Posts Tagged ‘English bulldog’


I have been writing about the issues around purebred dogs for quite some time now, and one of the breeds that constantly comes us is the English bulldog. I know that this is not the “official name” of this breed, but in common parlance, it is the word used to describe this breed that was largely developed in its current form by English dog dealers. Because dog shows were created by the British, this breed gets called the “bulldog” by default, but in the common parlance, when I say “English bulldog,” people know exactly what I mean.

The bulldog wasn’t always what it is today:

At one time, bulls were baited for sport. Active bulldogs and mastiffs were turned loose on bulls in a way that resembled a sort of Medieval hunt scene against the aurochs. The bulldog’s ancestors were used to hunt the aurochs,  and then they were used to control domestic cattle. In those days, cattle had very tough beef from a life wandering the forests and common pastures, and it was believed that if the dogs baited the cattle, it would tenderize the meat. When they let the dogs fight the bulls, it became a spectator sport, and it was not long before there were bull and bear-baiting contests all over England. The dogs became greatly valued as sporting dogs, and their function was greatly esteemed throughout the British Isles. Queen Elizabeth I was a noted lover of baiting both bears and dogs, and her court bred dogs for that purpose.

However, baiting animals began to fall from favor over the next few centuries.

In 1835, parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act, and bull and bear baiting were both banned. The bulldogs were without a job, and it wasn’t long before dog dealers got their hands on the animals.  The infamous Bill George of Kensal New Town in London bred several lines of toned down bulldog for British consumers.  He bred little ones and big ones. He may have crossed the dogs with pugs, but it was pretty clear that pug got into the bulldog at some point.

But without a task for which one could breed a bulldog, British dog dealers and, later, British dog fanciers began to produce bulldogs that were totally unfit for anything. By the 1890s, the top-winning bulldogs were known for lacking soundness. One of them infamously got worn out on a walking race against a more athletic but less fashionable competitor. By 1900, bulldogs were known to be difficult to breed and rear, and for most of their history in the twentieth century, bulldogs were relatively rare.

The dogs became known for having so many genetic and conformation problems that essentially the only disorder they can’t suffer from is a matted coat. They have issues cooling and fully oxygenating themselves. They are known to suffer severe infections from inverted tails. The difficulty in breeding such animals almost sounds as if mother nature doesn’t want them be reproducing. Because the dogs are heavy in the front, they often have issues mounting the bitches. Mating cradles are often needed to hold the dog over the bitch, and many breeders simply do AI to produce their pups. And once conception happens, things get complicated when it comes to whelping. Virtually all bulldogs born in the US are delivered through Cesarean.  The pups have such big heads, and there mothers have such narrow pelvises that the pup very often cannot be born naturally.

The average lifespan of a bulldog is just a little over six years, so if you get one of these dogs, your chances of it dying before it hits middle age for most dogs is actually quite high. Many people have purchased bulldogs as companions for their children, but this breed has the potential to cause a lot of heartache for a young child when the animal suddenly dies.

Everything about this dog says that you don’t want it unless you have lots of money and rather weird tastes. The dog’s conformation isn’t just a hindrance to good health. It also a caricature. The dogs have been bred into a kind of canine John Bull figure, and unless someone would rather have the caricature than an actual dog, there really wasn’t a market for them.

But time, as they say, marches on.

In the first decade of this century, I began to see bulldogs on reality television shows. I thought it was a bit strange, but considering that the most prominent bulldog owner was Ozzy Osbourne, I thought that most people would just associate the extreme nature of the breed with the extreme nature of Ozzy.  People would want a bulldog in the same way they would want to bite off a bat’s head.

And I was wrong.

I started seeing bulldogs everywhere.

And that trend has only continued into the present day.

Last week, the AKC released its rankings of its top registered breeds of 2014. Labradors were the top breed in registrations, followed by German shepherds and golden retrievers. Labradors have been the top breed for over two decades, and the other two have had a long run of popularity as well. Those three were also the top three registered by the Canadian Kennel Club in 2014.

But what came in fourth in the AKC rankings was a bit of a shocker.  Bulldogs were the fourth most-registered breed by the AKC in 2014, and this is something that does require some attention.

And this bulldog attention has coattails. French bulldogs, the bat-eared little cousins of the English breed, have moved into tenth place. French bulldogs were once in the AKC top ten list. In the 1910s, Boston terriers were the AKC’s top breed, and their French cousin enjoyed high popularity just because the two breeds were related. A Boston terrier, in case you didn’t know, is actually a small bulldog that was created when fighting bull terriers from Boston were crossed with toy and French bulldogs from Europe.

French bulldogs have many of the same problems as the English breed, but this really doesn’t matter.  This is the decade of the bulldog!

With North America in the throes of bulldog mania, it might be useful to figure out why people are buying bulldogs.

As far as I can tell, there are a few reasons. One of these is that most Americans live in urban centers and have no real connection with other animals. There is no concept of what is “normal” for a dog or any other creature. If a person sees a cute dog on television, then they are instantly going to feel some connection to it. Extreme brachycephalic dogs are quite attractive to people. We forget that as primates we are predisposed to being attracted to things that look like primates. It is easier for us to have comradery with a dog that has a monkey face than it is with a long-muzzled one.

Another reason is that modern Americans work longer hours than every before.  The economic recovery after the recession has led to people spending more and more time at the office, and that means people have far less time to exercise dogs.

People are looking for dogs that don’t require much exercise, and if a dog breed has certain deformities that prevent it from running hard and long all day, then it is going to be the perfect dog for the modern world.

This is the real shame of the modern world.

We now live in a society where it is now much more difficult to own more active and more soundly constructed dogs, so we are turning to dogs that were largely cast aside because of their unsoundness.

It will take a long time for bulldogs to replace Labradors as the top breed. Indeed, I don’t see it happening any time soon. However, it is possible that they could make it into the top 3 breeds very soon. The AKC doesn’t release numbers of the dogs it registers. One reason it doesn’t is that most American dogs are not AKC-registered and that number has dropped over the past two decades. We really don’t know the relative popularity of particular dog breeds in the population at large, but the AKC registrations do suggest that bulldogs are rising in popularity.

The number of people who are willing to spend so much money for a dog must be much higher than I would have assumed. Bulldogs are not cheap.

And their vet bills aren’t cheap either.

But the allure of having a dog that looks like cartoon character, loves kids, and doesn’t have much of a need for exercise must be stronger than any of the money sense that goes into considering bringing a dog into a home.

Of course, my guess is there isn’t that much consideration going on at all.

The urban jungle and popular culture are working against good sense in choosing a dog, and if the future of dogs in this country is the bulldog, then we’ve totally lost whatever it means to appreciate Canis lupus familiaris. Just as the Chinese bred the peke with bent legs so it wouldn’t run off, the bulldog’s utter lack of physical soundness is now an asset in the modern world.

That’s just not a good future for dogs.

If the only way they can live with us is to be like bulldogs, then this is indeed a very dark development.

We have become so alienated from nature that we have forgotten what dogs are, and if we have lost sight of what dogs are about, then there isn’t much hope for the rest of the creatures on this planet.

We’re losing the plot.

We’re losing them, just as we’re losing ourselves.

And we may never regain any of it.

This is the real story behind the bulldog’s rise, and no cute little press releases about the AKC’s top are going to change anything about this dire situation.

Only connecting the modern world with real dogs in a truly meaningful way will ever stem the dismal tide, and such a task may be all but impossible.

If we lose real dogs, then we truly will be alone on this planet. Even though we evolved from earlier earthlings, we will become aliens here.

Our only companions will be these deformed dogs, who might as well be aliens to the rest of their kind as well.

Information-filled but largely ignorant humanity will reign will reign with debased canids licking our fingers.

This should not be where dogs and people wind up, but unfortunately, it may be where the final story of our kind ends up.

And it may not be stopped.

This is the true tragedy of our kind and theirs.





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bulldog with baby

I think there is no other way to describe the sudden popularity of the bulldog than as one of the greatest tragedies in modern dogs.

A bulldog is an unfortunate beast that is a medley of genetic disorders and physical deformities masquerading as both toughness and cuteness. Such animals can only be celebrated by a culture that has become totally alienated from what a dog actually is.

We live in a world that wants laid-back dogs, and nothing can be more laid-back than a dog that easily overheats and cannot oxygenate itself fully.

Just as the Chinese empress expressed a desire for her pekes to have bent legs to prevent them from wandering off,  we created a “tough working dog” that can be easily kept in an apartment.

If this is the future for dogs in this country, then I weep for it.

We’ve modified the ancient wolf to fit our needs, but now we’re pushing it to the limit. We no longer want the actual dog. We just want the caricature, not the real thing.

And you’d think the English bulldog would be the only dog like this, but you can also see the rise of the “exotic bully” from the general pit bull/AmStaff lineage as another attempt to create the same thing.

The professional bulldog world is full of denial. The official talking point is that the only unhealthy bulldogs are bred by puppy millers, but this is a pretty hard dog to puppy mill on a large scale. It is very hard to get bulldogs to mate naturally, and virtually every bulldog that has been born has been delivered via cesarean.

This is not to say that there are no bulldog mills; it’s just they are very uncommon.

And certainly aren’t the main cause of this breed’s problems.

The main cause of this breed’s problem is that to be a good quality bulldog, it has to be deformed in so many ways. The breed standard celebrates deformity over soundness. The only way for them to be sound is for the bulldog fancy to redefine what soundness means!

I see these people in their little groups harping on about the animal rights activists as being the source for all criticism of their breed.  The truth is the animal rights activists are always looking for things to pounce on, and most of what they find is bogus.

But every once in a while, a blind pig finds an acorn.

When bulldog fanciers blame all their problems on animal rights activists and refuse to acknowledge simple facts about their dogs, they are feeding the fires of animal rights stupidity even more.

Currently, there are dozen of breeds of “original” or “working” bulldog, most of which are attempts to create dogs that look like those in paintings from a certain time period. It’s a noble effort, but in the end, the majority of the world’s bulldogs will be in this breed.

I don’t think it’s ever going to be fixed, but its popularity is likely to be fleeting. Most people can’t afford the vet bills or the anguish that comes from losing a dog that dies before the age of 5 or 6.

And the dog will remain owned only by the true believers, who sound less and less rational as time moves on.

So the bulldog will go on and on, a creature with no purpose other than what its looks symbolize. To be sure, it is a monstrosity, but one that exists solely because we wish to keep it this way.

This is a breed that should have been removed from the multi-breed registries ages ago. It was the first breed to be utterly deformed through show ring fads. It was one of the first breeds to be shown in 1870’s in the new dog fancy system, and by the 1890’s, there were already complaints about how poorly the animal moved and how hard it was to breed.

Those complaints, like this one, will fall on deaf ears. The keepers of the bulldog know it all already.

They will continue down their well-worn path. It is a path that doesn’t lead to better dogs.

It leads to tragedy.























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madness and stupidity bulldog

What I am about to suggest is something rather extreme.

I wouldn’t have deliberately plagiarized Lenin in the title if I were to write something somewhat milquetoast and banal.

But right now, there is a major welfare problem in the world of dogs that I don’t think can be solved with gentle suggestions and politically correct language.

One must be blunt and clear about the problems and the solution.

Right now, I would argue the biggest welfare problem facing domestic dogs in the West can be found in a single breed of dog. I choose  to take on this breed not because other breeds are without problems. I choose it because there is no breed with as many problems occurring at once, and in the United States, it is sadly becoming even more popular, despite it being well-known that these dogs have very real issues.

And the problem is even further exacerbated when one discovers that well over 90 percent of the breed’s fanciers have their heads shoved squarely up their arses. They live in a fantasy world in which deformities are actually assets, where they live in the delusion that their dog is tougher than all the rest, when it is indeed perhaps the most fragile.

The breed I’m talking about is the bulldog.

The bulldog is the old baiting and butcher’s dog of yore. A creature much ballyhooed for its legendary courage, which eventually made it a symbol of the British Empire.  It is the canine John Bull, and one sort of gets the impression that much of the breed’s current phenotype is really nothing more than attempt to turn much more lithe old bulldog into a caricature of that patriotic figure.

This breed has a lot of health problems and not a single one of them is new. This breed was messed up within twenty years of becoming part of the “dog fancy,” and as it became more and more extreme, there was actually a robust debate about bulldog health even back then.  Perhaps most famously, there was a bulldog “walking race” in which the very “typy” dog wound up positively knackered within a mile.

These dogs have problems breathing and cooling themselves efficiently– which tells you they couldn’t possibly be used to bring down an animal the size of a bull! They problems with infections resulting from their inverted tails. The dogs are so top-heavy that they cannot mate without people holding them or the use of a breeding rack, and in the US, many are produced through AI. Almost all bulldog puppies are delivered through C-section, and the breed has the highest percentage of dysplastic hips, according to OFA hips.

And those are but a handful of the problems this breed faces.

And they’ve been going on and on for a century without any degree of improvement.

But there is now another problem that is coming to the fore:  This breed is now among the AKC’s most popular.

They have been popularized on “reality television,”  and every young idiot who watches too much TV wants one. They are so cute!

This is such a difficult dog to breed that the puppy mills have had a field day with them. They can charge much higher prices for these dogs than all the other mass-produced breeds and crosses. They will sometimes add a bit of boxer to their bulldogs to make them easier whelpers and then dock the puppies’ tails to make them look pure.

So we have a breed that is utterly screwed by its own fanciers and then is getting it double from the really ugly underbelly of the pet market.

Both of these systemic problems mean that it is going to be very hard to help this breed.

It is simply madness and stupidity all around.

This is not to say that there aren’t some good bulldog fanciers out there who are trying to moderate the breed, and there are dozens of breeding programs out there that are trying to produce an “old-fashioned” bulldog.

But these people are fighting an uphill battled against an entrenched idiocracy.

With so many things going against this breed, how can it be saved?

The thing is, I don’t think it can be– not unless there is a very strong cultural revolution against the powers that be.

We must stigmatize anyone who buys this breed as a pet.  We must not be nice about it.  If you buy a bulldog, you are participating in the deformation of a dog. You are encouraging people to breed unhealthy freaks. You are encouraging the misery of living things, and these living thing suffer every breath they take. In this way, the breeders of the extreme bulldog are worse than dog fighters. Dogs that are bred for fighting suffer. It’s certainly true. However, they don’t spend their entire lives struggling to oxygenate themselves or keep themselves cool.

If you are breeding bulldogs as they currently are, you are worse than Michael Vick.

If you measure the amount of suffering each type of cruelty, the bulldog breeder is encouraging far more than the dog fighter.

And what’s more, there is nothing illegal about what the bulldog breeder does. Indeed, what a bulldog breeder does is celebrated!

It is evil that is not seen as evil, and to steal from Hannah Arendt, it is evil that is banal.

People accept the suffering that bulldogs undergo because it is institutionalized and legitimate.

And it is this legitimacy that we must attack at its core.

The dogs deserve so much more.

The radical step is to say that this breed must stop. If it cannot be put on the road to healthier phenotype, then the breed must be stopped.

I would hate to see it go this far, but it may wind up that all bulldogs will be required by law to be spayed or neutered unless put into a breeding program designed to select for a healthier phenotype.

I wouldn’t want to see this happen, but it seems to me that there is very little that be done to stop the madness.

But at some point, this is where this breed is headed.

And in the end, all dog people of conscience have to say stop.

No more.









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This dog is missing something. I can’t figure out what it is.

See related posts:


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If anyone thinks that the modern kennel club bulldog can actually bait a bull, they need to have their heads examined.

This fanciful depiction belongs in science fiction– or even outright fantasy!

The only way a bulldog of that sort is likely ever to kill a bull is if the bull dies from laughing at the massive lump of canine freakishness that lies before him.


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But they have weak guts, so you have to be careful with them!

This picture comes from Morris and Essex dog show in 1938, which was covered in an article in LIFE Magazine.

The cognitive dissonance shown in that caption is hysterical!



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It’s bad conformation if you live in the reality-based community. It’s good conformation if you’re in the dog show circuit:


This image comes from LIFE Magazine (June 13, 1938).  The article covers a dog show in New Jersey, which was the biggest dog show in the United States at the time.

Let’s see. Bulldogs have a hard time breathing and cooling themselves– because of their flat faces.

And I’ve never heard of a catch dog breeder selecting for an undershot jaw that can’t bite and hold properly.

The only thing they left out was the story that the wrinkles on the bulldog’s face drain blood away from the nose and keep the dog from drowning.



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The above image is of a bulldog in Northeastern Ohio who is suffering from the recent series of heat waves.

It is supposed to be a funny image. It’s cute, isn’t it?

Well, I don’t think it’s so much cute as it is a tragedy.

I live in a state adjacent to Ohio, where it also gets hot and muggy during the summer.

I have always had dogs that didn’t much like the heat at all. The golden retrievers, for example, always suffered a bit whenever the mercury rises above 75 degrees. If they were outside, they always solved this problem by diving in deep mud puddles or ponds.

Even though the golden boxer hated to swim, she would submerge herself in mud puddles to keep cool.

However, I do remember trying to get the dogs to lie down on some ice in the same way as this bulldog.

They refused.

It may have kept them cool, but they weren’t about to sit on ice like some Atlantic salmon at a fish market.

Even in the most extreme heat, I don’t think most normal dogs like the texture of ice cubes, and they would avoid sitting on it at all costs.

This poor bulldog, however, has a very hard time keeping itself cool. Bulldogs– and all brachycephalic breeds– have issues dissipating heat. Dogs pant to cool themselves. Panting passes air over the mucous membranes in the back of the mouth, throat, and trachea, which causes the moisture on those membranes to evaporate. This evaporation cools the animal. Bulldogs and other dogs of this type have a harder time passing air over these membranes when panting. They have a lot of issues with their soft palates, and most bulldogs never have fully open airways at all.

So even though a bulldog is a single-coated dog, it suffers much more in the heat than a double-coated golden retriever, which has a relatively long muzzle and open airways.

That’s why this bulldog has plowed headlong into this pile of ice.

To some it may be cute.

But for those of us who understand dog anatomy a bit, it is something quite sad.

We have bred bulldogs to have such extremely flatten faces that they really can’t function in the heat. Now, it is true that dogs are less tolerant of heat than humans are, and it is silly and quite dangerous to expect even a normal dog to be happy in 95 degree heat. However, through very silly breeding practices, we have  further hampered the bulldog’s ability to cool itself.

And I don’t find it all that funny.

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Orleston Toddlekins:

From an article entitled “The Kennel:  Some Ladies’ Dogs” in Country Life Illustrated (16 October 1897):

The Bulldog Orleston Toddlekins was purchased a few weeks before the show by Mrs. W. C. Codman, who took advantage of the ladies’ canine gathering to exhibit her purchase before having it transhipped to New York. A daughter of Save Monarch, Orleston Toddlekins is, of course, a good one, and her record of first and special Coventry, and third Bulldog Club Show, was added to at the Ladies’ Show by a first in novice and second in limit. She was bred by Mr. W. Kelsey (pg. 409).

Toddlekins is the perfect name for one of these dogs. I’ve always liked the name “Muggleton” for a bulldog. (It’s a reference to the seventeenth century theologian Lodowicke Muggleton, whose followers were called Muggletonians.  Neither Muggleton nor his followers have anything to do with bulldogs. I just think the name sounds very English and proper, but it also has  a degree of cuteness that should apply nicely to a bulldog.)

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White-tailed deer are musky things. It might stimulate all sorts of amorous behavior in dogs.

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