The Bulldog has a history of being bred as a fighting dog—that was a long time ago, though. Today’s Bulldogs are much gentler and sweeter than their ancestors. Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day, which takes place annually on April 21, is dedicated to appreciating these popular dogs.
All that said, Bulldog breeding is controversial for health and welfare reasons. In this post, we’ll explore the Bulldog’s history and why they’re popular, but also the health and welfare concerns surrounding the breed that every Bulldog enthusiast and potential owner should know about.
Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day: History
Bulldogs were officially recognized for the first time on April 21, 1886, which is why Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day is celebrated on that day each year.
Bulldogs originated in England and most likely date back to the 13th century, the century they are believed to have been first bred as blood sport dogs. This continued through medieval times, with Bulldogs commonly taking part in bull baiting.
When blood sports were banned in 1835, organizers began to use Bulldogs as pit-fighting dogs; these events were carried out illegally in underground locations like cellars. This so-called “sport” was incredibly cruel in nature, forcing dogs to fight one another to the death or kill rats in a pit. To create a nimbler version of the Bulldog for this purpose, they began to be crossed with terriers.
Not everyone wanted to use Bulldogs for fighting, though. Fanciers of the breed decided to hone it to create a companion dog rather than a gladiator-type dog. Both the Bulldog’s physical features and temperament were improved, which made them “cuter” and more appealing to the general public.
As a result, Bulldogs grew to be incredibly popular, even becoming England’s national symbol and mascot. Today, they are greatly appreciated for being, in general, sweet-natured, friendly, people-oriented, and mellow dogs. They are currently the sixth most popular breed in the United States according to the AKC’s breed popularity ranking.
Interesting Bulldog Facts
1. Bulldogs Are Common Mascots
In addition to being England’s national symbol, the Bulldog is the mascot for 49 U.S. university sports teams. This includes Yale and Georgetown.
2. Bulldogs Have Been Associated with Churchill
In the Second World War, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the U.K., began to be associated with Bulldogs because both were viewed as symbols of tenacity and courage. Churchill’s first dog was a Bulldog named Dodo, and he later owned a Poodle named Rufus. He was also fond of various other animals including cats, horses, and fish.
3. Bulldogs Are World Record Breakers
In 2015, a Bulldog named Otto from Lima, Peru broke the world record for the longest human tunnel traveled through by a skateboarding dog. Otto’s Instagram account reveals that he also enjoys surfing, skimboarding, and sandboarding.
4. Calvin Coolidge Was a Bulldog Owner
The 30th U.S. president’s Bulldog had a very unique name, too: Boston Beans.
How Is Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day Celebrated?
While some are content to offer their Bulldogs a bit of extra pampering on April 21, some hold full-on events. Drake University, for example, holds a Bulldog beauty contest. Similar events are also held in other U.S. locations and around the world. Some organizations may spend the day raising awareness about Bulldogs and educating people about their historical significance.
Living with a Bulldog
Bulldogs are generally very family-oriented dogs with patient and docile temperaments when well-socialized. They’re not the most demanding of dogs in terms of exercise, only requiring a moderate amount daily; brisk walks are a good idea, along with some short play sessions at home.
Bulldogs also need a healthy, monitored diet to make sure they don’t put on too much weight, and a bi or tri-weekly 10-minute brushing session. The nails need to be trimmed, and the ears, area under the tail, and wrinkles (more on this farther down) should be checked regularly.
They can be pretty high-maintenance when it comes to healthcare, though, which leads us to our next point, which is all about health and welfare concerns for Bulldogs.
Bulldog Health & Welfare Issues
It’s important for potential Bulldog parents to know that this breed is linked to a number of significant health issues. As a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, the Bulldog is prone to breathing difficulties, and this manifests in various ways, including snoring, noisy breathing, wheezing, coughing, vomiting, and heat intolerance. Bulldogs and summer weather do not go together because these dogs overheat quite easily. Breathing issues may also make it difficult for Bulldogs to exercise comfortably, which can lead to weight gain.
In addition to brachycephalic airway syndrome, Bulldogs can suffer because of their famous wrinkles. These might look cute, but they can easily get dirty and infected due to bacteria building up in the folds. It’s essential to keep a close eye on the skin folds and clean them out if necessary.
Unfortunately, the risks don’t stop there. Bulldogs are prone to various other conditions, including joint problems, eye and eyelid conditions, and trouble giving birth, which means they usually need a caesarian.
As you can imagine, these potential health issues can make life very uncomfortable for a Bulldog, which is why the practice of breeding Bulldogs is so controversial. In fact, experts from the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. have urged people to stop buying Bulldogs until the breed is “reshaped”.
Bulldogs are truly lovely, sweet dogs, which is what Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day is all about, but we’d urge you to think carefully before buying one (or any other brachycephalic breed, including French Bulldogs and Pugs) because of the multitude of health issues these dogs can suffer from. If you’re set on getting a Bulldog, we’d urge you to consider adopting one in need from a rescue association.