A member of the terrier family, the Bull Terrier or English Bull Terrier was created during the mid 19th century by James Hinks. He wanted to improve upon the appearance and stature of the original “Bull and Terrier” breeds. Breeds which had been developed solely for the performance of their duties as ratters and in animal-based blood sports, with little to no regard for standardization. Hinks breeding program aimed to correct this shortfall by placing the most emphasis on a cleaner appearance, better legs and nicer head. Today the Bull Terrier is known for is distinctively large, egg shaped head, small triangular eye, and stocky build; a build that provides it with a jaunty gait as it walks and has lead to the breed being know as the 'gladiator of the canine race.
The story of how the Bull Terrier came into existence begins in the middle ages, with the sport of baiting. This is a blood sport in which a game dog is pitted against a confined animal in order to attack and subdue or even kill it. Baiting was rather popular in England during this time and all classes of people would frequent the gaming pits for entertainment and gambling. Members of society, from the very rich to the very poor could be found at the gaming pits, and it was common for large amounts of money to change hands in wagers on the outcome of these contests. So popular was the sport that nearly every town and village in England had its own gaming pit, where dogs would come up against trained bulls, bears, and other large and fierce animals in contests that were often not concluded until one of the animals was dead or incapacitated.
In the bull-baiting contests, the object was for the dog to stay low and strike at the bull’s nose in order to render the larger animal helpless. These dogs were well trained and extremely determined in the fight. Often the dog would hold onto the nose of the bull even when being violently swung in the air. Rather than let go or get tossed off by the animal, the dogs would hold onto the nose of the beast until its teeth broke off, its limbs were broken, or in some cases until the dog was dead. These fighting breeds of dog became fierce, determined, and brave throughout their long careers in the gaming arena.
The first bull runs that took place in England were believed to have been held in Stamford in 1209, during the reign of King John. It is thought however, that baiting began much earlier than that in the shops of butchers who would use dogs to bait the bulls in order to tenderize the meat for consumption. Later writings suggest that the sport of baiting became highly popular as a form of diversion and entertainment. Baiting continued to increase in fame with the passing years, and a demand arose for dogs that were highly skilled and qualified at the sport. Dogs were selectively bred for the sport based on valor, viciousness, and power. So popular were these fights, that bull baiting was considered to be a national sport in England from the 13th to the 18th centuries.
It was during these centuries that breeders and owners would begin to attempt to alter their current fighting stock in order to enhance future generations of fighting dogs coming out of their kennels. Size, structure, and temperament of the current fighting breeds would be experimented with in order to produce a dog that was better able to compete in the gaming ring. At this time in history, dogs were being bred for what was needed in the fighting arena, not based on pedigree or bloodline. Over the centuries, dogs were cross-bred to produce the best fighters, and the sport of Bull Baiting would continue until the practice was eventually banned with the establishment of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. This would, however, do very little to stave the need for aggressive fighting dogs, as breeders simply shifted their interest from creating bull fighting dogs, to creating dog fighting dogs. Dog fights being a smaller event that required considerably less space were much easier to conceal than a bull baiting event. This would also lead to the creation of smaller fighting dogs that could easily be hidden inside ones coat if the police arrived to break up an illegal dog fight. Additionally, as dog fights often lasted much longer than bull fights, these smaller dogs would also need to be light and agile, displaying impeccable endurance and a determined attitude.
To address these new needs, breeders began crossing the old English type Bull Dog with differing Terrier breeds. These Bull and Terrier crosses produced dogs that possessed the alertness and agility of the Terrier with the addition of power, tenacity, and a high pain threshold which were common traits of the Bull Dog. This new Bull and Terrier type quickly gained a reputation for being a fierce “canine gladiator”, willing to fight to the death to please their master.
In 1850, a man named James Hinks of Birmingham, England, standardized this new breed by selectively breeding these Bull and Terrier mixes with other breeds, like the now extinct White English Terrier. Hinks’ breeding efforts produced an all white Bull Terrier with a longer head, a more symmetrical body, and straighter legs than were common in the older style breed. The entire time Hinks was breeding dogs, he only bred white dogs, which he called “Bull Terriers” to distinguish them from the original Bull and Terrier breed. This new breed was called the “Hinks’ breed”, and was often referred to as “The White Cavalier” as the dog was bred to defend itself and its family, but never to initiate hostility.
In 1862, Hinks entered one of his dogs into the Cremorne Gardens dog show held in Chelsea. The breed was an instant success and breeding would continue using a number of different breeds to include the Dalmatian, Greyhound, Spanish Pointer, Foxhound and Whippet in an effort to increase elegance and agility. Hinks would also ad in some Borzoi and Collie to reduce the stop. Generally, however, the primary goal of his breeding effort was to increase sturdiness. The Bull Terrier became a fully recognized member of the Terrier Group by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885 and in 1897 the current parent club of the breed, The Bull Terrier Club of America (BTCA) was established. The first modern Bull Terrier is now recognized as "Lord Gladiator", from 1917, being the first dog with no stop at all. Due to medical problems associated with Hinks desire for all-white dogs, other fanciers, the most notable of which was Ted Lyon got involved and began the process of introducing color into the Bull Terrier through the inclusion of blood from the early 20th century version of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Initially these colored Bull Terriers would be recognized as a separate variety (at least by the AKC) in 1936.
A firmly established breed by the beginning of the 20th century, the Bull Terrier’s popularity continues to grow. It is currently ranked 53rd out of 167 dog breeds on the AKC’s 2010 most popular dog breeds list; up from 78th place in 2000.
The Bull Terrier is a proud and noble breed; strong, tough, and scrappy, it was known as a fierce “gladiator” in the world of dog fighting. From this past and the necessary breeding of a dog with such a reputation to uphold, the Bull Terrier was developed into a muscular and athletic dog breed, with an intimidating presence, despite its pleasing personality. Although there is no specific height requirement for the Bull Terrier breed, they generally stand 21 to 24 inches at the withers and can weigh 50 to 85 lbs.
The head and skull of the Bull Terrier is a signature feature of the breeds. The head is egg-shaped or oval throughout, possessing no noticeable curves or indentations. The appearance of the head should suggest fullness to the facial structure. The skull should curve slightly toward the nose, with a visibly longer space between the nose and eyes than there is between eyes and the top of the head. There is no stop and the black nose should tip forward at the end and be possessing of strong nostrils; with a tight jaw displaying a level or scissors bite. A flat forehead separates, ever so slightly, small and erect ears. Set high on the Bull Terrier’s head and deep into the face, the eager eyes are piercingly dark and triangular in shape. The eyes express intelligence and an intense devotion to its master. The Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier breeds are the only dogs known to have triangular shaped eyes.
The arched neck is narrow at the top and widens slightly into broad and flat shoulders. Both the neck and shoulders are strong and muscular. The well-built shoulder blades should give way to straight and largely boned forelegs. The Bull Terrier’s back is short, arching faintly at the loin. The body is round with well sprung and deep ribs, and a chest that is wide and profound. The tummy should tuck up elegantly. Hindquarters are solid and powerful, with extremely muscular thighs and well bent stifle joints, with short and straight pasterns. The tail of the Miniature Bull Terrier is short and straight, set high and level with the back, it is thick at the base and tapers to a point. The feet are well arched, compact, and round for both front and back paws.
The Bull Terrier sports a very short and tight fitting coat of harsh, but shiny hair. The breed may display a solid white coat or other solid colors, or may be spotted, with any color combination being permitted.
Having originally been bred to be a ferocious fighting dog, there has been much discussion about the safety of owning a Bull Terrier or Miniature Bull Terrier. The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), an organization that performs tests to weed out potentially dangerous dogs from breeding programs, has reported consistently high passing rates for both the Bull Terrier and its smaller sibling , the Miniature Bull Terrier, a pass rate of about 90%. Generally, these breeds are no more aggressive towards other dogs, than they are towards people. Though once fierce little gladiators in the dog-fighting arena; both the full sized version of the Bull Terrier and Miniature Bull Terriers are much gentler breeds today.
The Bull Terrier will become much attached to its owner and family, and will want to be included in all activities. The breed greatly enjoys spending time with human companions and an active and lively breed of dog that loves to play, especially to play rough. A Bull Terrier can be a tough playmate and may knock over small children. As such, the Bull Terrier is not recommended as a companion to fragile people, like young children, the elderly, or the infirm.
Fearless, loyal, and a bit scrappy; the Bull Terrier may protect its owner in a dangerous situation, but the breed was not specifically developed to be a guard dog. This is not to say that the breed is in anyway cowardly as the Bull Terrier breed is known for being exceedingly courageous, as would be expected from dogs possessing such a heritage. The breed has a natural guard dog instinct; however, absent a threat the Bull Terrier is generally good with strangers, however they can become fairly protective of their people and territory.
The breed does possess a strong prey drive, and will often chase smaller animals; therefore a Bull Terrier should always be kept on a leash when being walked or in a fenced yard when playing. Bull Terriers are not recommended for households with other animals, because of this natural inclination toward chasing prey. This breed can easily cause injury or death to other pets like cats, rabbits, and hamsters due to their smaller size. The breed does have a tendency to be aggressive toward other dogs because of their early development, and therefore it is recommended that a Bull Terrier be the only pet in a household. An unaltered male Bull Terrier may not behave well toward other male dogs, even in a brief encounter while walking; owners should keep adequate distance between their Bull Terrier and other dogs they encounter on the street.
For the Bull Terrier, early socialization is paramount to the proper development of the dog’s temperament and a pleasing personality. Early exposure to new people, places, things, and experiences will help the dog develop into a well-adjusted adult. Even with early socialization and a pleasant temperament, the Bull Terrier should never be fully trusted with other animals; close supervision is always a must for these breeds. Some Bull Terriers may get along with cats or dogs they were raised with, but may still be completely intolerant of other dogs they don’t know. Introducing new dogs to a Bull Terrier is unwise and friends that visit should be encouraged to leave their pets home.
The Bull Terrier is an intelligent breed and the dog will often display a mind of its own. They are independent thinkers and can be difficult to train. The breed does however; respond well to consistent and firm training, supervision, and correction. Training for a Bull Terrier should begin early in the dog’s life, and should be performed in a calm and assertive manner. The breed will not respond to harsh treatment or discipline. Pack leadership must be displayed by the owner constantly and consistently, as the Bull Terrier is clever and will test the limits to see what kind of naughty behaviors it will be allowed to get away with. Bull Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers can be self-governing and stubborn; the breeds are not a recommended pet for first-time dog owners or those owners with a meek personality.
Training a Bull Terrier can be a very long process; therefore patience on the part of the owner is needed when working with this breed. The Bull Terrier has a relatively short attention span, so training sessions should not be excessively long and should include a variety of activities in order to retain the dog’s interest. When the Bull Terrier begins to lose interest in the lesson, which they are regularly known to do, a treat may be used to reestablish the dog’s attention and focus on the lesson. Even a well trained Bull Terrier may still try to test the boundaries of poor behavior from time to time; strong leadership, consistent correction, and constant supervision is required to keep control of the Bull Terrier’s strong temperament.
The breed is lively and will require vigorous exercise to stay happy and healthy. Even with this large exercise requirement, the Bull Terrier can still thrive in a small home or apartment, just as well as in a large home provided its exercise needs are met. The Bull Terrier is a robust breed; happiest when engaged in lots of stimulating activity. The requirement for activity and exercise for the Bull Terrier can be adequately met through a combination of activities that include long walks, hiking, running, chasing a ball, and playing outdoors. If your Bull Terrier is not getting enough exercise, it will be sure to let you know, as the breed is known for engaging in destructive behaviors when bored. Bull Terriers are notorious for chewing and digging, and therefore sufficient exercise is an absolute must for this breed.
The Bull Terrier is also known to suffer from separation anxiety. Those considering adding a Bull Terrier to their household should make positively sure that they have enough time to spend with the dog; those who work away from home for long periods of time should perhaps consider a different dog for a pet. When left alone for extended periods of time, the Bull Terrier may become destructive or display neurotic and obsessive compulsive habits, like chasing its tail. As the Bull Terrier does best when it is the sole pet of a household, getting another dog to keep your dog from feeling lonely when you are away will not solve the problem. Some Bull Terriers need to be crated when left alone, in order to prevent destructive behaviors and in some cases this will prove ineffective as members of the breed have been known to injure themselves chewing or busting through even the strongest of crates.
The Miniature Bull Terrier’s short haired coat requires minimal grooming to keep the dog healthy and attractive. A weekly brushing will suffice, as well as a quick rubbing with a towel or chamois to make the coat shine. The dog can be wiped clean with a cloth when dirty, but regular bathing is not harmful to the Bull Terrier’s skin or coat so this can be included in its monthly grooming if desired.
As with all dog breeds, regular attention should be paid to the care and maintenance of the Miniature Bull Terrier’s teeth, eyes, ears, and nails. Regular grooming of these areas will help detect health problems early on or prevent them altogether.
The Bull Terrier has an average life span of 9 to 12 years, although there is documentation of Bull Terriers that have lived into a 17th or even an 18th year. Being purebred dogs, the Bull Terrier does have several health concerns that are specific to them. Some tests and certifications of health that have been recommended for the Bull Terrier include an OFA certificate, CERF certificate, BAER certificate, and heart and kidney tests. Also, deafness is found in approximately 20% of all white dogs and 1.3% of colored members of the Bull Terrier breed, and therefore should be checked for.
A further concern for the health of these breeds is sun protection. Many Bull Terriers can be either all white or colored, but all possess light skin and short and sparse hair, therefore they can become sunburned easily. Sunscreen may be used to prevent sunburn and any further complications if cancer develops from excessive sun exposure.
The following is list of health concerns associated with the Bull Terrier breed: