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The name Bulldog was given to the dogs that were used to guard, control and bait bulls in the late 1700 - The early
1800s. These dogs were powerful, functional, tenacious extremely courageous great gladiators.
There is often some speculation as to whether these dogs were in fact more mastiff like than bulldog. The 1st clear
Description that this was not the fact and they were in fact two different breeds was a letter written in 1631 for
San Sebastian in Spain to an English man the letter read " a good mastiff dog, a case liquor, and I beg you to get
Me some good bulldoggs" This is a clear account that they are two different breed and not to be confused.
Bull baiting was a cruel and gruesome sport but was very popular and watched by all - Queen Elizabeth was said to be a great fan. The bulldog would be matched against the bull in a ring, while the bull was tied to either a large stone or weight. Taking into account the size of the bull you would think that it would be no match for a bulldog, but the dogs were encouraged to bite hold of the bulls nose which is the most sensitive part of their body, the pain would be immense for the bull this would leave them immobilized. The bulldogs would hold on as long as they physically could, often being thrown in the air and more often than not injured or even killed. It was thought that the stress that the bull would go through would make the meat taste better, and ended up being a custom part of the slaughter of the bull.
As well as it being a spectators sport a lot of money exchanged hands, and there was often large amounts waged on the results of the baits. This in turn meant the best bulldogs become very sort after and valuable, meaning that breeders began specifically breeding for type. The best bulldogs were bred to the best as time went on there became some obvious traits forming amongst the Bulldogs - the more muscular necks and shoulders the dog had the less likely he would be thrown off the bull, and the powerful jaw was a must. The dogs that were not overly large but had strong frames and thick bone began to prevail, There was no real standard but from the images, paintings, etchings, accounts and descriptions there appears to be a clear type amongst the bulldogs - These examples can be seen in art work, photos and read about in various written accounts of bull baits
In 1835 bull baiting was made illegal by an act of parliament, after this the number of pure bred bulldogs reduced dramatically. These larger powerful dogs had very little use anymore, and were very uneconomical to keep. The ban on bull baiting lead to an increase of popularity in dog fighting, and most of the best stock was outcrossed to terriers to produce a lighter framed fighting dog for the pit, or breed to pug for fashion and conveniance in size.
This is a copy of a print of an Old Bulldog
One of our particular favourites.
Below is a gallery of images of everything from Prints, paintings, statues and even skulls realated to bulldog history that we have found interesting and relevant to our bulldogs - The skulls in particular are concrete evidence of the size and structure of the original bulldog;
These Bulldog skulls are part of an exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, UK
From left to right: The skull of a the original English bulldog dated 1860, centre skull dated 1867, and finally bull dog skull dated 1906 - this skull was from a dog aged 11months - Notice the evolution of the skull in such a realtively short space of time, and how exaggerated the skull on the right is compared to the more functional one on the left - This leaves no speculation in our minds as to the structure of the original bulldog
Below are various examples of artwork that we have collected depicting the early original working Bulldog. As you can see from these images, they were in no way exaggerated or extreme in appearance, quite the opposite. These were functional, athletic and very capable dog - Many are very similar to our own Bulldogs. It is always worth remembering that these examples of artwork are just interpretations of what an artist saw, so are never going to be exact example like the skulls above. However the likelihood of all of these examples you see above to be so coincidentally alike is very unlikely.
This artwork is all we have left of the original Bulldogs of Olde, its a great shame. This certianly was a Bulldog a nation could be proud of and call its Icon.