I often chuckle at these pudgy, bow-legged, wrinkly-faced dogs. Besides being the fourth-most popular dog in the USA, bulldogs are without a doubt some of the biggest clowns around.
They (used to) fight with bulls.
Bull baiting was a popular pastime in the UK from the 13th century up until its demise in the 1890’s. Bulldogs were bred for the violent encounter, sneaking low to the ground and biting the bull’s (sometimes bear or horse’s) snout.
Holding on for dear life often resulted in the bulldog being thrown high into the air by their “victim”. Unsurprisingly, many of these animals (and sometimes humans) sustained serious traumas or fatalities because of their involvement with this “sport”.
But, why are they so “ugly”?
Bred to be super effective at bull baiting, the bulldog’s stocky bodies helped to keep them grounded while the bull tried to toss the dogs into the air. The dog’s saggy skin served to protect vital organs (kind of like a fluffy shield).
The wrinkles on the face served as channels to keep blood out of their eyes, and their famous “under bite” helped to give them a good grip on the bull. The flattened face allowed for breathing freely while grasping the bull’s snout, and their shorter back legs helped to prevent spinal injuries while being shaken.
It is rumored by some that the dog hardly ever felt pain.
They almost went instinct.
After bull baiting was prohibited in the UK, bulldogs lost their popularity. After all, why keep a dog around who doesn’t really have a job?
However, lovers of the dog saw potential and started breeding the dog to have a kinder and gentler demeanor. Some bulldogs found work in Germany and the USA as herding dogs, while others remained in England as companion dogs.
They have an independent streak.
Being self-sufficient and determined, bulldogs are noticeably a more independent than others dogs. Their confidence enables them to solve problems without expecting guidance from their owners, as other breeds might.
They are definitely not water dogs.
Because their heads are so big and their butts are so small, bulldogs are somewhat lopsided in the water. Like all dogs they can swim, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them in just case they slip under the waves.
They need help getting pregnant.
The bulldog’s backward physiology results in difficulty “getting together”. Since males have a hard time reaching the females, breeders usually choose artificial insemination to avoid unneeded stress.
Giving birth is also a bit of a chore thanks to the bulldog’s large heads and small birth canals. Because of this, natural birth is usually avoided and most bulldogs are born via C-section.
They are favorites in the UK.
England adores the bulldog, and many consider them the national breed. During World War II Great Britain was frequently portrayed as a rugged bulldog. Churchill was often called the “British Bulldog” due his demeanor (and perhaps also his looks). Oddly enough and despite the nickname, Churchill was a poodle owner.
He had far to go.
In 1903, a bulldog named Bud accompanied Horatio Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker on what is now considered America’s first “road trip”. Bud wore a pair of riding goggles to keep the dust out of his eyes, just like his human companions. Incidentally, the trip proved that cars were the future of transportation.
A mascot by any other name…
Dozens of college and high school teams call themselves “Bulldogs”, as does the United States Army infantry. In fact, in 1965 the Army commissioned Walt Disney to draw “Rocky the Marne Bulldog” to serve as their mascot. The cost? Exactly one dollar. Ah, those were the days.
Presidents are bulldog fans.
Calvin Coolidge owned a bulldog named Boston Beans (a fitting name), while Warren Harding called his bulldog “Oh Boy”. (I think Harding had a sense of humor).
Skating away on the thin ice of a new day…
Recently, a bulldog named Otto broke a Guinness Record for Skateboarding Dogs. The talented canine skated under the legs of 30 people in Lima, Peru, in honor of the 2015 Guinness World Records Day.