by Doris Donnerman
(last updated August 17, 2009)
Generally accepted as a symbol of British pluck and endurance, the Bulldog is considered to be a breed of purely British origin. In his background is very probably found the large, strong, and broad-mouthed war dogs of the early Britons. The first description to be found in literature was that of W. Wulcher who, in 1500, referred to them as the Bondogge. Under Dr. Johannes Caius' grouping in 1570 we find the breed referred to as the Mastine or Bandogge, among the sundry names for which was the "Butchers Dogge." It was not until the early 1630s that the breed was referred to in literature as the "Bulldog."
There has always been much argument concerning the origin of the breed, particularly among fanciers of the Bulldog and the Mastiff, both claiming their favorite breed to be the ancestor of the other. Perhaps both were descended from the "alauntes" mentioned in the Master of Game, by Edward, the second Duke of York, practically a translation of Gaston de Foix's Livre de Chasse, and written about 1406-1413. Edward interpolated a description of his own when he stated that the Alaunt of the butcher was good for baiting the bull. It is very probable that the Alaunts of that period were more like Great Danes than anything else, and certainly larger than the low-slung Bulldog. The Bulldog of the present is a far different dog than the first dog to bear that name.
There is little doubt that the Bulldog derived his name from the so-called sport of bull-baiting, once quite popular in England. Dog fighting was a natural outgrowth of bull-baiting, particularly after that dubious sport declined. For a long time the cruel sport of dog-fighting was carried on in London and the Midlands. Dogs used for this purpose were quite different from the present-day Bulldog. They were higher on the leg, lighter in bone, smaller in skull, longer in muzzle, and not nearly so wide in front. They were generally cropped to lessen the chances of their opponent's getting a hold on their ears. That they were extremely courageous and capable of withstanding great punishment goes without saying, for many of these fights were to the death. Dog fighting became illegal by legislation in 1835 and, while it was carried on under cover, is credited with playing a considerable part in the revival of interest in the breed.
There is none of the old fighting, bull-baiting dog in the present-day Bulldog. Formidable in appearance, with the look of great strength and courage, the Bulldog is docile in manner and affectionate by nature. He has long since lived down the stigma of the sport from which he gained his name. The breed is now well established in this country and has many admirers.
The breeding of Bulldogs is no task for the amateur. Due to their physical make-up, Whelping is often difficult and Caesarean operations are necessary. Sterility in the females occurs in a degree of considerable magnitude. A good female that is able to bear and raise her young is a very valuable animal.
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