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11 Bully Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Bully dog breeds are loved for their unique and sometimes intimidating appearance and loving and affectionate nature toward their owners. Several bully breeds have also gained attention from their unfortunate history in dog fighting, which sadly earned some of them a bad reputation as aggressive breeds.

However, responsible bully breeders have put a lot of effort into enhancing the beneficial traits of their dogs throughout the years. Bully dogs have evolved into wonderful companions and working dogs that many dog lovers would cherish as a pet. If you want to adopt a bully breed into your family, it’s important to learn about their history and temperament, so let’s look at just some of the top bully breeds that may suit your family and lifestyle.

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How Are Bully Dog Breeds Classified?

Bully dog breeds are an umbrella term used to classify Terrier-type breeds, which include dogs that physically resemble Terriers but may or may not be genetically related to them. American Pit Bull Terriers, Boston Terriers, Bull Terriers, Boxers, Bullmastiffs, Staffordshire Terriers, and French Bulldogs are just a few examples.

The term “bully breed” refers to the dog’s origin and history rather than their temperament or behavior. They do, however, all share a characteristic. They are descended from Molosser dogs, native to Greece, who were big, robust canines with short muzzles. Initially, breeders combined these massive dogs with other breeds to produce dogs that could defend livestock, maintain property, and assist in daily tasks.

Unfortunately, several bully breeds would later be bred for blood sports like bullbaiting. Many of the dogs continued to be raised as companion animals after these barbarous activities were banned. Bully dogs have become reliable working and companion animals that can be loving pets for anyone in any age group, including children, seniors, and everyone in between. Numerous breeds fall under the umbrella of “bully dogs” with Molosser origins. The following are some of the most well-known and well-liked bully dog breeds:

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The 11 Bully Dog Breeds

1.  American Bulldog

American Bulldog running in the forest
Image Credit: Volchock, Shutterstock
Origin: America
Height: 20–25 inches
Weight: 60–100 pounds
Lifespan: 10–12 years

The American Bulldog is a medium to large muscular breed. They are an athletic canine that exhibits excellent agility, strength, and a friendly disposition. They are courageous and loyal companions who require consistent training and activity. The American Bulldog is believed to have arrived in America as early as the 1700s. Many arrived in the country during the 17th and 18th centuries with their families and owners.

The American Bulldog is a robust breed whose primary roles include farm work, guard duties, and companionship. They became valuable for small farmers and ranchers because of their reputation for capturing stray cattle and pigs. The sole surviving dogs were kept on farms, mostly in the southeast, between World War I and World War II, when the breed nearly became extinct.

2. American Pit Bull Terrier

white american pitbull terrier in autumn forest
Image Credit: stockfoto, Shutterstock
Origin: America
Height: 18–21 inches
Weight: 35–70 pounds
Lifespan: 12–14 years

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a solid, medium-sized bully breed renowned for their strength and athleticism. They have an unwavering zest for life and admirable confidence. They make wonderful family companions due to their love of children and eagerness to please. Because of their robust build and strength, the American Pit Bull Terrier needs a dedicated owner who will properly socialize and train them in obedience.

Dog enthusiasts in England, Ireland, and Scotland started experimenting with Bulldog-Terrier crosses somewhere during the 19th century to create a breed that would have both the Bulldog’s toughness and agility and the Terrier’s hunting drive.

The result was the American Pitbull Terrier, which immigrants brought to the United States. Farmers and ranchers were impressed by their abilities and employed American Pit Bull Terriers as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and pigs, to drive livestock and hunt, and as family companions.

3. American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier
Image Credit By: susanne906, pixabay
Origin: America
Height: 17–19 inches
Weight: 40–70 pounds
Lifespan: 12–16 years

American Staffordshire Terriers are another stocky and muscular bully breed known for their confidence, intelligence, and loyalty. They are also loved for their affectionate disposition, especially toward their owners. They are naturally protective of their family and require early socialization and training.

The American Staffordshire Terrier’s history can be traced back to the 18th century when they were sadly used in the brutal sport of baiting and fighting dogs. Some breed enthusiasts think that the genetics of the American Staffordshire Terrier include extinct breeds like the White English Terrier and the Black-and-Tan Terrier.

American Staffordshire Terriers reached America by the middle of the 1800s and were further developed by American breeders. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier were eventually recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as two distinct breeds, with the American Staffordshire Terrier becoming an official breed by the AKC in 1936.

4. Bull Mastiff

bullmastiff standing on the grass
Image Credit: Michael J Magee, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Height: 24–27 inches
Weight: 100–130 pounds
Lifespan: 7–9 years

The Bull Mastiff is developed by crossing the Bulldog and the Mastiff. The Bullmastiff is a powerful guard dog that is fearless at work and gentle at home. Their intelligence, vigilance, and confidence make them an outstanding family pet and protector. Although all interactions between children and other pets should be under adult supervision, they generally get along well.

The Bullmastiff is also known as “The Gatekeeper Night Dog.” This nickname essentially sums up the early history of the breed. During the mid-to-late 19th century, the English aristocracy’s enormous country estates and game preserves were inviting targets for poachers. In response, gamekeepers bred large, fast, and courageous dogs.

They discovered the ideal combination by breeding Mastiffs and Bulldogs at a ratio of 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. It was inevitable that competitions over who owned the highest-quality Bullmastiffs grew among British gamekeepers, leading to competitions, exhibitions, and, eventually, the show ring. The popularity of dog exhibitions in England increased while breeders of Bullmastiffs standardized their breed. The breed received official recognition from the AKC in 1933.

5. Bull Terrier

Bull terrier show dog posing
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Height: 21–22 inches
Weight: 50–70 pounds
Lifespan: 12–13 years

The Bull Terrier is easily recognized by their robust, muscular bodies and “egg-shaped” heads with triangular eyes and pointy ears. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are well known for their humorous, mischievous nature, loyalty, and affection. They are a sweet and lovable breed that requires attention and training from their owners.

The Bull Terrier resulted by crossing Bulldogs with Terriers, as Bulldogs proved too slow in the dog fighting arena. This crossing aimed at developing a breed that acquired the strength of the Bulldog with the spirit of the Terrier. Once bullfighting was outlawed, the Bull Terrier grew popular and fashionable among young men of the 1800’s.

Breeders started focusing on improving the breed’s appearance and temperament so that it might serve as an affluent companion dog. The contemporary Bull Terrier was developed and standardized by Englishman James Hinks in the early 1860s from an ancient fighting breed, a Bulldog-Terrier cross. Since their introduction to the AKC in 1885, Bull Terriers have become favorites among Americans.

6. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier posing in garden
Image Credit: Ruben PH, Shutterstock
Origin: Boston
Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: 12–25 pounds
Lifespan: 11–13 years

As their name suggests, the Boston Terrier originated in Boston. They are a small breed easily recognized by their “tuxedo” coat and admired for their good manners, which earned them the nickname the “American gentleman.” They delight in joining in with their family’s activities and can sometimes be rather boisterous. They make good family dogs and get along with kids as long as they play softly.

The development of the Boston Terrier occurred during the days of dog fighting. A strong, powerful dog named Judge was produced in Liverpool sometime in the late 1860s through a mix between the extinct white English Terrier and Bulldog. William O’Brien, an American, purchased Judge from his previous owner and took him to Boston with him. O’Brien sold Judge to Robert C. Hooper, a fellow Bostonian, in 1870.

From then on, Judge was referred to in breed histories as “Hooper’s Judge,” which evolved into the Boston Terrier breed’s patriarch and the ancestor of nearly all true Boston Terriers. The dogs were selectively bred to produce smaller, kinder, and more attractive companion dogs, which breeders first dubbed the Round Head. The breed name was changed to Boston Terrier in recognition of the city where these charming dogs were so diligently produced. The Boston Terrier Club of America was established in 1891, and the AKC registered the first of the breed’s dogs 2 years later.

7. Boxer

close up of boxer dog
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Height: 21–25 inches
Weight: 65–80 pounds
Lifespan: 10–12 years

The Boxer is one of the most adorable Bully breeds and has the playful and happy temperament to match. They are loyal and protective of their families and are known to have loads of energy. They are known to jump and paw when they play, and training them to stay down is helpful. They may not interact well with other dogs unless they are socialized early.

Boxing originated in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is believed that German dog enthusiasts developed the breed from the larger, heavier German breed known as the Bullenbeisser or the “bull biter.”

Noblemen used the Bullenbeissers as game hunters, but as the political situation in Germany started changing, they were soon out of a job. The modern Boxer, a sleeker, more refined dog, had emerged by the late 1800s. They were given many jobs over the years that increased their popularity.

They were brave war dogs in both World War I and World War II, and today, they are excellent guard dogs, protectors, companions, police dogs, and guide dogs for the blind.

The AKC registered its first Boxer in 1904, and they have remained among the top 10 most popular breeds in America ever since.

8. English Mastiff

english mastiff dog on the grass
Image Credit: Waldemar Dabrowski, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Height: 27–30 inches
Weight: 120–230 pounds
Lifespan: 6–10 years

Mastiffs have served as guardians throughout history, and they continue to do so today by being devoted and protective companions to their human families. The combination of their protective trait with a Mastiff’s kind and loving disposition makes for an amazing companion. A well-behaved Mastiff requires early socialization and training, and bringing a giant-breed dog into the family is no minor undertaking.

For thousands of years, Mastiff’s have been well-known around the world. The Mastiffs who helped defend the island against his troops during Julius Caesar’s conquest of Britain in 55 BC impressed him, and he recorded it in his campaign log.

British mastiffs were brought back to Rome to compete in the arena against wild animals and human gladiators. The English Mastiff as we know it today first came to fame in medieval England, where they were employed as war dogs, overnight estate security dogs, and big game hunters.

9. English Bulldog

english bulldog
Image Credit: AndreiTobosaru, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Height: 14–15 inches
Weight: 40–50 pounds
Lifespan: 8–10 years

The English Bulldog is calm and sweet-natured. They are great family pets and are dependable and loving to most kids. They usually require only moderate activity because they are low-endurance dogs; however, they make excellent watch dogs because they still possess the courage originally bred into them for bull baiting.

The Bulldog came close to extinction when bull baiting became outlawed. In response, Bulldog enthusiasts started the drawn-out process of redefining the breed as a companion rather than a fighter. The Bulldog’s ferocity was calmed, and the breed’s image was transformed into one of a gentle and affectionate pet that is especially good with kids. Bulldog enthusiasts had accomplished their job well enough by 1886 for the AKC to recognize the breed officially.

10. French Bulldog

red or fawn french bulldog out in the woods
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock
Origin: France
Height: 11–13 inches
Weight: under 28 pounds
Lifespan: 10-12 years

One of the world’s most popular small dogs, particularly among city dwellers, is the French Bulldog, commonly known as the Frenchie. Except for the large, upright “bat ears,” which are the breed’s defining characteristic, the French Bulldog looks much like a miniature Bulldog. The Frenchie is lively, alert, versatile, and undeniably adorable.

These small dogs gained popularity among lace makers who settled in the French countryside. They were bred with other breeds over decades, which could have been Terriers and Pugs, where they acquired their now-famous bat ears. They were given the French name Bouledogue Français.

By the 19th century’s close, the Frenchie had become popular in Europe and America. Early 1900s American enthusiasts helped shape the breed by arguing that the bat ear, not the “rose ear,” was the proper Frenchie form.

11. Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff sitting outdoors
Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock
Origin: Italy
Height: 24–31 inches
Weight: 110-150 pounds
Lifespan: 8–10 years

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a giant bully breed whose appearance is enough to keep intruders away. However, they are gentle giants of the dog world with a sweet and calm demeanor. Neapolitan Mastiffs get along well with kids, families, and other pets, but they can be cautious of strangers and require early socialization and training.

According to artifacts from numerous ancient civilizations, the species may have existed as early as 700 BC. They served as battle dogs, gladiators, and guardians in the Roman Empire, and their ferocious appearance and enormous size were designed to evoke fear in their enemies.

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These bully breeds were developed to serve various purposes, including guarding property and protecting animals. Many of these dogs were later bred for barbaric sports like bullbaiting, which were eventually outlawed. Many people believed them to be aggressive dogs due to their participation in these sports. However, despite these myths, Bully breeds can make excellent companions if correctly socialized and trained.

Featured Image Credit: Yohan Cho, Unsplash

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