The Bulldog is one of the most popular dog breeds due to its gentle nature and the fact that it is great with children; however, it may surprise some to learn that, it was originally bred to be aggressive.
Bulldogs were originally bred to guard, control and bait1 bulls and sometimes other livestock. To this end, the bulldog was selectively bred to be an amazingly athletic dog, with a specifically designed undershot bite which allowed it to get a good grip and hold when being used to bait a bull. All the physical features of the bulldog were bred for very practical reasons: the facial wrinkles were to allow blood to flow away from the dog’s eyes and nose; the nose is set back from the skull to help make breathing easy while the dog is holding on to the bull with is mouth. Short and powerful legs allowed for a crouched position as the dog attempted to attack the bull.
After bull baiting was banned in 1835, the breed was revived into a companion, leaving behind its fighting heritage. Further modern-day breeding resulted in the gentle and lovable dogs we know today.
The bulldog was exported form the United Kingdom to German where it was crossbred to produce the boxer, and the United States where a smaller size version was bred which continued to be used as a herding dog.
There is some contention about how the modern size of the bulldog breed was achieved. Some claim that it was through selective breeding and others suggest that it was due to the introduction of pug bloodlines into the breed, which also helped with producing the clam temperament.
Through all this the bulldog has survived to become one of the most popular dogs in the world, and has found its way into many facets of our lives, such as bine the mascot for many universities and organizations, the emblem for Mack trucks, and part of many movies.
1. Bull baiting is the practice of setting of a bulldog against a bull/cow. The dog is meant to bite and tear the tied or otherwise confined animal until it is subdued or killed.