If you’ve ever seen an American and an English Bulldog side-by-side, you may find it hard to believe they’re related since they seemingly have little in common. You may be surprised to learn that both dogs have a common ancestor, the Old English Bulldog, which has since gone extinct.
The Old English Bulldog is not to be confused with the Olde English Bulldogge, a relatively new breed produced to address some of the issues with modern English Bulldogs. In this guide, we’ll show you how English and American Bulldogs compare, so you can have a better appreciation of both of these amazing breeds.
A Quick Overview: English Bulldog vs American Bulldog
Does the common ancestor bring about common traits? We have a quick overview of the two breeds below.
As mentioned above, both dogs are descendants of the Old English Bulldog, whose history is disputed. Some believe the dog was a large, Mastiff-like creature used in combat by the ancient Greeks, while others say they descended from war dogs used by tribes native to the Caucasus Mountains.
Regardless of where the breed came from, we know it was used for bull baiting in England as early as the 17th century C.E. Bull baiting is a terrible sport in which dogs try to bring a bull down by its nose and pin it to the ground; fortunately, humanity eventually came to its senses and banned the practice.
After the end of bull baiting, some Old English Bulldogs were taken to the newly discovered American continent, where they were put to work on farms. They herded livestock, protected ranches, and most notably, hunted feral hogs.
The Old English Bulldogs that stayed behind in the United Kingdom were primarily kept as pets, and as a result, they no longer needed the large bodies and ferocious temperaments that made them such fearsome bullfighters.
American Bulldogs are much larger than their British cousins, which is in large part because they had to be big enough to take down wild hogs. These pups can weigh as much as 130 pounds and are incredibly strong.
American Bulldogs have stubby noses relative to many other breeds, but theirs aren’t so pushed in that it causes respiratory problems. These dogs are still capable of putting in a full day’s work.
English Bulldogs, on the other hand, have primarily been bred to be adorable. They’re no longer even remotely capable of bringing down a bull (or anything bigger than a large pizza). Their noses are so short that they often have trouble breathing, and they have precious little stamina.
Both breeds tend to be bow-legged with broad chests and have wrinkly faces, but English Bulldogs have more loose skin. Their coats come in various colors, with multi-colored markings on their faces.
Temperament is another area in which the two dogs can differ wildly.
However, American Bulldogs are much more active, so if you don’t give them the exercise they need, they might take their frustrations out on your house. They love to play and enjoy training, but they will try to test you, so it’s essential to be firm and consistent.
On the other hand, the English Bulldog is a born couch potato. They can still be disruptive if not given enough exercise, but for them, “enough exercise” could be a walk around the block. They’re also easily trained, although they’re generally less intelligent than their American cousins.
However, both are friendly and eager to spend time with their masters, and both have stubborn streaks a mile wide. They also need plenty of training and socialization, beginning when they’re puppies.
Both dogs get along with kids, provided they’ve been sufficiently trained and socialized. English Bulldogs do well with other dogs and pets; American Bulldogs aren’t bad with them, per se, but they require plenty of training and socialization.
This is one area where their divergent breeding practices are readily apparent. American Bulldogs were bred to be hard workers, whereas modern British Bulldogs were bred mainly to be cute. This emphasis on adorability has cost them in terms of their health, however. Simply put, English Bulldogs have horrific health issues—so much so that an entirely new breed, the Olde English Bulldogge, was developed to address their problems.
While their stubby noses are adorable, they make it harder for them to breathe, and the breed is prone to respiratory problems. Similarly, their little round bodies have joint and skeletal issues and are likely to suffer from obesity and cancer. Meanwhile, their heads are so gigantic that most English Bulldogs can’t be born naturally and must be delivered via C-section.
They’re prone to overheating, and their lifespan is only about 8 years. American Bulldogs are much healthier (and live about twice as long), but they’re not without their issues. They often suffer from hip dysplasia and other joint ailments and can get fat if not properly exercised. Overall, American Bulldogs are much healthier dogs.
Neither dog requires much grooming, as both have short coats that don’t shed excessively. Bathing isn’t much of an issue, either, and you can likely get away with only a bath or two a year. However, both breeds need the wrinkles on their faces cleaned regularly, or infections can occur.
Two Very Different Dogs
While English Bulldogs and American Bulldogs share a name, they’re very different animals. However, they’re similar in the most important ways and are adorable, loyal, and fun-loving. Ultimately, if you’re looking to adopt one or the other, you’ll get more for your money (in terms of cost of ownership and lifespan) with an American Bulldog.
They’re more high-maintenance, which might not be a trade-off you’re willing to make. The good news is, you can’t go wrong with either dog. Whichever one you pick, you’ll have a buddy you’ll cherish for as long as you’re together and one that will give you as much as you give to them.