Old English Bulldog

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Old English bulldog
Origin Britain
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Old English Bulldog is an extinct breed of dog.

Physical characteristics[edit]

The Old English Bulldog was compact, broad and muscular, as reflected in the well-known depiction Crib and Rosa. The average height was approximately 15 inches (380 mm), and they weighed about 45 pounds (20 kg). A particular characteristic of the breed was the lower jaw that projected considerably in front of the upper jaw, which made possible a strong, vise-like grip.


The English blood sport of bull-baiting allowed for a specialized breed in the form of the Old English Bulldog. The main locations in London for these exhibitions were Westminster Pit, Beargarden and Old Conduit Fields. One of the breeders who spanned the transition period between the Old English Bulldog and the modern Bulldog was famous dog dealer Bill George.


Historians are fairly confident that the Old English Bulldog is derived from ancient war dogs, such as the old Mastiff or Alaunt. Others believe that the true origin of the breed is not entirely clear. Depictions in old prints show that the variety was without doubt a small Mastiff with a comparatively long head. The word 'Mastiff' was eventually dropped when describing these smaller Mastiffs, as the Mastiff proper was found too slow for bull-baiting. Eventually, the Greyhound was crossed into the breed, increasing the Mastiff's speed without losing the breed's ferocity. This step reduced the Old English Bulldog's size and weight, with the Greyhound's features seen in specimens of that time.


Two other recognized members of the breed can be seen in the 1817 painting Crib and Rosa, with Rosa exemplifying the form and size of the ideal type of Old English Bulldog, albeit deficient in wrinkles about the head and neck and in substance of bone in the limbs. They are faster than regular bulldogs and have an average speed of 7 miles per hour (11 km/h).


Wasp, Child and Billy

In England, the passage of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 caused a decline of bull-baiting and dog fighting, leading to a lack of interest in perpetuating the Old English Bulldog. Three dogs from the Duke of Hamilton's strain of Old English Bulldog, Wasp, Child, and Billy, were depicted in a painting and recognized as some of the last known members of the breed before they became extinct.

Despite the laws making dog fighting illegal, the activity continued for many years. Breeders determined a cross between the Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier created a superior fighting dog with increased quickness and dexterity. This new breed of dog, called the Bull and Terrier, was a precursor to the Bull Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier and accelerated the extinction of the Old English Bulldog.


Several breeders are attempting to recreate this extinct breed, using known descendants of the Old English Bulldog lineage, with some success. As the breed went extinct long before DNA was recognized and little genetic material has survived, it is unclear how much the modern reincarnations of the breed resemble the original Old English Bulldog, and most of the recreations have purposely introduced differences in the breed compared to the original, most prominently reducing the breed's violent nature.

One contemporary recreation of the breed started in the 1970s, using a breeding program developed for cattle at The Ohio State University. The lineage has since split into two, known as the Olde English Bulldogge and the Leavitt Bulldog, the Leavitt Bulldog being a lighter, more athletic dog. These modern day versions, though possessing similar physical abilities, do not have the violent temperament of the Old English Bulldog. The line-breeding was done with a foundation of half Bulldog, and the other half Bullmastiff and American Bulldog and American Pit Bull Terrier.[1][2]


There are several other recreations, including:


Often confused with the Old English Bulldog, the Bulldog is noted for its sweet disposition; however, it has maintained little of the speed and agility that were the definitive characteristics of the Old English Bulldog.

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