British Bulldog

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British Bulldog Road Test

Breed: British Bulldog
Temperament: good natured, they love to be fussed over
Maintenance: very high
Lifespan: 10 years
Recommended for: families, home workers, those with deep pockets

History of the British Bulldog

Today’s British Bulldog looks quite different to that of the type bred during the 1700 to 1800s for the vicious sport of bull-baiting. Developed from ancient Mastiff breeds, which may have travelled to Britain with the Roman conquerors, these founding bulldogs looked more like the modern Boxer, or perhaps the American Pit Bull, rather than the wombat-like breed we see now.

When bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, the need for such an aggressive and specific breed of dog is likely to have declined. Hence the true British Bulldog breed may have died out (except for the pitbulls of the USA which may be nearly pure British Bulldogs).

However, even prior to bull-baiting, evidence existed of a short legged version of the bulldog. Paintings dating from the 1700s depict a type of dog more similar to that of today’s breed. These dogs are likely to have been bred more as pets than fighters and are probably the ancestors of today’s British Bulldogs.

Although not a prolific breed, over 500 British Bulldogs are registered in Australia by a loyal group of breeders and owners.


A face that some say only a mother could love. British Bulldogs are thick set, low in stature, broad, powerful and compact. The massive head sports a flat, squashed face with wide-set, determined eyes almost hidden behind a thick fold of skin and a short, inclined muzzle. The British Bulldog is well muscled and despite its compact size, can weigh up to 25kg. The Bulldog’s coat is short and reasonably soft and colours include brindle, red and their varieties, fawn, fallow, white and pied.


Despite their heavy, strong and determined appearance, British Bulldogs are affectionate and gentle companion animals. Whilst exceptionally loyal to their family, they remain good natured and are tolerant of children. Certainly not the most active of breeds, however what they lack in vigour and stamina, they make up for in unwavering devotion to their masters. Overall, British Bulldogs have an excellent temperament and will quickly consider themselves a part of the family.

Health and breeding

Although breeders have produced an even tempered, loyal and affectionate dog, other health and breeding related issues have been ignored. Many dogs still being bred today have difficulties related to breathing, eye irritation, bad knee, hip and elbow joints, eczema, heart problems and breeding difficulties. Quite a list considering the one dog may suffer every one of those conditions.

Elongated soft palates may hang down the back of the throat and impede breathing. This in turn can impede the British Bulldog’s ability to pant, and may prove fatal in hot weather. Eyelids which turn inwards lead to irritation of the eyeball (entropion). Their strong muscular build will often hide weak knee, hip and elbow joints, causing constant pain. Inflamed, weeping sores may be apparent on the body.

Of particular concern is the inability for most British Bulldog bitches to have puppies naturally; most newborns having to be removed by caesarean section. Often a bitch’s pelvis is so narrow in proportion to its shoulders that pups simply can’t get out. Mortality rates for British Bulldog puppies are high.

However, breeders such as Sharon Edmunds of East Kurrajong in NSW have acknowledged these problems and are a taking a pro-active approach with good results. Selecting for dogs which don’t choke or appear unsound when exercising, and which have desirable skin tone and condition has led to a healthier and more robust bulldog. Furthermore, breeding from bitches which have wider pelvises has allowed for natural whelping (giving birth) to occur. These are very important steps towards improving the viability of the breed.

Burkes Backyard certainly doesn’t believe it necessary to remove all existing bitches from breeding and start over again. If responsible breeders continue to select for these desirable traits the British Bulldog will improve over time. Even simply altering the show standard to encourage a wider pelvis would dramatically reduce birth difficulties. Within 5 to 10 generations massive health gains could be expected.

Care and maintenance

British Bulldogs are a very high maintenance breed, requiring special attention to both grooming and exercise. Grooves which form between the folds of skin around the face must be cleaned daily to remove grime and moisture, preventing skin irritation. This can be done with a simple facewasher, as for a child. The entire coat can also be wiped down quickly each day.

Exercise is very important. British Bulldogs are not prone to great levels of spontaneous activity so they should be encouraged to exercise daily. Inactive British Bulldogs are inclined to get fat and lazy which may dramatically shorten their life expectancy. A regular walk will help keep these dogs fitter and ultimately happier. Compared to other breeds, a healthy British Bulldog’s life expectancy is comparatively short; usually no more than 10 years under good circumstances. So maintaining good health is very important.


Very expensive. A British Bulldog puppy will cost around $1500. Expensive veterinary fees may also be expected over time. Burke’s Backyard recommends that potential owners have a good look at the parents before purchasing a pup and are satisfied that this is the breed for them.

Recommended for

Those who have the time and money to spend on these loveable but all-consuming dogs. Great for families, these dogs adore company and are particularly suited to those households where someone is able to give them attention throughout the day.

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders – visit our Directory of Australian Dog Breeder Associations.