the early photographs of the breed and you will soon see that you have lost your way, in your endeavours to strive for those breed points which, somewhat strangely, judges consider as essential.
Lolly Wilkinson of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, tells me that her Original English Bulldogges weigh around 75lbs for a male and 50lbs for a female, with the dogs about 19" at the shoulder and the bitches around 17". This is rather different from the current KC standard for the breed which puts dogs at 55lbs, with no height stipulated. The 1865 description of a Bulldog by 'Philo-Kuon', often quoted by breed enthusiasts, lays down a bracket of 20-60lbs weight. But at the end of the 18th century, with bull-baiting still in vogue, taller and heavier dogs were favoured, as the illustrations of the breed at that time indicate.
Iconic Ancestors
The painting of a pair of Bulldogs 'Crib and Rosa' by Abraham Cooper in 1817 inspired many Bulldog breeders in the nineteenth century, with 'Rosa' being considered to "approach perfection in shape, make and size of the ideal type of the bulldog", as the early standard put it. But in 1894 the committee of the Bulldog Club deleted this sentence. Since then the pedigree Bulldog has lost the length of leg, the athletic build and the overall symmetry of 'Rosa'. Writing in his authoritative "The Bulldog - a Monograph" of 1899, Edgar Farman referred to this deletion with these words: "By the old school this act on the part of the Bulldog Club was considered little short of vandalism...Certain it is that fashion has decreed for the moment that the English bulldog should not be what Rosa was..." Since that decision, our famous Bulldog, considered by many to be our national mascot, has become in the eyes of many critics a squat, wheezing, low-slung, unathletic distortion of its true form, unable to give birth naturally and handicapped by respiratory problems. But Lolly Wilkinson in Canada has a ten year old dog which can run, swim and frolic endlessly; her bitches whelp large litters in a few hours without veterinary assistance. She will have nothing to do with kennel clubs or breed clubs and quite admirably breeds principally for health and temperament. In Australia too, Noel and Tina Green breed the 'Aussie Bulldog', commendably athletic and remarkably like the old prints some Bulldog fanciers here still hold dear, without honouring this heritage.

The Sporting Bulldog

  In his "An Introduction to the Field Sports of France" of 1846, O'Connor wrote: "Those who hunt the vieux solitaire (i.e. an old boar, living alone) in a less formal manner, and with a less expensive equipage, employ a few couple of the strongest dogs they can procure: (bull dogs are much esteemed for the purpose), and search for him where they conceive they are most likely to find him in the forest..." Wild boar are fearsome adversaries; most hounds will not close with them, hence the use of recklessly brave 'seizers' or bulldogs. It could well be that more bulldogs died in the boar hunt than boars. Charles St John, in his "Wild Sports and Natural History of the Highlands" of 1919, wrote that: "I at one time had an English bulldog, who accompanied me constantly in deer stalking; he learned to crouch and creep up to the deer with me, never showing himself, and seemingly to understand perfectly what I wished him to do. When necessary I could leave him for hours together, lying alone on the hill, when he would never stir till called by me." Here is a skilful dog displaying  composure, patience and discipline, backed by stamina. This is the performance of a sporting breed. Such qualities were valued by those operating in testing circumstances overseas, forestry officials in India and pioneer farmers in South Africa, for example. Sanderson, in his book "Elephant Catching in India", towards the end of the 19th century, described the dogs used to protect forestry workers from bears, buffalo and boar; all were Bulldog-based. He used what he called a Bullmastiff, weighing 40lbs, a Bull Terrier bitch, weighing 35lbs, a Bull Terrier dog, weighing 40lbs and two pups from a mating of the first two. He wrote that local dogs would bay big animals which menaced his workers but only the "bullbreeds" would stand their ground and defend the workers, regularly risking their lives in doing so. The bravery of a dog weighing only three stones in facing such huge opponents is quite astonishing.
Instilling Bravery
Bulldog blood has long been valued for instilling bravery and fortitude into other breeds. Sam Wickens, writing as Philo-Kuon, in the celebrated breed standard of 1865, stated that: "He is generally an excellent guard, an extraordinary water dog, and very valuable to cross with Terriers, Pointers, Hounds, Greyhounds, etc., to give them courage and endurance." In his "The Dog" of 1880, the Rev Thomas Pearce, writing as Idstone, said that: "The Bulldog owes his celebrity to his indomitable courage, which he transmits in large measure to his descendants when crossed with almost any breed." So the Bulldog is renowned for improving other sporting breeds, but isn't allowed to be considered one itself! Bulldogs had to be swift, agile and athletic just to survive in the appalling world of baiting animals. The disgraceful treatment meted out to the baited animals gives you some idea of the so-called human beings involved in such barbarity. There are records of bears having their claws and teeth ripped out, bulls having hot oil poured in their ears, black pepper being thrust up their nostrils, having not just their tongues and noses cut out but their forelegs cut off to lower their height. Most of the baiting dogs suffered too.
Some commentators, especially around Crufts time, suggest that the design of the Bulldog of today inflicts discomfort and disadvantage on the breed amounting to cruelty. Simon Wolfensohn, a practising vet, writing in the New Scientist nineteen years ago, listed, in the breed of Bulldog: respiratory problems due to the short nose, dental problems due to the short jaw, protusion of the upper or lower jaw, skin infections due to bacteria becoming trapped in the folds of the skin and problems giving birth. The authoritative "Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs" edited by Clark and Stainer, published by Forum Publications USA in 1994, states that only 6% of bitches whelp naturally, that of 707 pups delivered in 150 caesarean sections 37 had cleft palates and 58 of them died of walrus syndrome (three times normal birth weight). The book describes as "one of the most devastating conditions found in the Bulldog" foreleg lameness caused by loose shoulder joints and leading to severe chronic strain on the shoulder and elbow joints, resulting in debilitating foreleg arthritis. Since the breed standard requires the Bulldog to have forelegs set wide apart and elbows which stand well away from the ribs, such a problem is scarcely surprising. As this breed standard demands a dog with a massive head and hindquarters lighter in comparison with heavy foreparts, natural whelping is hardly assisted.
Impeded Powers of Locomotion 
In his The Bulldog – A Monograph of 1899, Edgar Farman wrote: "The early show Bulldogs were not so cloddy as the exaggerated specimens now are, they were not so heavily built that their powers of locomotion were impeded..." The "powers of locomotion" of the Bulldog are not exactly helped by the wording on gait/movement in the breed standard: peculiarly heavy and constrained. Why would anyone want their dog to walk in a strangely cumbersome and unnaturally forced manner? Or is this inevitable when the standard demands forelegs wide apart, elbows which stand well away from the dog's ribs and hocks "made to approach each other", with stifles "round" (if that is physically possible). The biggest handicap to the modern non-sporting Bulldog is not so much in its unnatural movement but in its untypically short muzzle. It is significant that in those bulldog breeds developed outside Britain from stock taken there several centuries ago do not feature a muzzleless head. The American Bulldog, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, the "Olde Englishe Bulldogges" of Lolly Wilkinson in Vancouver and the Ca de Bou or Majorcan Bulldog all have balanced heads with good muzzle length. These breeds resemble the sporting Bulldogs depicted in old prints much more than our contemporary British breed. And the reason is quite simple: they pre-date the introduction of Pug blood into the Bulldog.
Books on both the Pug and the Bulldog usually choose to overlook this fact, which is dishonest and misleading. Authorities such as Vero Shaw, Stonehenge, Sydenham Edwards, Rawdon Lee and Robert Leighton, each one respected as a dog historian, all testify that this cross took place. It brought to the Bulldog the "smashed face" of some Asiatic breeds and a feature not only untypical and harmful to health but one genetically important, for it is dominant. Its harm was summarised by vet Simon Wolfensohn in the New Scientist of 1981: "The shortening of the jaw and the anterior part of the skull in short-nosed breeds has the effect of distorting the airway; the soft palate is prolonged to the point that it interferes with breathing...and the nasal sinuses are shortened, giving rise to chronic sinusitis and more serious respiratory infections...most of these breeds (i.e. Pugs and Bulldogs) suffer dental problems because the upper and lower jaws are not equal in length and the jaw is so short that the teeth are overcrowded..."
Unfavoured 'Old Sort'
The muzzle-less Bulldog is handicapped and untypical. In his "The Dog Book" of 1906, James Watson recalls visiting a dog show at Alexandra Palace at the end of the 1870s and being briefed by the famous Bulldog man Bill George's son, Alfred, with the words: "...there has been a great change since you went away. You will see some of the old sort at father's, but they don't do for showing." There is a famous painting by Cresswell Desmond, entitled The Old Order Changeth, Yielding Place to New, depicting the newly-fancied brindle exaggerated Bulldog coming to the fore and the old more athletic dog exiting to the rear. The craving for shortened muzzles in show ring Bulldogs had won the day, sadly for the health and type of this superb breed. The infliction of such harm to a breed, knowingly, is shameful in most circumstances; when related to the breed of Bulldog it is a crime.
Of all dog breeds the Bulldog can lay claim to be the one most abused by man. It is man who forced these dogs to torment bulls and bears in the name of a so-called sport. It is man who has bred these dogs so that they feature a long list of physical and health handicaps. Barbarity can take different forms and cruelty can be indirect. Surely in the allegedly more enlightened times of the more compassionate 21st century, we can restore this magnificent native breed to its real sporting type and authentic healthier design. There is a moral vacuum here, just waiting to be filled, not just by individuals like Ken Mollett, with his re-created Victorian Bulldogs, but by a concerned nation of animal lovers - you and me! Don't buy deformed dogs!   
Writers have not been kind to this breed or its breeders down the years. Goldsmith, in his 'Animated Nature' of 1840, wrote of the Bulldog: "Their life is short, though their development is slow, they scarcely acquire maturity under eighteen months and at five or six years show signs of decrepitude." Concern has been expressed in recent years too about the short lifespan of the breed. Vero Shaw, writing in 1879, related that "The Bull-dog has undoubtedly suffered considerably from his association with the lower classes of the community...amongst other undesirable practices which have crept in...is the abominable mutilation resorted to by some breeders to shorten the length of the upper jaw, and turn the nose well up. No words can express our repugnance at the horrible cruelty thus inflicted upon the unhappy  puppies..."
Muzzle-less Skull
Three years earlier, two Bulldogs had been disqualified for such 'faking' by the veterinary inspector at a major London show but the KC permitted a second vet to pronounce them 'honest' and restored their prizes. This was not exactly the most admirable or encouraging decision for the governing body to make for the breed. The near muzzle-less skull and squat build introduced by Pug blood (a cross denied by many but verified by six quite different Victorian writers) was not admired by every Bulldog admirer. James Watson, in his masterly 'The Dog Book' of 1906, writing: "It is useless for fanciers either here (i.e. the USA) or in England to argue that the present-day dog is the same as the old sort; those who say so cannot have any personal knowledge of what Bulldogs were..."  Half a century later, the well-known writer Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald was to write in his 'The Domestic Dog': "...Thus we developed the Bulldog. But it must not be thought that the Bulldog of the bull-ring bore any resemblance to the squat and wheezing barrel that bears his name today...breeders have produced an animal that is a travesty of the old English Bulldog. The exaggeration of the peculiarities in the breed has been done, of course, for show purposes." One expert on the breed, Barrett Fowler, in his 'Bulldogs and all about them' of 1925, supported this view, writing: "It was the aim of some breeders to produce the most exaggerated specimens possible. They misread the standard and taught others to misread it also."   He was a Bulldog devotee.
It is fair to ask what the Kennel Club, with its self-appointed mandate of 'the improvement of dogs' was doing whilst this was going on. But that body has often in the past just responded to breed clubs rather than truly overseeing them. That light rein has its merits when things are going well, not so much so when unsound unhealthy dogs result. Barrett Fowler also wrote: "...a vast number of crippled, unhealthy and grossly exaggerated specimens of the breed were being exhibited, and, what is worse, winning prizes." Those prizes were won at shows run by the KC. Another Bulldog expert, Edgar Farman, in his 'The Bulldog-a Monograph' of 1899, observed that: "From that time forward the breed began to deteriorate, and, with the era of modern dog shows, the appearance of an up-to-date specimen became a caricature of the active and plucky animal that baited the bull." These are the words of Bulldog men.   
Departure from the Original
Occasionally I see a KC-registered Bulldog that could challenge a Victorian Bulldog for type, health and vigour; but this is only exceptionally. At half a dozen World Dog Shows I have been seriously depressed at the sheer unsoundness, quite apart from a departure from historic type, of the Bulldogs exhibited there. I was no longer proud of their British origins. Writing on the Bulldog before the First World War, Robert Leighton, the leading dog writer of that time, stated that: "It must be acknowledged that there are many strains of this breed which are constitutionally unsound...Excessive shortness of face is not natural...The specimens alive in 1817 as seen in prints of that period, were not so cloddy as those met with at the present day". For many the Bulldog is still "cloddy" and unlike its ancestors.
Arthur Croxton-Smith, writing between the wars, stated that: "Few breeds have undergone more changes or departed more markedly from the original than the bulldog". We now need a Bulldog breeder with the independence of character to show the way back to other Bulldog fanciers. (And, please God, before the appearance of the Euro-Bulldog!) A love of dogs alone could lead that breeder to produce a healthier more mobile Bulldog; a love of country in addition could lead to our national canine symbol being restored to its true type, without in any way losing that superlative character, so exploited by our newspaper cartoonists to exemplify our desired national image. Are we, now that the KC has acknowledged two centuries of folly, going to get our Bulldog back?   

Indirect Cruelty

 I am wary of moral vanity in society but this dire situation almost invites the animal activists of our times to take up the cause of the Kennel Club registered Bulldog. In my view, indirect cruelty is involved and something dramatic has to be done to focus attention on this wholly unacceptable destruction of a unique and justly famous national symbol. To our everlasting shame it took an American visitor, Mrs. Eldridge, to restore the real Cavalier King Charles spaniel to us, after she had been outraged by the Asiatic "smashed face" muzzles introduced by misguided breeders into the King Charles spaniel. Our beloved Bulldog desperately needs a similar benefactor.

Re-creating the Real Bulldog

 A number of worthy people have attempted to re-create the genuine Bulldog. The late Clifford Derwent, himself a successful dog breeder of other breeds, exhibitor and highly rated judge, developed what he called Regency Bulldogs. But he couldn't get the temperament right and abandoned his admirable quest. Then the late Ken Mollett of Pinner took up the challenge, with some success. Using a blend of Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bullmastiff and oversized pure-bred Bulldog, he stabilised his own distinct Victorian Bulldog type: active, agile, unexaggerated and yet unaggressive. He deserved greater support. The physical condition of our pedigree Bulldog is a matter screaming out, on humane grounds alone, for action by the Kennel Club. Yet despite their ownership of the harmfully worded breed standard, they see it as a matter for the breed clubs. But why should the latter change when their members can sell their pups for £600-£800 each?
Shamed by a hard-hitting well-researched BBC documentary on harmful breeding practices in pedigree dogs, the Kennel Club is insisting quite rightly on a number of changes to the written standards, the 'breed design', of many pedigree breeds, including the Bulldog. Altered by 19th century show breeders and reshaped by exaggeration, the Bulldog has since degenerated into an inactive squashed-faced over-wrinkled caricature of its former self. But already the entrenched Bulldog breeders are opposing the proposed changes. The question many vets have been asking for years is this: why should this breed struggle with breathing and whelping difficulties created by the wording of the standard for the breed? Before the excesses of the show ring took effect, the Bulldog had a muzzle!
Rumour has it that a group of continental Bulldog fanciers have approached the international kennel club, the FCI, with a request for a 'Continental Bulldog' to be recognised by them. This 'new breed' will apparently be a reversion to the old-style more athletic one, depicted in old prints and paintings, lacking the muzzle-less head, wide forefront and narrow hips of the KC-recognised breed, favoured in the show-ring here. In Switzerland, Holland, Australia, the United States and Canada, other talented and well-intentioned breeders have produced less exaggerated specimens, with mixed success. It would be shameful surely if overseas breeders managed to produce a Bulldog, and get it registered, which more faithfully portrayed our much-loved native breed. In June 2000, I was invited to judge the Victorian Bulldog Society's 1st Annual Show at Donnisthorpe; it was a privilege to act as Best in Show Judge at this inaugural meeting and to have the pleasure of meeting such sporting and well-intentioned exhibitors. I congratulated Ken Mollett and Martin Moran on the success of this first show. We all owe Ken a vote of thanks for all his work over many years to bring sanity back into the Bulldog world. May the Society go from strength to strength. Sadly Ken Mollett did not live long enough to see his visionary pioneering work succeed.
Epitomising Tenacity
The British have over the years created more breeds of dog than any other nation. But of these breeds, one above all has been singled out, especially in times of international crisis, to symbolise our national characteristics: the British Bulldog. Long misused by man in such barbaric activities as bear and bull-baiting, the Bulldog has come to be seen as epitomising the tenacity, stoicism and pugnacity desired in British stock. But in this breed, as with some other pedigree breeds of dog, the wish to perpetuate strong breed show-points has led to harmful exaggeration. This has not happened however with the French Bulldog. The desire for a smaller more passive dog, with the pugnacious look which so typifies the Bulldog, led misguided fanciers in the past to outcross with Pugs, mainly to shorten the muzzle. The seeking of an indomitable, 'no surrender' stance in the breed has led to poor front quarters, with specimens in Victorian times displaying all kinds of quite dreadful structural faults. The KC show Bulldog is now a caricature of itself. I have judged both the American Bulldog and the Victorian Bulldog and been impressed by their soundness, both in physique and temperament. The 'Aussie Bulldogs' of the Greens look like real Bulldogs. Some American and Swiss breeders are producing healthier sounder dogs. I have also seen 'Sussex Bulldogs' and  'Dorset Old Tyme Bulldogges', currently being bred by well-intentioned fanciers, that looked healthy and unexaggerated, active and agile, breathing and moving freely.
These Dorset Bulldogge fanciers are producing active athletic dogs which live long healthy lives and look real characters. Their club is 14 years old, their breeding programme is now 22 years old, and their first stud-book entered dog is now 14 years old. I do not know of a Kennel Club-registered Bulldog living to such an age. Their club has well over 350 members and conducts three well-attended shows a year, featuring quite admirable dogs. The Dorset Bulldogge breeders are seeking a dog standing around 20 inches at the shoulder, ranging from 60 to 90 lbs, stocky, well-muscled, with a muzzle long enough to permit good respiration and a torso which allows natural whelping. This is in contrast with 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, to include the phrase 'Dogs showing respiratory distress highly undesirable.'
Overseas Impact
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.
The Sussex Club’s 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 that 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. 

Need for Agility

 The English Bulldog should be: a powerful canine athlete, able to move like lightning over a short distance, with great neck and shoulder strength and a substantial jaw, able to display considerable agility - a healthy animal with a symmetrical, well-balanced physique free of exaggeration. It has never needed a massive head, a short body, with elbows and shoulders looking as though they are a late addition; it should be able to run just as its own ancestors could. It doesn't have to suffer from distressing eye conditions such as ectropian and entropian, incapacitating respiratory conditions such as trachial hypoplasia, overlong soft palate and laryngeal paralysis, congenital heart conditions like pulmonic stenosis, ventricular septal defect and mitral insufficiency, a host of dental and skin problems and vertebrae deformities. We should be ashamed of what we have done to the small mastiff of England, the world-famous, rightly-renowned, breed of Bulldog.      

"Anyhow, the Bulldog of today is an entirely different animal, both physically and mentally, from the Bulldog of fifty years ago. Then he was a leggy, terrier-like, active brute...As to whether the fancier has improved the breed constitutionally is a moot point. Type has certainly been made more uniform; but this in many cases has been at the expense of other qualities."
'British Dogs' by WD Drury, 1903.

"I at one time had an English bulldog, who accompanied me constantly in deer-stalking; he learnt to crouch and creep up to the deer with me, never showing himself...If a deer was wounded, he could follow the track with untiring perseverance, distinguishing the scent of the wounded animal...he would also follow the stag till he brought him to bay, when, with great address in avoiding the horns, he would rush in and seize him, either by the throat or the ear..."
"Wild Sports and Natural History of the Highlands" by Charles St. John, Foulis, 1919.

(Despite this inherited skill, the Bulldog is placed in the Non-Sporting Division, in the Utility Group, by the Kennel Club of Britain; in the Non-Sporting Group by the American Kennel Club and in Group 2, Pinscher and Schnauzer Type, Molossian and Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs by the FCI. Not one kennel club in the world recognises the modified brachycephalic type of dog as a hound or as a sporting dog.)        

"Of the cruel forms of 'faking', perhaps that once in vogue to give the Bulldog the correct facial expression was one of the most dastardly. It was brought about by the aid of an appliance so contrived that it could be fitted to the head of the dog, and after being securely fastened by straps, so as to prevent any possibility of its shifting, the pad which pressed tightly against the nose, could be screwed up until sufficient pressure was obtained to force the nasal organ into the required position. The leaders, or strings, that attach the upper lip to the gums, were also severed, in order to still further accentuate the characteristic appearance so much admired by Bulldog fanciers. During the time the nose machine was in position, the dog's legs were strapped together, to prevent him from displacing the apparatus, and he had to remain motionless for hours at a time, except when fed or when slight exercise was given, until the nose had 'set' into the required shape."
'British Dogs' by Hugh Dalziel, Vol III, Upcott Gill, 1897.

The pedigree KC-registered breed of Bulldog needs a new Breed Standard if it is to progress; here is my draft for such a rethink:


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 hound-like. 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.

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