By: Orvis Staff
The wrinkled face and short nose is a well-known silhouette—the Bulldog has made his impression on the world. The goofy antics of the fourth most popular dog breed are sure to grab attention. Where did Bulldogs come from and how did this breed become so popular?
Where Do Bulldogs Come From?
The Bulldog was developed in Britain and is often called the English Bulldog or British Bulldog. The Bulldog’s history stretches as far back as the 1500s—though development of the breed as we know it didn’t begin until the last half of the 17th century. The Bulldog has been the symbol of British determination for decades. Winston Churchill was often referred to as a Bulldog during World War II. And many colleges, teams, and businesses across Britain and the United States use the Bulldog as a mascot.
How Did the Bulldog Get Its Name?
The original Bulldog was a working dog, named for its job of bringing in bulls for slaughter. They were also called ‘butchers’ dogs’ as they were used to control livestock to prevent injury to the butcher. Later, the Bulldog was used in the cruel sport of bull baiting, where he was expected to bite onto a tethered bull’s nose in an attempt to subdue it. The first dog in the ring to force the bull to the ground was considered the winner. Many dogs were gored or killed during the sport and the Cruelty to Animals Act banned the activity in 1835.
Bulldogs nearly went extinct afterward, but the Bulldog Club formed in 1874 bringing about a reemergence of the breed. Bulldogs became popular pets when Bulldog clubs bred dogs for the best qualities of the breed—strength, persistence, and devotion—while working to remove any aggression. And it wasn’t just his temperament that changed. The Bulldog of today looks nothing like its bull baiting or butcher’s dog ancestors. Because of the physical changes in the breed, modern Bulldogs would not be able to grip a bull’s nose, nor would they be able to herd bulls to market. Instead, they’re loved for their charming personalities rather than working ability.
Are Bulldogs Hypoallergenic?
The Bulldog is not considered hypoallergenic. Bulldogs have short fur, but allergic reactions are attributed to more than fur alone. Though their hair is short, the Bulldog’s saliva, skin, and dander may trigger allergic reactions—and there’s no shortage of saliva in this drooly breed. The daily care required for the Bulldog’s wrinkled face and body puts owners in direct contact with saliva, dander, and other proteins which may cause an allergic reaction.
Are Bulldogs Lazy?
The stocky, wrinkle-faced Bulldog may seem like a couch potato, so it may be surprising that this breed has a long history as a working dog. While they have the reputation as lazy dogs who like to sleep the day away, they are actually quite energetic—when they want to be. Bulldogs are thrilled to run and romp outdoors, and their sudden bursts of energy occasionally surprise onlookers who view the breed as lazy. Describing a Bulldog as calm or laid-back would be more accurate, as they have been bred to be relaxed and easygoing. While they’re not demanding when it comes to activity level, Bulldogs still need exercise—at their own ambling pace—in order to avoid excessive weight gain.
Can Bulldogs Fly on Planes?
Many airlines have banned Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds in response to the deaths of pets in their care—the Bulldog is considered one of the most likely breeds to die in flight. Brachycephalic, or snub-nosed, breeds such as the Bulldog may have difficulty breathing, especially while stressed or at high altitudes. Many airlines no longer allow them to fly in cargo for the dog’s safety, and others may not allow specific breeds to ride in the cabin. While some airlines restrict canine passengers under only certain conditions—no short-faced dogs during extremely high or low temperatures or on long flights—others will not allow them to fly at all. And while airlines may accept Bulldogs with a signed note from a veterinarian, many vets will not provide permission for such risky transportation. Some animal-specific airlines accept brachycephalic pets and have a staff available to observe and care for the pets for the duration of the flight, but tickets for the service are expensive.
The steadfast Bulldog is a fantastic choice for people looking for a loyal dog who knows how to relax—but also likes to clown around. While a Bulldog requires some special considerations due to his short nose and lower energy level, he makes a wonderful family dog. The breed’s looks have changed considerably through the years, but the best qualities have persisted thanks to careful breeding. The delightful Bulldog has left its past as a fighter behind and has emerged as a lovable companion.