Information about the Bull Terrier

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, and small triangular eyes. There is also a miniature version of this breed; this distinct breed is officially known as the Miniature Bull Terrier.

The Bull Terrier’s most recognizable feature is its head, described as ‘egg shaped’ when viewed from the front, the top of the skull is almost flat from ear to ear. Profile curves gently downwards from top of skull to tip of nose which should be black and bent downwards at tip. Nostrils are well developed and under-jaw deep and strong snout. The unique triangle-shaped eyes are small, dark, and deep-set. The body is full and round, while the shoulders are robust and very muscular and the tail is carried horizontally. It walks with a jaunty gait, and is popularly known as the ‘gladiator of the canine race’.

Although there is much discussion regarding the safety of owning a Bull Terrier, the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), which performs temperament tests in an effort to weed out potentially dangerous dogs from breeding programmes and to educate dog owners, reports consistently high pass rates, around 90%, for Bull Terriers. Generally, Bull Terriers are no more or less aggressive towards people than any other dog. A Washington Animal Foundation human fatalities survey in 2001 found none caused by Bull Terriers.

The Bull Terrier is a fun, comical, people-loving dog. They are known to be courageous, scrappy, fun-loving, active, clownish and fearless. They enjoy being around people, sometimes a little too much, and can prove positively dangerous to people of a delicate nature, not through malicious intent, but rather through their exuberance; as such the Bull Terrier is not recommended for households with small children if the owner is a first time Bull Terrier owner. But then again no animals should be left a lone with a child., or the elderly and infirm. Bull Terriers can be both independent and stubborn and for this reason is not considered suitable for an inexperienced dog owner. A firm hand and an assertive demeanour are essential if the Bull Terrier is not to run riot. They are also fiercely protective although comprehensive socialisation at an early age will prevent them becoming over-protective and neurotic.

When it comes to other animals, caution should be the byword. Bull Terriers have a strong prey instinct and can cause injury or death to other animals, especially cats. That said, puppies brought up or socialised with cats and other animals can get on well with the animals they know; they can never be completely trusted with other animals. With other dogs, unaltered males may not get along with other male dogs. Males and females can live together happily, and two females can also be a good combination with care and supervision. Introducing a Bull Terrier of the same gender as the dog in residence is considered unwise, and some Bull Terriers won’t countenance any other dogs, of either gender

All puppies should be checked for deafness, which occurs in 20% of pure white dogs and 1.3% of dogs and is difficult to notice, especially in a relatively young puppy. Many Bull Terriers have a tendency to develop skin allergies. Insect bites, such as those from fleas, and sometimes mosquitoes and mites, can produce a generalized allergic response of hives, rash, and itching. This problem can be stopped by keeping the dog free of contact from these insects, but this is definitely a consideration in climates or circumstances where exposure to these insects is inevitable. Their average lifespan is around 9-12 years, although they may live longer.

Early in the mid-19th century the “Bull and Terrier” breeds were developed to satisfy the needs for vermin control and animal-based blood sports. The “Bull and Terriers” were based on the Old English Bulldog (now extinct) and one or more of Old English Terrier and “Black and tan terrier”, now known as Manchester Terrier. This new breed combined the speed and dexterity of lightly built terriers with the dour tenacity of the Bulldog, which was a poor performer in most combat situations, having been bred almost exclusively for killing bulls and bears tied to a post. Many breeders began to breed bulldogs with terriers, arguing that such a mixture enhances the quality of fighting. Despite the fact that a cross between a bulldog and a terrier was of high value, very little or nothing was done to preserve the breed in its original form. Fortunately Bulldog managed to survive. Due to the lack of breed standards – breeding was for performance, not appearance – the “Bull and Terrier” eventually divided into the ancestors of “Bull Terriers” and “Staffordshire Bull Terriers”, both smaller and easier to handle than the progenitor.

About 1850, James Hinks started breeding “Bull and Terriers” with “English White Terriers” (now extinct), looking for a cleaner appearance with better legs and nicer head. In 1862, Hinks entered a bitch called “Puss” sired by his white Bulldog called “Madman” into the Bull Terrier Class at the dog show held at the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. Originally known as the “Hinks Breed” and “The White Cavalier”, these dogs did not yet have the now-familiar “egg face”, but kept the stop in the skull profile.

The dog was immediately popular and breeding continued, using Dalmatian, Greyhound, Spanish Pointer, Foxhound and Whippet to increase elegance and agility; and Borzoi and Collie to reduce the stop. Hinks wanted his dogs white, and bred specifically for this. Generally, however, breeding was aimed at increasing sturdiness: three “subtypes” were recognised by judges, Bulldog, Terrier and Dalmatian, each with its specific conformation, and a balance is now sought between the three. The first modern Bull Terrier is now recognised as “Lord Gladiator”, from 1917, being the first dog with no stop at all.

Due to medical problems associated with all-white breeding, Ted Lyon among others began introducing colour, using Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the early 20th century. Coloured Bull Terriers were recognised as a separate variety (at least by the AKC) in 1936. Brindle is the preferred colour, but other colours are welcome.

Along with conformation, specific behaviour traits were sought. The epithet “White cavilier”, harking back to an age of chivalry, was bestowed on a breed which while never seeking to start a fight was well able to finish one, while socialising well with its “pack”, including children and pups. Hinks himself had always aimed at a “gentleman’s companion” dog rather than a pit-fighter, though Bullies were often entered in the pits, with some success. Today the Bullie is valued as a comical, mischievous, imaginative and intelligent (problem-solving) but stubborn house pet suitable for experienced owners.