History and Origin
of the Bulldog
The ancestry of the Bulldog has long been subject to controversy among cynologists and naturalists. Buffon considered the Bulldog as the parent of the Mastiff, while Sydenham Edwards contended that the Bulldog resulted from crossbreeding the large Mastiff and the Pug Dog.
The earliest English "book of dogs", written by Johannes Caius, of Cambridge, in 1576, does not specifically mention a bulldog, suggesting that the bulldog as a breed had not made its appearance yet. In his book, Dr. Caius described the "Mastive" or "Bandogge" as a vast, huge, stubborn, ugly and eager dog, of a heavy and burdenous body, serviceable to "bait and take the bull by the ear". He added that two dogs at most were sufficient for that purpose, however untamable the bull might be.
The Bulldog is clearly distinguished from the Mastiff for the first time in 1631 in a letter written from San Sebastian in Spain by an Englishman called Prestwich Eaton to his friend George Wellingham, then living in London, in which the word bulldog appears separately from the Mastiff when the author of the letter asks to be sent " a good Mastive dog, a case of liquor and I beg you to get for me some good bulldoggs". According to many bulldog historians this is considered definite proof that the Bulldog and the Mastiff were then becoming separate breeds.
In those days, many crosses were made using Mastiffs and Bandogges, and outcrosing to various other breeds was also frequent. Eventually the size, shape, and color of the Bulldog became more recognizable, though. Most of the better breeding was done in the London, Birmingham, and Sheffield areas.
A very graphic description of the Bulldog's qualities of that time, can be found in the 1800 Cynographia Britannica, by Sydenham Edwards. It describes the bulldog's "head round and full, muzzle short, ears small... chest wide, body round, with the limbs very muscular and strong; the tail... rarely erected (...) the the most striking character is the under-jaw almost uniforly projecting beyond the upper;(...)"
In 1900 Mr. John Proctor, and Englishman resident in Antwerp, who was a well-known dog fancier purchased an old bronze placque or medallion in Paris from Monsieur A. Provendier, a noted breeder of French Bulldogs. This antique bronze placque was dated 1625, and bore in bas-relief the head of a cropped Bulldog, and the inscription ``Dogue de Burgos España", the artist's name being Cazalla.
The cropped dog depicted on an old Spanish placque of Burgos of 1625 was very noticeably a big dog and very noticeably a Bulldog, being much underhung, with a big skull and a well laid back nose. Many years later, in the year 1840, Bill George imported from Spain a Spanish Bulldog, which he called Big-headed Billy, whilst in 1868 Mr. Macquart brought over Bonhomme and Lisbon, and in 1873 Mr. Frank Adcock acquired Toro and Alphonse in Madrid. Spanish dogs were reasonably short in face, and they had proper Bulldog tails, with a downward crook at the root and another at the end. All these five were termed pure-bred Spanish Bulldogs, and they were all exactly of the type depicted on the 1625 placque. But, since all the dogs in Spain were closely cropped there is no definite description of the ears they may have had.
From this bronze placque and from the fact that in the second half of the 19th century many famous bulldogs like Toro and Billy were imported from Spain, the late Mr. George R. Krehl, who was in 1900 the editor of "The Stock Keeper", built up a theory that the Bulldog originated in Spain.
This theory can not hold for one moment. Indeed, the export of Bulldogs had been commenced well before, by Philip II in the 1500s, and from England TO Spain. Moreover, it has been shown that as early as 1154 the baiting of bulls and bears by dogs in England was a popular amusement, and many dog historians agree that these dogs were the descendents of the 'broad-mouthed dogs of Britain'. The fact that the ``pugnacious" of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain" and that Claudius in 390 stated that they were able to pull down a bull, may indeed show that these dogs were, of course, in a rough and typical manner only, the original stock from which the Bulldog and Mastiff sprang.
What most breed historians do agree on is that Bulldogs owe their name to the fact that they were once used to guard, control and bait bulls. The baiting of bulls before slaughtering them was based on the belief that if a beef were to be slaughtered, it should first be baited so that the meat would be more tender and nutritious. As a result, a butcher who sold the flesh of a bull that had not been baited, was liable to a penalty and the meat was considered unproper for consumption.
Bull baiting was also considered a "sport" and enjoyed great popularity in the middle ages among noblemen and royalty.
In 1802, after a very heated discussion, a bill to abolish bull-baiting was issued at the House of Commons. The practice continued, however, until 1835 when it was made illegal by an Act of Parliament.
With the decline of bull-baiting, the number of purebred Bulldogs began to diminish rapidly.
The sport of dog-fighting, which succeeded bull-baiting in public fancy, was largely responsible for the diminishing number of pure-bred Bulldogs. Many breeders began crossing the Bulldog with the Terrier because they felt that such a Bull-and-Terrier cross produced a better fighter.
About this time, a number of laws were passed which placed restrictions and taxes on dogs; these, together with the fact that the Bulldog's chief uses were outlawed, all but completed his doom. Go on reading with the First Bulldog breed clubs.
The word Bandog was also used ambiguously and applied not to a distinct breed, but to all dogs that were usually kept chained up or in bonds. To make things even more complicated, ancient texts written by Roman historians described the fierce Greek, Molossian dogs and the "pugnace britannicii" or fighting dogs of Britain used in battles. These fighting dogs of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain", and according to R.H. Voss "there is very little doubt that they were the original and remote ancestors of our Mastiff and Bulldog. They appealed immensely to the Romans, who sent considerable numbers of them from Britain to Rome to take part in the sports of the amphitheatre, and it has even been said that the Romans appointed an officer to select British dogs and export them to Rome."
The Alaunt was defined in a dictionary of 1632 as being like a Mastiff and serving butchers to bring in fierce oxen to keep them in their stalls. Down through the centuries, until a comparatively recent time, the name "Mastiff" has been applied indiscriminatley to all large or massive dogs.
Still others suggest that both the Mastiff and the Bulldog had a common ancestor in the Alaunt.
DURING the Middle Ages, the sport of baiting was extremely popular in England and was patronised by all classes of people, from the very rich to the poor, and great amounts of money changed hands in wagers on the outcome of these contests. Almost every town and village in the country had its bull ring. Bulls, bears, horses, and other animals were trained for baiting.
In bullbaiting the object the dog was required to perform was "pinning and holding", i.e. "to seize the bull by the nose and then not to leave go the hold." As the bull's nose was his most tender part, he was rendered helpless when seized by it. He had a collar about his neck that was fastened to a hook; that in turn was attached to a stake so
The baiting of animals may be traced to an early period in English history. It was also a favourite form of amusement among the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, as well as the people of other ancient nations.
the animal might turn around. The dog was trained to "play low", keeping his own head close to the ground, or, if a larger specimen of the breed, would creep on his belly to avoid being above the bull's horns when the bulls attempted to use them to throw the dog into the air.
Most of the dogs were so tenacious that they would hold on to the bitter end and be tossed off eventually rather than let go as the bulls swung them around violently in the air. A great many dogs were killed, more had their limbs broken and some held so fast that by the bull swinging them, their teeth were often broken out. Often the men were tossed as well as the dogs.
Bull baiting took place in rope enclosures inside circular buildings, reminiscent of the old Roman amphitheatres. These were in turn surrounded by kennels built on scaffolding, safely away from the public.
The following description given by the French Advocate Mission, who lived in England, during the reign of William III, is taken from Chamber's Book of Days:
"After a coming Bull-baiting had been advertised, the bull, decorated with flowers or coloured ribbons would be paraded round the streets of the town, and the dog which pulled off the favours in the subsequent baiting would be especially cheered by the spectators. The parade ended, the bull, with a rope tied round the root of his horns, would be fastened to a stake with an iron ring in it, situated in the centre of the ring."
As mentioned previously, the first bull runnings in England were supposed to have been at Stamford in the year 1209, in the reign of King John, and at Tutbury in 1374. There are, however, grounds for the belief that bull-baiting began much earlier, and that it was probably first indulged in by butchers who employed their dogs to chase, catch, and throw the bulls, and to bait them so as to render the flesh tender. Moreover, Claudian's writings suggest that the practice of baiting bulls was a form of diversion in his time.
"William, Earl of Warren, Lord of the town, standing upon the walls of the castle saw two bulls fighting for a cow in the castle meadow, until all the butchers' dogs pursued one of the bulls (maddened with noise and multitude) clean through the town. This sight so pleased the Earl, that he gave the castle meadow where the bulls' duel began for a common to the butchers of the town after
the first grass was mowed, on condition that they should find a mad bull the day six weeks before Christmas Day, for the continuance of the sport forever."
This may or may not have been the origin of the old English sport of bull baiting. At any rate, wherever it began, it became more popular with the passing years. Its popularity created a demand for dogs qualified for the sport. These dogs were selected and bred for courage, power, and ferocity. From the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, bull-baiting was a national sport in England.
It was during the continuing years of these sporting events that the dog owners began to recognize the necessity of altering the dogs' size and structure to better survice in the rings. The large mastiff-like dogs were seen as being too heavily built and too slow and cumbersome in the ring. Through judicious outcrosses the Bulldog gradually evolved. The dog began to change shape with the bulk of his weight near the head so that when the bull shook him there was less chance of the dog's back being broken. However, a scientifically selective breeding program certainly did not exist during the Middle Ages and it is evident that dog owners were following a program of breeding based on the individual specimen, which had to have a fierce, vicious and tenacious personality, rather than on the basis of pedigree bloodlines, as illustrated by the following anecdotes.
Among a number of informative stories about Bulldogs is one concerning a bait at Bristol in March 1822. An old and crippled bitch had been standing calmly at the side of a butcher watching the flight of the numerous dogs through the air as the bull cleverly and effectively disposed of his adversaries. At the command of the butcher, the bitch slowly hobbled into the ring. She was covered with scars, blind in one eye, and altogether deprived of the use of one of her hind legs. Unlike many good dogs, she did not run directly up to the bull's front, but sneaked cautiously around him, with her remaining eye vigilantly bent upon the bull's every motion, apparently watching for an opportunity to bolt in and grab the bull. This was rather un-Bulldog-like behaviour, but considering the infirmity of the old bitch and the little chance of success she would have had if she had gone in like a strong, fleet, and unmaimed dog, it may have been in some measure excusable. She had pinned this same formidable bull about a dozen times, and she and the bull had slept many a night in the same stall.
In the stable the two were as amicable as doves, but on the turf the situation was different. The bull's fiery and bloodshot eyes were fixed upon her the moment she made her appearance. He seemed to be perfectly aware of her capabilities and steadily kept his front toward her, turning as she turned and, disregarding all other objects, keeping his keen eyes fixed on her alone. Another dog unexpectedly burst into the ring while the two thus steadily eyed each other, but the bull sent him curvetting and gambolling over the heads of the spectators, without deigning to honour him with so much as a momentary glance.
It was some time before the bitch had an opportunity to get in close to the bull. At length she suddenly darted forward with a velocity of which she seemed incapable, and at one bound reached the bull's nose. Despite repeated attempts, she was unable to hold fast. Although her sturdy old friend tossed her off several times, disaster only tended to prove her invincible courage and she repeatedly went in to the old bull; at one time she managed to evade his horns so cleverly and grapple with him so stoutly, that it seemed she would eventually pin him. But he trod her off by main force, and running over her maimed body, left her to be picked up by her fond old master.
It was not uncommon to see the dogs at early English baits, with their entrails trailing on the ground, urged again and again to run at the bull they were baiting. In one case, a dog of great repute was gored by the bull so that his bowels were torn out. Securing them in their place with needle and thread, the spectators, in consequence of
some wager depending upon the outcome of the baiting, then set the dog at the bull in this mangled and almost dying condition.
The following, a typical public notice, appeared in the Weekly Journal: "July 22, 1721, note: also a bear to be baited and a mad green bull to be turned loose in the Gaming-place; with fireworks all over him and a comet at his tail, and Bulldogs after him. A dog will be drawn up with fireworks after him in the middle of the yard; and an ass to be baited upon the same stage."
It was not unusual at a bull-bait to see a Bulldog, surrounded by fireworks, raised to a considerable height by a rope which was drawn up through a pulley arrangement. The dog maintained his position of safety above the flames by holding tight with his teeth to a piece of sponge attached to the end of the rope.
As an additional means of attracting spectators, boxing matches were sometimes held in conjunction with bull-baits. It is recorded that almost five thousand spectators witnessed an 1824 bull-bait which was followed by a boxing match.
In many towns the butchers were liable to a penalty if they sold the flesh of a bull in the market without having had the animal baited on the previous market day. The reason for this was that the flesh of a baited bull was universally considered more tender and nutritious than that of animals slaughtered without first being submitted to the process. The belief, while it does not excuse the brutality of the act, may have been founded on fact. The excited state of the animal just before death would have tended to hasten putrefaction, and the flesh would have had to be cooked sooner or it would have been unfit to eat.
There can be little doubt that bullbaiting, as practised by the early English, was not merely a cruel sport intended to gratify the lowest and basest passions, but also was intended as a means of rendering wholesome and nutritious a large quantity of flesh that otherwise would not have been utilised.
In the old Court Roll of the Manor at Barnard Castle, it is stated that "no butcher shall kill any bull two years old upwards, unless he first be brought to the ring and sufficiently halted." The ring in Barnard Castle (fixed in a large stone that was level with the pavement) was in the Market Place opposite the District Bank. Bulldogs of a strain known as "Lonsdales," named for Lonsdale, a butcher and publican who lived at Barnard Castle about 1780, were in demand for many years.
In 1802, after a very heated discussion, a bill to abolish bull-halting was thrown out of the House of Commons. The practice continued until 1835 when it was made illegal by an Act of Parliament.
Bull-bailing continued to be practised occasionally at the West Derby Wakes until about 1853, and baits were held at Wirksworth as late as 1838 or 1840. The last bull-bait in Aylesbury took place on September 26, 1821. At Ashbourne the final bait was held in 1842, while at Lancashire the practice continued until about 1841 or 1842. It is interesting to note how many years passed after the Act of Parliament before the custom died out completely.
With the decline of bull-baiting, the number of pure-bred Bulldogs began to diminish rapidly. One early writer states that they Were occasionally to be obtained in London and Birmingham and a few scattered places in the Black Country.
An engraving of Wasp, Child, and Billy, published May 15, 1809, -bore the following account in the margin: "The above Bulldogs, the property of H. Boynton, Esq. originally of the late Duke of Hamilton's breed, and the only ones left of the blood, are in such high estimation that Mr. Boynton has received one hundred and twenty guineas for Billy, and twenty guineas for a whelp before taken from the bitch. It is asserted that they are the only real Bulldogs in existence, and upon their decease this species of dog may be considered as extinct."
The sport of dog-fighting which succeeded bull-baiting in public fancy, was largely responsible for the diminishing number of pure-bred Bulldogs. Many breeders began crossing the Bulldog with the Terrier because they felt that such a cross produced a better fighter.
It was in 1835, that the bull-and bearbaiting contests, as well as dogfighting, were finally prohibited by law.
and the First Bulldog Champions
In 1802, a bill to abolish bull baiting initiated the decline of the bulldog breed. The practice of bull-baiting continued until 1835 when it was finally made illegal by an Act of Parliament.
With the decline of bull baiting, bulldogs were no longer in demand and the number of purebred bulldogs began to diminish rapidly. If it had not been for a small group of dedicated fanciers, Bulldogs may have been lost forever.
Fortunately, a group of true lovers of the breed got together, with the desire to retain the breed and all its good points.
In 1864, the first Bulldog Club was formed with the motto 'Hold Fast'. It was founded by a man named R.S. Rockstro who called together a group of about 30 Bulldog enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the club only lasted three years, but this was long enough to see to the writing of the 'first' Breed Standard. It was called the 'Philo-Kuan' Standard, after the nom the plume of the Standard's author, Samuel Wickens.
In 1875, the original Bulldog Club was founded at the Blue Post Inn in London. It was the forerunner of all dog clubs in the world, and existed even before the UK Kennel Club was conceived. Members drew up a Standard similar to the Philo-Kuan, which is still used today and varies only slightly from the offical Standard. The Bulldog Club was incorporated in 1894. Its main objective was to control the infiltration of the Spanish Bulldog strain that weighed around 100 pounds or more. These Bulldogs were considered oversized and one of the first purposes of the Breed standard was to promote a more moderate size in Bulldogs. The Club held its annual exhibition of Bulldogs in London but it also offered trophies and medals for competition among its own members in other cities. The Bulldog Club Incorporated had a list of club judges, who were elected annually. The special prizes were offered only at shows were one or another of these club judges officiated.
The London Bulldog Society, originally known as the South London Bulldog Society, was another famous London Bulldog organization. Like the Bulldog Club Incorporated, it held an annual show in London and offered numerous special prizes for competing members at nearly all of the more important shows.
Local Clubs of that time included the Birmingham and Midland Counties Bulldog Club, located in Sutton Coldfield and the Manchester and District Bulldog Club, in Manchester.
The first Bulldog to be shown was King Dick in 1860 and 1864 , owned by Jacob Lamphier. Another of Mr. Lamphierís bulldogs named Adam was the first bulldog to be registered in the Kennel Club stud book.The Bulldog considered the one nearest to perfection ever seen was the famous Crib , or Turonís Crib as he was usually called. Crib was bred by Mr. Lamphier and sold to Mr. Turton who campaigned him to his title. He was never defeated during his entire ring career.
The matings of Crib to Berrie's Rose, Lampier's Meg, Rusts Miss Smiff and Becketts Kit were various strains that built the foundation of today's Bulldogs.
The first Bulldog to be shown was King Dick in 1860 and 1864, owned by Jacob Lamphier. Another of Mr. Lamphier's Bulldogs, named Adam, was the first Bulldog to be registered in The Kennel Club stud book. The Bulldog considered the one nearest to perfection ever seen was the famous Crib, or Turton's Crib as
The Bulldog Club of America was founded in 1890 by H.D. Kendall of Lowell, Massachusetts, with the aim to unite those interested in "encouraging the thoughtful and careful breeding of the English Bulldog in America". The Club was originally composed of a small group of men in the northeastern United States, but membership soon grow country-wide and the structure of the organization was reshaped in 1950 to make The Bulldog Club of America a truly national organization. The club has a unique organizational form with a national executive body composed of National officers and a legislative body composed of representatives for each geographical area or Division. Each Division in turn has its Division officers and a Board of Governors, to carry out the work of BCA within its geographical boundaries. National Officers rotate every two years to assure no area dominates. Membership in a division automatically implies membership of BCA.
One of the first dogs to be shown was Donald, a brindle-and-white exhibited by Sir William Verner in the show in New York in 1880. According to the famous judge, Enno Meyer, "Donald lacked somewhat in substance but he had a rather good head".
The best bulldogs that had been shown in America at that time were beyond doubt Robinson Crusoe of Colonel John E. Thayer and the excellent bitch, Champion Britomartis.
Another dog in this period was Mr. Graves' Handsome Dan, probably the best American-bred of this time, with the distinction of being the famous Yale mascot.
In 1907, the Bulldog Club of Philadelphia was the first local or regional club to be recognized.
When the Bulldog Club of America was first organized it used the English bulldog standard, but soon the original standard was considered as not descriptive enough and an executive committee was created in 1896 with the aim to conceive a new standard.
The South African Bulldog Club was probably the first Bulldog Club formed outside Great-Britain and the United States. It was founded in 1908 under the leadership of Dr. Currie and held its very first championship show in 1913.