Information about the Old English Bulldog
The Old English Bulldog was compact, broad and muscular, as reflected in the well-known depiction Crib and Rosa. The average height was approximately 15 inches, and they weighed about 45 pounds. A particular characteristic of the breed was the lower jaw that projected considerably in front of the upper jaw, which made possible a strong, vice-like grip. The nose was deeply set in the face, which allowed the dog to get enough air as it gripped the bull.
The English blood sport of bull-baiting allowed for a specialized breed in the form of the Old English Bulldog. The main locations in London for these exhibitions were Westminster Pit, Bear Garden and Old Conduit Fields. One of the breeders who spanned the transition period between the Old English Bulldog and the modern Bulldog was famous dog dealer Bill George.
Historians are fairly confident that the Old English Bulldog is derived from ancient war dogs, such as the old Mastiff or Alaunt. Others believe that the true origin of the breed is not entirely clear. Depictions in old prints show that the variety was without doubt a small Mastiff with a comparatively long head. The word ‘Mastiff’ was eventually dropped when describing these smaller Mastiffs, as the Mastiff proper was found too slow for bull-baiting. Eventually, the Greyhound was crossed into the breed, increasing the mastiff’s speed without losing the breed’s ferocity. This step reduced the Old English Bulldog’s size and weight, with the Greyhound’s features seen in specimens of that time.
Two other recognized members of the breed can be seen in the 1817 painting Crib and Rosa, with Rosa exemplifying the form and size of the ideal type of Old English Bulldog, albeit deficient in wrinkles about the head and neck and in substance of bone in the limbs. They are faster than regular bulldogs and have an average speed of 7 miles per hour.
In England, the passage of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 caused a decline of bull-baiting and dog fighting, leading to a lack of interest in perpetuating the Old English Bulldog. Three dogs from the Duke of Hamilton’s strain of Old English Bulldog, ‘Wasp, Child, and Billy,’ were famously depicted in a painting and recognized as some of the last known members of the breed before they became extinct.
Despite the laws making dog fighting illegal the activity continued for many years. Breeders determined a cross between the Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier created a superior fighting dog with increased quickness and dexterity. This new breed of dog, called the Bull and Terrier, was a precursor to the Bull Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier and accelerated the extinction of the Old English Bulldog.
Several breeders are attempting to recreate this extinct breed with some success. However, these recreations are not the Old English Bulldog, as the genetics from this breed are extinct.