In the early 19th century, the English bulldog was bred to fight bulls. That activity was outlawed in the 1830s, but bulldog aficionados preserved the type while breeding the ferocity out of the dog. The American Kennel Club standard for the modern bulldog specifies a kind disposition, courageous but not aggressive. The perfect bulldog possesses dignity and gives an impression of "great stability."
Facial wrinkles make the bulldog. For maximum points in the breed standard, they're right up there with jaws, back and proportion, exceeding the tail, feet and teeth. The circumference of the skull in front of his ears should equal his shoulder height. His ears are set high, but ideally are thin and small. His round, dark eyes are set fairly low in his skull. The bulldog's round cheeks should protrude outward below his eyes. His muzzle is broad and short, with a large, black nose. The classic bulldog jaw is undershot, with his lower jaw significantly in front of the upper jaw.
Size and Weight
Bulldogs appear somewhat portly. Although medium-size, the ideal male bulldog should weigh approximately 50 pounds, while the female should tip at the scales at 40 pounds. Unlike many other breeds, the AKC standard doesn't specify a minimum or maximum height for the bulldog, but proportion and symmetry are essential.
The bulldog's neck is thick and short, blending into his broad, muscular shoulders. His chest is deep and broad. A round body complements the short, straight back. The breed standard allows either a straight or screwed tail, but it can't curl. If the tail screws, any kinks must be obvious and defined. In either case, he can't hold it above the tail root. The hind legs are more powerful and longer than the front legs, so that his loins are higher than his shoulders.
Coat and Colors
An English bulldog's coat is short and straight, with no wave or curl. The AKC lists colors in order of preference, with red brindle the most favored, followed by any other brindle. Brindle consists of a base color with dark striping. In order, the next preferred colors are solid white, solid fawn or red, then piebald -- a base coat with white spots. Solid black bulldogs are considered "undesirable."
The Bulldog Gait
The AKC standard notes that the English bulldog's gait is "peculiar." Perhaps distinctive is a better term -- no other breed quite moves like the bulldog. He rolls as he walks -- loose and shuffling sideways -- looking comfortable in his wrinkly skin.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.