bulldog walking by a man

Bulldogs: Health and History

Origins of the Breed

Bulldogs originated as a recognized breed in the British Isles and were officially recognized by the AKC in 1886.  According to the Bulldog Club of America, Bulldogs may have originally been used as “butcher’s dogs” to subdue animals for slaughter and they were then bred to participate in the horrible and long-since illegal ‘sport’ of bullbaiting.  England outlawed bullbaiting in 1835, at which point Bulldogs appeared to be superfluous to requirements, as the saying goes.  However, a group of British Bulldog lovers decided to try to save the breed and they eventually formed the Bulldog Club, Inc. in 1875.

AKC Standards and Other Fun Facts

The current AKC breed standards , state that the “perfect” Bulldog “must be of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs.  The general appearance and attitude should suggest great stability, vigor and strength.  The disposition should be equable and kid, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified.  These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behavior.”  Well!  Doesn’t that sound so very upper-crusty and British!

bulldogIn addition:

  • Bulldogs generally weigh from 40 pounds for females to 50 pounds for males
  • Normal life expectancy is 8 – 10 years
  • Because of the way Bulldogs are built, with the large head, compact and solid torso and short legs, they cannot swim, an interesting fact for a breed that originated on an island! In practical terms, this means that you should keep your Bulldog away from any pond, spa or pool, avoid taking him out on boats and monitor him carefully when he is in or near any body of water.
  • Bulldogs come in a variety of coat colors, including the most common, solid white and solid red, as well as brindle, fawn and piebald. “Piebald” refers to random patches of color on a white background. The patch colors can be red, red brindle, fawn brindle and brindle.  Some Bulldogs also have black markings on the face and can have what looks like a black “mask” around the mouth.
  • Bulldogs are a very popular breed – 4th most popular according to the AKC, right behind Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers.

Common Health Issues

bulldog on the groundAlthough most Bulldog parents agree that their pups are good natured, loyal and sweet, they will also tell you that Bulldogs suffer from what appears to be a disproportionately long list of potential health issues and concerns, including:

  • Heat intolerance: Bulldogs do not do well in hot weather and generally need to live inside with air-conditioning. Bulldogs can die if they become overheated through too much exercise or other physical stress.
  • Hip, spine and knee issues:
  • Skin infections: The wrinkles and folds in a typical Bulldog’s skin and the tightly curled tail create breeding grounds for bugs and hiding places for skin irritants and dirt so it is important to keep your pup’s coat clean and dry.
  • Eye issues: Bulldogs unfortunately are prone to a variety of ophthalmological issues, including cherry eye (prolapse of the nictitating membrane, or third eyelid), entropion (inverted eyelids), corneal ulcers, cataracts, pink eye, PPM (persistent  pupillary membranes; inherited condition occurring in puppies) and dry eye.
  • Bloat and/or Gastric torsion, a very painful and potentially fatal situation if not immediately treated, generally through the insertion of a tube to relieve the gas build-p causing the bloat or surgery if there is also torsion (twisting of the stomach). Torsion is a danger for larger dogs with deep chests and can be caused by, among other things, rapid eating after exercise, stress, eating from a raised food bowl, overeating or overdrinking.
  • Breathing issues: This is the issue most commonly associated with Bulldogs and is common to flat-faced dogs. The facial structure includes a narrow upper airway which makes it more difficult for Bulldogs to breathe and cool off and therefore makes them more prone to overheating, wheezing and gasping for air.

Bulldog Rescue

If you decide a Bulldog would be your perfect canine companion, check out these Bulldog rescues:

Bulldog Club of America Rescue Network 

American Bulldog Rescue (works with all bull breed dogs)

French Bulldog Rescue (featuring a number of spine injured, disabled and cart dogs)

Florida English Bulldog Rescue  which has partnered with BenefitWines.com  to produce a specially-labeled wine to raise funds for the charity



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