The Breed History
Many years ago in the British Isles, a tough dog was developed whose purpose was bull baiting and it is thought that from this stock the modern bulldog arose. The first breed standard was drawn up in 1964.
Breeding for Function
As bull baiters, the breed ancestors possessed the unusual courage and ferocity needed to pursue bulls, but once fighting sports were outlawed in the British Isles in 1835, fanciers sought to continue the breed. In modern days, the breed is widely kept as a companion dog, having had a gentle temperament successfully selected for.
Height at Withers: 12-14" (30.5-35.5 cm)
Weight: 50 lb (22.5 kg), female 40 lb (18 kg)
Coat: The short, flat glossy coat is straight, the hairs are fine, and the skin is quite loose especially around the neck area. Colors include brindle, white, red, fawn, and piebald. A small white chest patch is accepted.
Longevity: 10-12 years
Points of Conformation: These dogs are medium-sized, massive both across the chest and throughout the body. The dark eyes are front facing, set low in the skull, are wide set and round, and moderate in size, the palpebral margins are dark and no nictitans or sclera should show. The ears are very high and wide set, small and thin in leather; termed a rose ear in shape and carriage, which means the folded portion is splayed so that the front is further from the head than the back. This feature helps distinguish the English Bulldog from the French Bulldog because the latter has erect bat ears, and is also smaller in stature.
The head is massive, being both broad and square with a pronounced stop forming a hollow between the eyes. The muzzle is very short, upturned, and the nose is broad and colored black. The flews are very well developed and overhang the lower jaws. A dewlap is well developed, and the head and face are heavily wrinkled. The lower jaw is considerably prognathic and prominent (referred to as chops). The neck is very short and thick, muscular and well arched. The back is somewhat roached (wheel-backed). The thorax is deep with rounded ribs. The abdomen is moderately tucked up. A low set tail is carried low, and the tail tapers and is straight or screwed, but a curly tail is a fault. Limbs are stout and short but fairly straight boned. The elbows stand away from the chest wall. The feet are moderate in size and compact, and are straight ahead but especially the metatarsals deviate outward. This is due to so-called cow hocked conformation. Toes are well knuckled and nails are stubby and strong. The loins sit higher than the shoulder. The rolling gait is loose-jointed and ambling.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed attributes include: Resolute in a confrontation but kind and gentle with family, children and other pets. Easy to groom, has a moderate shedding tendency, stable temperament, good for town and country; even apartments. Low to moderate exercise needs. Does not tolerate temperature extremes, so needs to be a housedog. Snoring is common and may also drool. The facial wrinkles need daily hygiene.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Bulldogs often have to deliver by cesarean section. 8% of all C-sections in a large study were bulldogs. In Great Britain, 86.1% of Bulldog litters are c-sections.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 73.2% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports a high incidence, but too few Bulldogs have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 6.2% affected. Reported 6.1x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Hyperuricosuria (HUU)/Urate Urolithiasis: An autosomal recessive disease caused by a mutation in the SLC2A9 gene causes hyperuricosuria and predisposes to urate bladder stones. Stone formation is predominantly seen in males. Bulldogs have a 7.9x Odds Ratio of forming urate bladder stones versus other breeds. A direct genetic test is available.
Anasarca (Lethal Congenital Edema): Anasarca occurs in the breed. Puppies are born dead and edematous. Can also be associated with cleft palate. Segregation analysis indicates an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
Brachycephalic Complex: Stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules, laryngeal collapse, and occasionally hypoplastic trachea. Reported to cause obstructive sleep apnea in the breed. Can cause secondary bronchial collapse. Dorn reports a 29.27x odds ratio for elongated soft palate versus other breeds. Identified in 19.2% of Bulldogs in an Australian study. One study showed the Bulldog as the most frequently affected breed, and an overall surgical curative rate of 94.2%.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 15.74% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF states that breeding of affected animals should be discouraged. Dorn reports a 1.48x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Entropion: Rolling in of the eyelids, which can predispose to corneal irritation and ulceration. Reported in 14.43% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Dorn reports a 4.37x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Ectropion: A rolling out of the eyelids, that can cause tear pooling, conjunctivitis, and frequent infection. Reported in 8.85% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Dorn reports a 4.37x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal folds and geographic retinal dysplasia are seen in the breed. Dogs with the geographic form should not be bred. Reported in 7.54% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Prolapsed Gland of the Nictitans (Cherry Eye): Occurs at a high frequency in the breed. This condition is secondary to chronic conjunctivitis, usually of an allergic nature.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.2% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%.).
Stifle Osteochondritis Dessicans (OCD): Polygenically inherited cartilage defect. Causes stifle joint pain and lameness in young growing dogs. Mild cases can resolve with rest, while more severe cases require surgery. Reported 44.2x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): An abnormality of the tear film, resulting in ocular irritation and/or vision impairment. Age of onset 2-5 years. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. CERF does not recommend breeding any Bulldogs with KCS.
Cystine Urolithiasis: Bulldogs have a higher incidence of Cystine (32.3x OR) bladder stones compared to other breeds. Cystine stones are due to a defect in cystine metabolism.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus): Corneal disease that can cause vision problems due to pigmentation. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. Identified in 1.97% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Bulldogs with pannus.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.64% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior, posterior, equatorial, and capsular cataracts occur in the breed. Identified in 1.31% of Bulldogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Bulldogs with a cataract.
Pododermatitis/Interdigital Cysts: Affected dogs can present with erythema. thickening of the skin, alopecia, pyoderma, nodules, ulcers haemorrhagic bullae, and draining tracts. Increased risk versus other breeds.
Pulmonic Stenosis: Bulldogs are the most common breed to have pulmonic stenosis, with an odds ratio of 19.2x versus other breeds. This congenital heart abnormality in Bulldogs frequently is caused by a circumpulmonary left coronary artery originating from a single right coronary artery.
Demodicosis: Generalized demodicosis has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Dorn reports a 3.0x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Hiatal Hernia: The Bulldog has the highest incidence of hiatal hernia for all breeds. The most common presentation is reflux esophagitis. Treatment is with surgery.
Spina Bifida: Review of cases to veterinary teaching hospitals suggests a high incidence of spina bifida in the English Bulldog. Urinary and fecal incontinence is the most common clinical sign. Radiographs and myelography confirm the diagnosis.
Urethrorectal Fistula: Several case reports are in the literature of Bulldogs with congenital urethrorectal fistulas. Affected dogs present with urine dribbling the anus, and chronic cystitis. Treatment is with surgery.
Cryptorchidism, Deafness, Factor VII Deficiency, Factor VIII Deficiency, Fold Dermatitis, Hemivertebra, Hydrocephalus, Laryngeal Paralysis, Myelodysplasia, Sacrocaudal Dysgenesis, Seasonal Flank Alopecia, Subaortic Stenosis, Supernumerary Teeth, Tetralogy of Fallot, Ventricular Septal Defect, von Willebrand's Disease, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration: Three young full-sibling Bulldogs presented with a wide-based stance, marked hypermetria, spasticity, and intention tremors of the head and trunk with loss of balance. Pathology showed a loss of cerebellar Purkinje and granule cells.30 Acrochordonous Skin Plaques: Clinical report of numerous, closely associated acrochordons forming a plaque, preferentially located at the dorsal neck of two Bulldogs.
Cor Triatriatum Dexter: A 3.5 month old male Bulldog with ascites and a history of respiratory distress was diagnosed at autopsy with the heart anomaly cor triatriatum dexter.
Parotid Duct Sialolithiasis: Two case reports are in the literature; a 7 year old male Bulldog and a 3 year old male Bulldog. Blockage of the parotid duct with a sialolith causes chronic facial swelling. Surgical removal of the sialolith, or of the salivary gland and duct is curative.
Sperm Tail Defects: A 2 year old Bulldog was identified with 93.3% of spermatozoa with morphological tail defects, including strong folding, coiling and fracture of sperm midpieces and tails, axonemal defects and the presence of swollen and unevenly distributed mitochondria. The defect was considered to be genetic in origin.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for HUU is available from the UC-Davis VGL and the Animal Health Trust.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes patella evaluation (minimum 1 year of age) and congenital cardiac exam (by a cardiologist, preferably by echocardiography). (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommended: hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: English Bulldog
- Registries: **AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club)-as British bulldog, NKC (National Kennel Club) **Just termed Bulldog in AKC
- AKC rank (year 2008): 8 (23,413 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Bulldog Club of America: thebca.org/
The British Bulldog Club: britishbulldogclub.co.uk
Bulldog Club of Central Canada: bulldogclubofcentralcanada.net/
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