The Bulldog is a British breed of dog of mastiff type. It may also be known as the English Bulldog or British Bulldog. It is a medium-sized, muscular dog of around 40–55 lb (18–25 kg). They have large heads with thick folds of skin around the face and shoulders and a relatively flat face with a protruding lower jaw. The breed has significant health issues as a consequence of breeding for its distinctive appearance, including brachycephaly, hip dysplasia, heat sensitivity, and skin infections. Due to concerns about their quality of life, breeding Bulldogs is illegal in Norway and the Netherlands.

Other namesEnglish Bulldog,
British Bulldog
NotesNational animal of United Kingdom
Dog (domestic dog)

The modern Bulldog was bred as a companion dog from the Old English Bulldog, a now-extinct breed used for bull-baiting when the sport was outlawed in England under the Cruelty to Animals Act. The Bulldog Club (In England) was formed in 1878, and the Bulldog Club of America was formed in 1890. While often used as a symbol of ferocity and courage, modern Bulldogs are generally friendly, amiable dogs. Bulldogs are now commonly kept as pets; in 2013, it was in twelfth place on a list of the breeds most frequently registered worldwide.[2]


Painting of a Bulldog from 1790 by English artist Philip Reinagle.

The first reference to the word "Bulldog" is dated 1631 or 1632 in a letter by a man named Preswick Eaton where he writes: "procuer mee two good Bulldogs, and let them be sent by ye first shipp".[3] In 1666, English scientist Christopher Merret applied: "Canis pugnax, a Butchers Bull or Bear Dog", as an entry in his Pinax Rerum Naturalium Britannicarum.[4]

The designation "bull" was applied because of the dog's use in the sport of bull-baiting. This entailed the setting of dogs (after placing wagers on each dog) onto a tethered bull. The dog that grabbed the bull by the nose and pinned it to the ground would be the victor. It was common for a bull to maim or kill several dogs at such an event, either by goring, tossing, or trampling over them.[5] Over the centuries, dogs used for bull-baiting developed the stocky bodies and massive heads and jaws that typify the breed, as well as a ferocious and savage temperament.[6] Bull-baiting was made illegal in England by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.[7] Therefore, the Old English Bulldog had outlived its usefulness in England as a sporting animal and its "working" days were numbered. However, emigrants did have a use for such dogs in the New World. In mid-17th century New York, Bulldogs were used as a part of a citywide roundup effort led by Governor Richard Nicolls. Because cornering and leading wild bulls was dangerous, Bulldogs were trained to seize a bull by its nose long enough for a rope to be secured around its neck.[8]

Bulldogs as pets were continually promoted by dog dealer Bill George.[9]

In 1864, a group of Bulldog breeders under R. S. Rockstro founded the first Bulldog Club. Three years after its opening the Club ceased to exist, not having organized a single show. The main achievement of the Rockstro Bulldog Club was a detailed description of the Bulldog, known as the Philo-Kuan Standard. Samuel Wickens, treasurer of the club, published this description in 1865 under the pseudonym Philo-Kuan.[10][better source needed]

On 4 April 1873, The Kennel Club was founded, the first dog breeding club dealing with the registration of purebred dogs and dog breeds.[11][non-primary source needed] Bulldogs were included in the first volume of the Kennel Club Stud Book, which was presented at the Birmingham Show on 1 December 1874. The first English Bulldog entered into the register was a male dog named Adam, born in 1864.[citation needed]

Bulldog from 1915

In March 1875, the third Bulldog Club was founded, which still exists today.[12][13][better source needed] Members of this club met frequently at the Blue Post pub on Oxford Street in London. The founders of the club collected all available information about the breed and its best representatives and developed a new standard for the English Bulldog, which was published on 27 May 1875, the same year they held the first breed show. Since 1878, exhibitions of the club were held annually, except during the Second World War. On 17 May 1894, the Bulldog Club was granted the status of a corporation and since then has carried the official name "The Bulldog Club, Inc.". It is the oldest mono-breed dog kennel club in the world.[14][better source needed]

The Bulldog was officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1886.[15]

In 1894, the two top Bulldogs, King Orry and Dock Leaf, competed in a contest to see which dog could walk 20 miles (32 km). King Orry was reminiscent of the original Bulldogs, lighter-boned and very athletic. Dock Leaf was a smaller and heavier set, more like modern Bulldogs. King Orry was declared the winner that year, finishing the 20-mile (32 km) walk while Dock Leaf collapsed and expired.[16] Though today Bulldogs look tough, they cannot perform the job they were originally bred for, as they cannot withstand the rigours of running after and being thrown by a bull, and also cannot grip with such a short muzzle.[17]




A 4-year-old Bulldog of Champion bloodlines, side view. Note the "rope" over the nose, and pronounced underbite

Bulldogs have characteristically wide heads and shoulders along with a pronounced mandibular prognathism. There are generally thick folds of skin on the brow; round, black, wide-set eyes; a short muzzle with characteristic folds called a rope or nose roll above the nose; hanging skin under the neck; drooping lips and pointed teeth, and an underbite with an upturned jaw. The coat is short, flat, and sleek with colours of red, fawn, white, brindle, and piebald.[15] They have short tails that can either hang down straight or be tucked in a coiled "corkscrew" into a tail pocket.

In the United Kingdom, the breed standards are 55 lb (25 kg) for a male and 50 lb (23 kg) for a female.[18] In the United States, the standard calls for a smaller dog — a typical mature male weighs 50 lb (23 kg), while mature females weigh about 40 lb (18 kg).[19]


Six-month-old Bulldog puppy from AKC Champion bloodlines

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a Bulldog's disposition should be "equable and kind, resolute, and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanour should be pacifist and dignified. These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behaviour".[20]

Bulldogs are known for getting along well with children, other dogs, and other pets.[21][22]





A 2022 study in the UK of veterinary data found a life expectancy of 7.39 years, the second lowest of all breeds in the study.[23] A 2024 UK study found a life expectancy of 9.8 years for the breed compared to an average of 12.7 for purebreeds and 12 for crossbreeds.[24]

A 2004 UK survey found the leading cause of death of Bulldogs to be cardiac-related (20%), cancer (18%), and old age (9%).[25]


Evolution of brachycephalia in Bulldogs. Left to right, the skulls are from approximately the 1910s, 1960s, and 1980s.

The shortened snout and pushed in face of the Bulldog is known as brachycephaly.[26][27] Brachycephaly results in deformation of the upper airway tract and leads to obstruction of breathing.[28] Effects of brachycephaly are stridor, stertorous breathing, emesis, skin fold dermatitis, brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome, exophthalmos, pharyngeal gag reflex, cyanosis, and laryngeal collapse.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35] Other issues arising from brachycephaly are risk of complications whilst under anaesthesia,[36] and hyperthermia — with the latter caused due to an inability to effectively reduce body temperature via panting.[37] Many airlines ban the breed from flying in the cargo hold due to a high rate of deaths from air pressure interacting poorly with their breathing problems.[38]

Other conditions


Statistics from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals indicate that of the 467 Bulldogs tested between 1979 and 2009 (30 years), 73.9% were affected by hip dysplasia, the highest amongst all breeds.[39] Similarly, the breed has the worst score in the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia scoring scheme, although only 22 Bulldogs were tested in the scheme.[40]

A study in England found the Bulldog to have a nearly three times greater risk of patellar luxation, with 2.9% of all Bulldogs having the condition.[41]

In a 1963 UK study, 17% of Bulldogs surveyed had skin fold dermatitis.[42]

A study by the Royal Veterinary College found that Bulldogs are a much less healthy breed than average, with over twice the odds of being diagnosed with at least one of the common dog disorders investigated in the study.[43]

Over 80% of Bulldog litters are delivered by Caesarean section because their characteristically large heads can become lodged in the mother's birth canal and to avoid potential breathing problems for the mother during labour.[44][45]

A British study found demodicosis to be more prevalent in the Bulldog than other breeds. The overall prevalence was 1.5% in the breed compared to the 0.17% rate for all dogs. For dogs aged under 2 years, the prevalence was 3.6% compared to 0.48%.[46]

The breed is predisposed to atopic dermatitis.[47]


In January 2009, after the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed, The Kennel Club introduced revised breed standards for the British Bulldog, along with 209 other breeds, to address health concerns. Opposed by the British Bulldog Breed Council, it was speculated by the press that the changes would lead to a smaller head, fewer skin folds, a longer muzzle, and a taller thinner posture, to combat problems with respiration and breeding due to head size and width of shoulders.[48] In 2019 the Dutch Kennel Club implemented some breeding rules to improve the health of the Bulldog. Among these is a fitness test where the dog has to walk 1 km (0.62 miles) in 12 minutes. Its temperature and heart rate have to recover after 15 minutes.[49]

In 2014, the Dutch government forbade the breeding of dogs with a snout shorter than a third of the skull, including Bulldogs, a law that it began enforcing in 2019.[50] In 2022, the Oslo District Court made a ruling that banned the breeding of Bulldogs in Norway due to their propensity for developing health problems. In its verdict the court judged that no dog of this breed could be considered healthy, therefore using them for breeding would be a violation of Norway's Animal Welfare Act.[51][52]

Cultural significance

Chesty XIII, Marine Corps mascot

Bulldogs are often associated with determination, strength, and courage due to their historical occupation, though the modern-day dog is bred for appearance and friendliness and not suited for significant physical exertion. They are often used as mascots by universities, sports teams, and other organizations. Some of the better-known Bulldog mascots include Georgetown's Jack, Butler's Blue IV, Yale's Handsome Dan, the University of Georgia's Uga, Mississippi State's Bully, and the United States Marine Corps' Chesty.[53][54]

The Bulldog originated in England and has a longstanding association with British culture; the BBC wrote: "To many the Bulldog is a national icon, symbolising pluck and determination".[55] During the Second World War, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill was likened to a Bulldog for his defiance of Nazi Germany.[56]

See also



  1. ^ Wilcox, Charlotte (1999). The Bulldog. Capstone Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-7368-0004-4.
  2. ^ [Svenska Kennelklubben] (2013). Registration figures worldwide – from top thirty to endangered breeds Archived 23 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. FCI Newsletter 15. Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed March 2022.
  3. ^ Jesse, George R. (1866). Researches into the history of the British Dog, from ancient laws, charters, and historical records: With original anecdotes, and illustrations of the nature and attributes of the dog, from the poets and prose writers of ancient, mediaeval, and modern times. With engravings designed and etched by the author. Rob. Hardwicke. p. 306. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  4. ^ Merret, Christopher (1666). Pinax Rerum Naturalium Britannicarum, continens Vegetabilia, Animalia, et Fossilia. p. 169. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Bulldog origin". NEBKC. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  6. ^ "Bulldog origin". NEBKC. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  7. ^ Curnutt, Jordan (2001). Animals and the Law: A Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO. p. 284. ISBN 9781576071472. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  8. ^ Ellis, Edward Robb (2005). The Epic of New York City – A Narrative History. Basic Books, New York. ISBN 978-0-7867-1436-0
  9. ^ Oliff, D. B. (1988) The Mastiff and Bullmastiff Handbook, The Boswell Press ISBN 0-85115-485-9.
  10. ^ "The Origin of the English Bulldog Standard". Bulldog Information. Archived from the original on 12 March 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  11. ^ "History of the Kennel Club". The Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  12. ^ "History of the English Bulldog". Bulldog Information. Archived from the original on 29 October 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Origins of the English Bulldog". Bulldog Club do Brasil. Archived from the original on 12 January 2002. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  14. ^ "The first Bulldog breed Clubs and first Bulldog Champions". Bulldog Information. Archived from the original on 4 January 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Get to Know the Bulldog" Archived 22 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine, 'The American Kennel Club'. Retrieved 29 May 2014
  16. ^ The sun., 11 September 1894, Page 4, Image 4 Archived 4 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Thomson, K.S. (1996). "The Fall and Rise of the English Bulldog". American Scientist. 84 (3): 220. Bibcode:1996AmSci..84..220T. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Bulldog breed standard". The Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 23 August 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  19. ^ "Home of the Official AKC Bulldog Breed Club". The Bulldog Club of America. Archived from the original on 25 September 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  20. ^ American Kennel Club – Bulldog Archived 13 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  21. ^ Ewing, Susan (2006). Bulldogs for dummies. Indiana: Wiley Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7645-9979-8. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Bulldog - Did You Know?". Animal On Planet. 12 May 2021. Archived from the original on 1 December 2023. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  23. ^ Teng, Kendy Tzu-yun; Brodbelt, Dave C.; Pegram, Camilla; Church, David B.; O’Neill, Dan G. (28 April 2022). "Life tables of annual life expectancy and mortality for companion dogs in the United Kingdom". Scientific Reports. 12 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 6415. Bibcode:2022NatSR..12.6415T. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-10341-6. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 9050668. PMID 35484374.
  24. ^ McMillan, Kirsten M.; Bielby, Jon; Williams, Carys L.; Upjohn, Melissa M.; Casey, Rachel A.; Christley, Robert M. (1 February 2024). "Longevity of companion dog breeds: those at risk from early death". Scientific Reports. 14 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-50458-w. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 10834484.
  25. ^ Adams, V. J.; Evans, K. M.; Sampson, J.; Wood, J. L. N. (1 October 2010). "Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 51 (10): 512–524. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00974.x.
  26. ^ Knecht, C. D. (1979). Upper airway obstruction in brachycephalic dogs. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet, 1, 25-31.
  27. ^ Pedersen, Niels C.; Pooch, Ashley S.; Liu, Hongwei (29 July 2016). "A genetic assessment of the English bulldog". Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. 3 (1): 6. doi:10.1186/s40575-016-0036-y. ISSN 2052-6687. PMC 4965900. PMID 27478618.
  28. ^ Hendricks, Joan C. (1992). "Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome". Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 22 (5). Elsevier BV: 1145–1153. doi:10.1016/s0195-5616(92)50306-0. ISSN 0195-5616. PMID 1523786.
  29. ^ TC, Amis; C, Kurpershoek (1986). "Pattern of breathing in brachycephalic dogs". American Journal of Veterinary Research. 47 (10). Am J Vet Res: 2200–2204. ISSN 0002-9645. PMID 3777646. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  30. ^ Hendricks, J. C.; Kline, L. R.; Kovalski, R. J.; O'Brien, J. A.; Morrison, A. R.; Pack, A. I. (1 October 1987). "The English bulldog: a natural model of sleep-disordered breathing". Journal of Applied Physiology. 63 (4). American Physiological Society: 1344–1350. doi:10.1152/jappl.1987.63.4.1344. ISSN 8750-7587. PMID 3693167.
  31. ^ Hendricks, Joan C. (1992). "Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome". Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 22 (5). Elsevier BV: 1145–1153. doi:10.1016/s0195-5616(92)50306-0. ISSN 0195-5616. PMID 1523786.
  32. ^ Meola, Stacy D. (2013). "Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome". Topics in Companion Animal Medicine. 28 (3). Elsevier BV: 91–96. doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2013.06.004. ISSN 1938-9736. PMID 24182996.
  33. ^ Lundgrun, Becky (26 June 2006). "Reverse Sneezing (Pharyngeal Gag Reflex)". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  34. ^ Sebbag, Lionel; Sanchez, Rick F. (2023). "The pandemic of ocular surface disease in brachycephalic dogs: The brachycephalic ocular syndrome". Veterinary Ophthalmology. 26 (S1): 31–46. doi:10.1111/vop.13054. ISSN 1463-5216. PMID 36585820.
  35. ^ Hobi, Stefan; Barrs, Vanessa R.; Bęczkowski, Paweł M. (16 June 2023). "Dermatological Problems of Brachycephalic Dogs". Animals. 13 (12). MDPI AG: 2016. doi:10.3390/ani13122016. ISSN 2076-2615. PMC 10294810. PMID 37370526.
  36. ^ Gruenheid, Michaela; Aarnes, Turi K.; McLoughlin, Mary A.; Simpson, Elaine M.; Mathys, Dimitria A.; Mollenkopf, Dixie F.; Wittum, Thomas E. (1 August 2018). "Risk of anesthesia-related complications in brachycephalic dogs". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 253 (3). American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): 301–306. doi:10.2460/javma.253.3.301. ISSN 0003-1488. PMID 30020004. S2CID 51676839.
  37. ^ Ewers Clark, Anna (22 December 2022). "Heatstroke and brachycephalic dogs – is there an increased risk?". Veterinary Evidence. 7 (4). doi:10.18849/ve.v7i4.534. ISSN 2396-9776.
  38. ^ Haughney, Christine (7 October 2011). "Banned by Many Airlines, These Bulldogs Fly Private". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  39. ^ "Hip Dysplasia Statistics: Hip Dysplasia by Breed". Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  40. ^ "British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme – Breed Mean Scores at 01/11/2009" (PDF). British Veterinary Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  41. ^ O’Neill, Dan G.; Meeson, Richard L.; Sheridan, Adam; Church, David B.; Brodbelt, Dave C. (8 June 2016). "The epidemiology of patellar luxation in dogs attending primary-care veterinary practices in England". Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. 3 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 4. doi:10.1186/s40575-016-0034-0. ISSN 2052-6687. PMC 4898461. PMID 27280025.
  42. ^ Hodgman, S. (1963). "Abnormalities and Defects in Pedigree Dogs–I. An Investigation into the Existence of Abnormalities in Pedigree Dogs in the British Isles". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 4 (6): 447–456. doi:10.1111/J.1748-5827.1963.TB01301.X. S2CID 73404440.
  43. ^ O'Neill, Dan G.; Skipper, Alison; Packer, Rowena M. A.; Lacey, Caitriona; Brodbelt, Dave C.; Church, David B.; Pegram, Camilla (15 June 2022). "English Bulldogs in the UK: a VetCompass study of their disorder predispositions and protections". Canine Medicine and Genetics. 9 (1): 5. doi:10.1186/s40575-022-00118-5. ISSN 2662-9380. PMC 9199211. PMID 35701824.
  44. ^ "English Bulldog - Dystocia". Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  45. ^ Evans, K.; Adams, V. (2010). "Proportion of litters of purebred dogs born by caesarean section" (PDF). The Journal of Small Animal Practice. 51 (2): 113–118. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00902.x. PMID 20136998. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2016.
  46. ^ O'Neill, D. G.; Turgoose, E.; Church, D. B.; Brodbelt, D. C.; Hendricks, A. (2020). "Juvenile-onset and adult-onset demodicosis in dogs in the UK: prevalence and breed associations". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 61 (1): 32–41. doi:10.1111/jsap.13067. ISSN 0022-4510. PMC 7003809. PMID 31584708.
  47. ^ Rhodes, Karen Helton; Werner, Alexander H. (25 January 2011). Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8138-1596-1.
  48. ^ Elliott, Valerie (14 January 2009). "Healthier new Bulldog will lose its Churchillian jowl". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  49. ^ "Convenant Bulldog, breeding rules" (PDF). Raad van Beheer (Dutch Kennel Club). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  50. ^ "Dutch to crack down on breeding of dogs with too short snouts | Vet Times". 31 May 2019. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  51. ^ "Norway bans breeding of British Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels". The Independent. 2 February 2022. Archived from the original on 10 February 2022. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  52. ^ "Breeding ban for bulldogs and cavaliers in Norway". France 24. 22 February 2022. Archived from the original on 28 March 2022. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  53. ^ Denizet-Lewis, Benoit (22 November 2011) Can the Bulldog be Saved? Archived 13 March 2021 at the Wayback Machine The New York Times.
  54. ^ Burke, Anna (25 May 2018). "The Legacy of Chesty: How a Bulldog Became the United States Marine Corps Mascot". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 18 January 2023. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  55. ^ "English Bulldog health problems prompt cross-breeding call". BBC. 12 December 2016. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  56. ^ Baker, Steve (2001). Picturing the Beast. University of Illinois Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-252-07030-5.