Description & History

The Bulldog is the national dog of Great Britain. Related to the bear-baiting Mastiff, the Bulldog was developed for the purpose of bull-baiting.

This sport was known to have taken place from the sixteenth century until it became illegal in 1835. Owing to the terrible cruelty which took place to bulls and dogs alike, the sport was eventually prohibited, in spite of attempts to save it.

Down the centuries the Bulldog was selectively bred for fighting. It was gradually developed into a type which was shorter-legged, more agile and had a shorter but massive jaw. It also had to be intelligent, courageous and, perhaps most of all, obedient to its handler's commands.

In the bull-ring the handler would time his dog's attack, thus enabling it to fasten onto the bull's head without being tossed. If the dog was tossed, the handler would try to catch the dog or, if this failed, to prevent it hitting the ground by breaking its fall.

After bull-baiting was made illegal, it was replaced with dog fighting. Bulldogs were too slow for this sport and eventually gave way to the Bull Terrier.

This was the beginning of the decline of the breed and breeders soon became concerned when their popularity waned.

Gradually they eliminated its viciousness while trying to preserve its finer qualities.

Today's dogs, which are very different from the dogs of the bull-baiting days, are considered to have excellent temperaments and usually make affectionate companions.

Rosamund Walters.

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