Get to Know the Bulldog: Part Gargoyle, Part Clown

They look like intimidating tough guys, but they're fun-loving and friendly.


The face of a gargoyle, the spirit of a kid, and the heart of a clown — that’s the Bulldog! If you didn’t know him, you might be scared off by that tough mug. But spend a few minutes with him, and you’ll discover a fun-loving people-pleaser.

The Bulldog is moving up in popularity among dog breeds faster than any other in America. If you want a dog for jogging, swimming, and hanging out with under the sun, look elsewhere. But if you want a dog to make you laugh, the Bulldog’s got you covered!

A few bits about Bulldogs:

  • Bulldogs were bred for the cruel practice of bull baiting, in which a bull was tormented before slaughter because it was thought to improve the meat’s taste. And because people somehow found it entertaining. The dog grabbed the bull and hung on. Having short jaws increased their grip strength; having jaws that stuck out in front of the nostrils allowed the dog to breathe while gripping.
  • When bull baiting was outlawed in 1835, the breed was transformed into a stylish companion, with temperament of highest importance. In the process, the breed’s features became exaggerated, so today’s Bulldogs are heavier and wider, and with more massive heads and heavier wrinkling than yesterday’s.
  • Although sometimes referred to as “English Bulldog,” the correct name is just “Bulldog.” Other breeds sharing the Bulldog name are French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, and Olde English Bulldogges.

  • Most Bulldogs swim about as well as a cinderblock. But they can sure ride a skateboard!
  • Despite the breed’s poor swimming ability, a Bulldog named Napoleon yanked away from his owner on a walk, and when his owner caught up to him Napoleon was dragging a sack from a lake. The sack contained six kittens, and Napoleon became a hero.
  • The Bulldog is a national symbol of England.

  • The United States Marines employ Bulldogs as their mascots. Two recent ones were named Tillman and Chesty.
  • Mack Trucks adopted a Bulldog as the company emblem in 1917.
  • Bulldogs are the mascot of more sports teams than any other dog — possibly any other animal! At least 39 universities claim them as mascots. Uga, mascot of the University of Georgia, is best known, but others include Bully (Mississippi State), Handsome Dan (Yale), Blue II (Butler) and Tupper (Bryant).

  • Owners include Presidents Harding and Coolidge, plus actors Vincent Price, Adam Sandler, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman, and Reese Witherspoon, and celebrities Michael Jackson, Ice-T, Pink, Ozzy Osbourne, Gordon Ramsay, Howard Stern, David Beckham, and Gloria Estefan.
  • Bulldogs tend to snore and snort because they often have an upper soft palate that is longer than normal and extends into the throat, obstructing the airway. If it interferes with breathing, it can be shortened surgically.
  • Bulldogs are prone to overheating because their short muzzle has little space for evaporative cooling and because they have a large body mass compared to surface area.

  • Most Bulldogs are delivered by planned Cesarean sections because of their narrow hips compared to the puppies’ large heads.
  • Some veterinarians say Bulldogs pay for their kids’ college — and this breed does have more than its share of health concerns. Be sure you can afford to care for a Bulldog properly!
  • Bulldog wrinkles should be cleaned and dried daily to avoid skin infections.

  • In Britain, Bulldogs are now one of a handful of breeds that must pass a veterinary exam before being allowed to continue in group competition at dog shows.
  • The Bulldog is a member of the AKC Non-Sporting group.
  • The Bulldog is currently ranked as the sixth most popular AKC breed in America.

Do you own a Bulldog? 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.

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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