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Get to Know the Bull Terrier: A Breed with a Cavalier Attitude

His distinctive profile sets him apart, but this good-natured bloke is an ideal family dog.

Caroline Coile  |  Jul 21st 2014

He’s the one dog you can call an egghead and get away with it! Not only is he proud of his distinctive profile, but he’s such a good-natured bloke he’d let it slide anyway. When it comes to bully breeds, the Bull Terrier is, well, no bully.

Of course, don’t confuse him with some of his similar-looking relatives. Compared to the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier has very different head: long and egg-shaped, with erect ears.

More interesting things about the Bull Terrier

  • There’s also a Miniature Bull Terrier, which is smaller (obviously) and a separate breed.
  • The Bull Terrier comes in two official AKC varieties: white and colored. Just to confuse things, whites can have a bit of color on them — just on the face and ears, though. Varieties can be interbred, and the resulting progeny registered according to how their color turns out. They are shown separately, however, which is why you see both a White and Colored Bull Terrier in the Terrier group at Westminster and other shows.
  • When bull-baiting was outlawed in England in 1835, dog fighting became more popular to fill the void. Bulldogs were bred to terriers to create a smaller, more agile dog for fighting. This created the Bull Terrier.

  • When dog fighting was outlawed, Bull and Terrier breeders decided to repurpose the breed as a companion. They bred for amiable personality and stylish good looks. It worked!
  • Adding the White English Terrier and the Dalmatian into the mix produced an all-white strain that was dubbed the Bull Terrier. These dogs became sought after as stylish companions for young gentlemen.
  • The breed was nicknamed the “White Cavalier” because of his chivalrous and brave nature.
  • Around 1900, color was reintroduced into the breed by crossing to Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

  • In 1936 the breed was split into two varieties, the White and the Colored Bull Terrier.
  • A Colored Bull Terrier named Rufus won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show in 2006. He’s the top winning AKC Bull Terrier of all time.
  • Cruise visitors to Juneau, Alaska, are greeted by a statue of a Bull Terrier. Patsy Ann was a real Bull Terrier in the 1930s who greeted all incoming ships to the port, detecting their arrival before they were in sight — even though she was deaf! She was designated the town’s official greeter in 1934.
  • General Patton was known for his love of Bull Terriers. His most well known was his last, Willy (short for William the Conqueror).

  • Bull Terriers have appeared in the films It’s a Dog’s Life, The Incredible Journey (1963 version, which was faithful to the book’s designation of the Bodger as a Bull Terrier), Babe: Pig in the City, and Baxter. A Bull Terrier is the original star of Frankenweenie. A Bull Terrier appears in the film Oliver! as villain Bill Sykes’ dog.
  • Bull Terrier Spuds McKenzie was the official Budweiser “party Animal” in the 1980s.
  • Target’s official mascot is a Bull Terrier named Bullseye. In recognition that popularity can lead to increased dogs coming into rescue, Target gave the Bull Terrier club $20,000 for rescue.
  • A Mini Bull Terrier named Onion is the model for the Onion soft light.
  • Blue, Don Cherry’s Bull Terrier, was well-known to Canadian hockey fans.

  • Bull Terriers appear in the comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm and in the greeting card series Maxine.
  • Bull Terrier Tugg has more friends (almost 20,000) than any other Bull Terrier, at least on Facebook. He was found staked alongside a Texas highway, with his eyes swollen shut from skin infections. His Facebook page chronicled his recovery and now covers his latest adventures.
  • Owners include General Patton, Fred Astaire, Michael J. Fox, Don Cherry, Princess Anne, Marc Jacobs, and Rick Springfield.
  • The Bull Terriers of Princess Ann, the Queen’s daughter, have repeatedly made news for their bad and, regrettably, aggressive behavior.

  • The Bull Terrier is the 52nd most popular AKC breed, up from 72nd a decade ago.
  • Bull Terriers are known to develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors more than almost any other breed of dog. These include fixation on laser lights (not a good toy for this breed), tail chasing, and other repetitive behaviors, sometimes to the point of exhaustion and inability to eat. Never encourage such behaviors; medical therapy is required in some cases.

Do you own a Bull Terrier? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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