Traits and Characteristics
The Bulldog’s heavy, thick-set, low-slung body with wide shoulders gives it a low center of gravity. The massive head, of which the circumference should equal at least the height of the dog at the shoulder, gives ample room for muscular attachment for the strong, wide jaws. The limbs are sturdy, the gait loose-jointed, shuffling, and rolling—this is not a breed that needs to run! The coat is fine and glossy.
Ready to see what dogs fit you best? Take our short quiz to find out!
Friendliness to Dogs
Friendliness to Other Pets
Friendliness to Strangers
Ease of Training
Disclaimer: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.
Despite its “sourmug,” the Bulldog is jovial, comical, and amiable, among the most docile and mellow of dogs. He is willing to please, although he retains a stubborn streak. He is very good with children. Most are moderately friendly toward strangers. Although some can be aggressive with strange dogs, the breed is quite good with other pets.
The Bulldog appreciates a daily outing but cannot tolerate hot humid weather, which can be deadly. He should not be expected to jog or walk great distances, or to jump from any heights. Most Bulldogs cannot swim. Most Bulldogs wheeze and snore, and some drool. Coat care is minimal, but facial wrinkles (and any folds around the tail) should be cleaned daily.
- Major concerns: ventricular septal defect, CHD, KCS, stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, shoulder luxation, internalized tail
- Minor concerns: entropion, ectropion, distichiasis, CHD, elbow dysplasia, cherry eye, patellar luxation, demodicosis, tracheal hypoplasia
- Occasionally seen: urethral prolapse, vaginal hyperplasia
- Suggested tests: (hip), (elbow), knee, cardiac, (eye), tracheal hypoplasia
- Life span: 8–12 years • Note: This breed cannot tolerate heat. Special precautions must be taken when anesthetizing a Bulldog.
- Caesarean deliveries are commonly needed. Hip radiographs show most Bulldogs to be dysplastic but few show overt symptoms.
With the most distinctive mug in dogdom, the Bulldog has an equally distinctive history. The Bulldog’s origin lies in the cruel sport of bull baiting, which originated in England around the thirteenth century. The dog’s purpose was to attack and madden the bull by grabbing it, usually by the nose, and not releasing its grip. Not only was this considered entertainment, but it also was believed that a bull’s meat was tastier if the bull was baited before being butchered.
Some Bulldogs were also set against bears for bear baiting, purely for entertainment. Bulldog owners set great store by their dog’s ferocity and, especially, fortitude in the face of pain—so much so that horrifying stories exist of owners proving their dog’s toughness by demonstrating that it would hang onto the bull despite being tortured or mutilated by the owner.
In 1835, bull baiting was outlawed, and a new phase began for the Bulldog. Some efforts were made to have the dogs fight one another, but this was clearly not the Bulldog’s forte. Now a dog without a cause, the breed’s popularity plummeted. By all rights, the breed should have become extinct, except that it had gained so many ardent admirers that they set out to rescue the Bulldog by selecting against ferocity while still maintaining—and often accentuating—its distinctive physical characteristics. So successful were they that the Bulldog became an extremely amiable character, with a personality not at all like its “sourmug” might suggest. Its tough steadfast persona led it to be identified as a national symbol of England. Its amiable clownish personality belies its appearance, and the Bulldog is a popular pet.