The Bull Terrier or English Bull Terrier is a breed of dog in the terrier family. They are known for their large, egg-shaped head, small triangular eyes, and "lively, bouncy gait." Their temperament has been described generally as fun-loving, active and even somewhat clownish. The Bull Terrier is a friendly dog always up for a game or a joke, and enjoys being around people. Bull Terriers are usually pretty friendly toward strangers and other pets, especially when raised with them from a young age.
The Bull Terrier is a notoriously stubborn and assertive breed, which may be a bit much to handle for a first time owner. Those with limited dog experience are encouraged to think twice before adopting this dog, since proper obedience training may be a little difficult.
Early in the mid-19th century two dog breeds, the "Bull" and "Terrier" were developed individually to satisfy the need for controlling field pests and wild animals who destroy and ruin crops. These two breeds were based on the Old English Bulldog (which is now extinct), the Old English Terrier and the Black and Tan Terrier, (which is now known as the Manchester Terrier). This new breed, combined the speed and skill of performing tasks of Terriers with the sturdy, tenacious personality of the Bulldog. However, due to the lack of breed standards at the time, the "Bull and Terrier" eventually divided into two separate groups – the Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, both of which were smaller and easier to handle.
In 1850, James Hinks began breeding "Bull and Terriers" with "English White Terriers" (also now extinct), attempting to create a cleaner, simpler appearance with better legs and a nicer looking head. In 1862, Hinks entered a bitch called "Puss" sired by his white Bulldog named "Madman" into the Bull Terrier Class of the dog show held at the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea, England. Originally, this new combination was known as the "Hinks Breed" and "The White Cavalier", but these dogs did not yet have the unique and well known "egg face".
The new breed introduced by Hinks became rapidly popular, so the breeding of these dogs continued. He focused mainly on improving the sturdiness of the dogs using various breeds such as the Dalmatian, Greyhound, Spanish Pointer, Foxhound and the Whippet to help increase the beauty and agility of the new breed. The Borzoi and Collie breeds were incorporated to help shape the skull. Hinks wanted his dogs white, and bred specifically for this trait. However, because of the problems associated with white breeds, others began introducing color to the breed using Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Coloured Bull Terriers were recognized by AKC in 1936.
Strong and handsome, the Bull Terrier is a dog of muscular symmetry and sweet disposition. The head is long and deep, curving from nose to the top of the skull, so when viewed from the front, the head resembles an oval. This breed has eyes that are close and deep set, small and triangular. Its ears are small, erect and close set; and the teeth meet in a scissors bite.
Bull Terriers have a big-boned, muscular body, feet that are round and compact like a cat's, and a short tail which it carries horizontally. The Bull Terrier’s coat is short, glossy and harsh to the hand, with the skin underneath tight throughout. The color of this breed varies from solid white with or without markings on the head, or any other color (often brindle) with white markings on the head.
Though this breed was once known as an intimidating protector, the breed is much gentler today. A Bull Terrier has more of a preventive effect now, and will definitely defend its owner in a critical situation if it becomes necessary. Bull terriers are known to be courageous, scrappy, and fearless. Bull Terriers are loyal and polite dogs who do become very attached to their owner. This breed thrives on firm leadership that is steady and consistent, and lots of affection. This breed generally likes to keep busy, and is a good fit in an active family where they receive a great deal of companionship and supervision. It is important to note that Bull Terriers do not do well in situations where they are left alone all day long, so they may not be a good choice for a household where there is no one home all day.
Bull Terriers make wonderful pets if time is taken to thoroughly socialize and train them, but are generally not recommended for most households. These dogs are fond of people of all ages, but if they do not get enough physical exercise and mental stimulation they may be too energetic for small children. Children should also be taught how to display leadership towards the dog. Meek owners of Bull Terriers will find their dog will become very protective, willful, possessive and/or jealous, if they do not show ample leadership qualities. Some Bull Terriers may try to join into family roughhousing or quarrels, so owners need to be prepared for this behavior in those situations.
Bull Terriers generally need a lot of structure. Males who have not been neutered, may not get along well with other male dogs; however, males and females get along together just fine. Two females can also be a good combination with care and supervision. Bull Terriers will do fine with other non-canine pets such as cats, hamsters, and guinea pigs etc. if introduced to them properly.
As with most breeds, there are some health concerns associated with this breed, that prospective owners should definitely be aware of:
- Some White Bull Terriers may carry the Dalmatian’s deafness gene. It is a good idea to have puppies checked for deafness, which occurs in approximately 20% of pure white dogs and a little over 1% of colored dogs. This deafness can be difficult to notice, especially in a relatively young puppy. Ask your veterinarian for more information and for testing advice.
- It is common for Bull Terriers to develop skin allergies from insect bites, fleas, and sometimes mosquitoes and mites, producing a generalized allergic response of hives, rash, and itching. This problem can be greatly reduced by limiting the dog's contact with these insects. In climates or circumstances where exposure to these insects is inevitable, you may want to reconsider owning a Bull Terrier.
- The average life span of the Bull Terrier is approximately 10–12 years, although they may live longer. There have been cases where dogs lived longer, but it is uncommon.
- As with all light-colored, fair-skinned animals, it is important that any whiteness around the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, stomach or hindquarters on a short and sparse haired breed such as this must be protected against the sun damage, using an appropriate SPF sunscreen to help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
- This breed is also known to be prone to two common ailments: Umbilical Hernia and Acne.
- Bull Terriers may also suffer from compulsive behavior disorders such as tail sucking, obsessive licking and self mutilation.
Other health issues to be aware of with this breed may also include hereditary neprhitis, cystic kidney disease, renal dysplasia, SAS, mitral stenosis, dilated cardiomyopathy and allergies.
The Bull Terrier's coat is very easy to maintain. English Bull Terriers have thin, fine hair that requires minimal grooming, and fortunately has a light shedding pattern.
Do you either own, or are considering getting one of these "lively handsome beauties"? Do you have any additional tidbits of information or concerns regarding these dogs? Please fill us in in the comments below.