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Bull-baiting, as illustrated in 1821
Bull and Bear Baiting arenas shown on the "woodcut" map of London of c.1561 (the dogs are shown coming out of pens to each side)

Bull-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of bulls. It may involve pitting a bull against another animal.[1]



In England during the time of Queen Anne, bull-baiting was practised in London at Hockley-in-the-Hole, twice a week – and was also reasonably common in provincial towns. At Tutbury, a bull was tied to an iron stake so that it could move within a radius of about 30 feet. The object of the sport was for the dogs to immobilise the bull.

Before the event started, the bull's nose was blown full of pepper to enrage the animal before the baiting. The bull was often placed in a hole in the ground. A variant of bull-baiting was "pinning the bull", where specially-trained dogs would set upon the bull one at a time, a successful attack resulting in the dog fastening his teeth strongly in the bull's snout. The bulldog was bred especially for this sport.

Bull-baiting was not only practised as a form of recreation. In early modern England, many towns had by-laws regulating the sale of meat, which stipulated that bulls' flesh should be baited before any bull was slaughtered and put on sale. It was believed that baiting improved the flesh.[citation needed] These laws continued in operation during the eighteenth century. By the early nineteenth century, they were starting to die out, mainly because the baiting caused a public nuisance rather than because of new ideas about animal cruelty.[2]

A Bill for the suppression of the practice was introduced into the House of Commons in 1802, but was defeated by thirteen votes. It was not finally outlawed until parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, which forbade the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.

North America[edit]

A bull and bear fighting in New Orleans, 1853.

In the 19th Century, and during Spanish Colonial Rule, bulls used to be pitted against bears, in California and Mexico. Kingsley (1920) said that the bulls that fought the bears, at least while California was part of the United States, were not domesticated Hereford bulls, but Spanish Fighting Bulls, whose weight, agility, speed, sharp horns and hot temper were said to be dangerous to both bears and humans, and Wistar (1937) said that those bulls were fearless.[1][3][4] In a case of the bull winning, victory could come early, when the bull used its strength to gore the bear to death with its horns, or toss the bear into the air.[3]

Dogs in bull baiting[edit]

Bull baiting dogs, including bulldogs and pit bulls, were bred to bait animals, mainly bulls and bears.[5] During bull-baiting the dog would attempt to flatten itself to the ground, creeping as close to the bull as possible, then darting out and attempting to bite the bull in the nose or head area.[6] The bull would often be tethered by a collar and rope which was staked into the ground. As the dog darted at the bull, the bull would attempt to catch the dog with his head and horns and throw it into the air.

In 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in Parliament that outlawed "Blood Sport" in Great Britain.[7] The bulldog's work was suddenly over and the bulldog rapidly started dying out. Around 1865 dog fanciers began developing dog clubs which eventually culminated into conformation shows. Many fanciers utilized various remnants of the dog utilized for "Blood Sport" to resurrect the "Bull" dog and ultimately developed today's modern English bulldog.


Washington Irving, in his book, The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, wrote that a bear was baited, and likewise, a wild, fierce bull, before they were brought by vaqueros to an arena in a small amphitheatre in Monterey, California, to fight each other. He called the fight "a favorite, though barbarous sport." In this case, he said that the bear used its sharp claws against the nose of the bull, before catching its tongue, after being repeatedly gored by the bull. Then the bull overturned it "with a desperate effort," and then 'dispatched' it rather easily.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Washington, Irving (1837), "Gay life at Monterey – Mexican horsemen – A bold dragoon – Use of the lasso – Vaqueros – Noosing a bear – Fight between a bull and a bear – Departure from Monterey – Indian horse stealers – Outrages committed by the travellers – Indignation of Captain Bonneville", The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the far West, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  2. ^ Griffin, Emma. "Sports and Celebrations in English Market Towns". Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Tracy Irwin Storer; Lloyd Pacheco Tevis (1996). California Grizzly. University of California Press. pp. 42–187. ISBN 978-0-520-20520-8. Retrieved 2016-03-23. 
  4. ^ Brown, David E. (1996). The Grizzly in the Southwest: Documentary of an Extinction. University of Oklahoma Press. Retrieved 2016-03-25. 
  5. ^ *Jenkins, Robert; Ken Mollett (1997). The Story of the Real Bulldog. Neptune, NJ: TFH Publications. ISBN 0-7938-0491-4. 
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports. Routledge (UK). 2005. ISBN 0-415-35224-X. 
  7. ^ Fogle, Bruce; Tracy Morgan (2000). The new encyclopedia of the dog. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 381. ISBN 0-7894-6130-7. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]