It may have its roots in fighting and working, but the American Bulldog is a big old softie at heart. Now, you’ll find him as a much-loved companion in many households in North American and around the world. He’ll keep a watchful eye over the family and work his tail off all day, but he’s just as content to curl up at your feet on the couch.
The American Bulldog, also known as the Old Country Bulldog, the Old Country White, the Old Time Bulldog, the Old English White, the English White, the White English, the Alabama and the Southern Bulldog, is known for its superb strength and fine character. It does not closely resemble the more familiar English Bulldog and is not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. This breed is similar to the old, seventeenth-century bull-baiting dogs used to fight bulls for entertainment and supposedly to tenderize the meat for human consumption in Great Britain. The predecessors of this breed came to America in early colonial times, before the English Bulldog went through its transformations to become what that breed is today. This is a friendly, versatile dog that can do almost anything well. It is cherished as a hunting dog of large and small game, a guard dog, a guide dog and a beloved family companion. American Bulldogs form strong bonds with their people but if not properly socialized can be aggressive towards strangers and other animals. The American Bulldog is on average between 20 and 28 inches at the withers, with the females being on the smaller side of the range. They weigh between 60 and 125 pounds, again with females being lighter. Their short, shiny coat is low-maintenance. As these are working dogs, there is a wide variation in height and weight more so than in other breeds. Other Quick Facts
American Bulldogs can vary in size, appearance and energy level, according to the line or strain from which they were bred. For instance, Scott-type American Bulldogs tend to be smaller than those from the Johnson line and larger than those from the Painter line.
The American Bulldog is usually white or white with patches of brindle, black or red/fawn. For showing purposes, it can be any color, pattern or combination of colors except for solid black, solid blue, merle or white with patches of black and tan (tricolor), according to the United Kennel Club.
An American Bulldog can have a docked tail, but a natural tail is preferred. The natural tail is thick at the base and tapers to a point. It’s sometimes described as resembling a pump handle.
The Old English Bulldog was preserved by working class immigrants who brought their working dogs with them to the American South. Small farmers and ranchers used this all-around working dog for many tasks including farm guardians, stock dogs and catch dog. These dogs were not an actual breed as considered by today’s standards but were a generic bulldog type. There were no recorded pedigrees or records and breeding decisions were dependent on the best working farm dogs despite breed or background. Several separate strains of the “bulldog” type dogs were kept by ranchers as utilitarian working dogs.
Perhaps the most important role of the bulldog and the reason for its survival, and in fact why it thrived throughout the South, was because of the presence of feral pigs, introduced to the New World and without predators. The bulldogs were the settlers’ only means of sufficiently dealing with the vermin. By World War II, the breed was near extinction until John D. Johnson and his father scoured the back roads of the South looking for the best specimens to revive the breed. During this time a young Alan Scott grew an interest in Johnson’s dogs and began to work with him on the revitalization process. At some point, Alan Scott began infusing non-Johnson catch bulldogs from working Southern farms with John D. Johnson’s line, creating the now Standard American Bulldog. At another point, Johnson began crossing his line with an atavistic English bulldog from the North that had maintained its genetic athletic vigor.
American bulldogs are now safe from extinction and are enjoying a healthy increase in popularity, either as a working/protector dog or as a family pet. All over the world, they are used variously as “hog dogs” , as cattle drovers and as working or sport K-9s. American Bulldogs also successfully compete in several dog sports and in conformation dogs shows .
With roots in the violent sport of bullbaiting, the American Bulldog was later developed as a farm dog and hunter’s assistant, herding and protecting livestock and hunting everything from squirrels to bear. Today, the breed is a sturdy companion for families or farmers, keeping a watchful eye over his people and property. Active and playful, the American Bulldog loves people and craves constant attention, (though he may not be fond of other dogs and should be kept away from cats). He can work or play all day long, and will happily curl up at your feet for a nice belly rub at the end of the day.
The American Bulldog generally lives about 10 to 16 years and is considered a healthy breed. Some genetic issues common to the breed include neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (a nervous system disorders with swelling and/or changes in some retinal cells), disorders of the kidney and thyroid, ACL tears, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia (another common form of dysplasia in larger breed dogs), cherry eye (or a mass that protrudes from the eyelid of a dog), entropion (a condition in which a portion of the eyelid is inverted or folded inward) and bone cancer.
The short, fine coat of the American Bulldog requires minimal grooming and care, however, similarly to the English Bulldog, the American Bulldog has been known to drool and slobber. With a history as an all-purpose working dog and fearless guard dog, the American Bulldog is a good indoor/outdoor dog but does require sufficient outdoor exercise and activity, especially if it lives in an apartment setting.
The American Bulldog will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard.
American Bulldogs are strong willed and can be a challenge to train until leadership is established. Not the best choice for a first-time dog owner, this breed will make his trainer prove who is in charge. Training requires absolute consistency – give an American Bulldog an inch and you’ll find he’s taken about six miles. A calm-assertive approach is best, with lots of positive reinforcement and treats for extra incentive.
Once the initial hurdles are crossed, however, American Bulldogs can excel in advanced obedience and agility training.
If you have an active family, the American Bulldog will fit right in. Expect to give you dog about an hour or two of outside exercise per day. If you don’t deliver these exercise requirements, the American Bulldog will take it out on your home. Activities can include walking, jogging, chasing balls, agility, farm work, and advanced obedience training.
Unless you can fulfill the outdoor activity requirements, apartments and condo dwellers should stay away from this breed. Houses with fenced-in yards or farms/rural areas are best suited for the American Bulldog.
The American Bulldog has a short coat that may feel either soft or stiff. The breed sheds moderately year-round. Brush or comb the coat weekly to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.
Children And Other Pets
His amiable temperament and bulk make the American Bulldog an excellent companion for children, even young ones. A American Bulldog will put up with a lot from a child, although he shouldn’t have to, and he’ll walk away if he gets tired of being tormented.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
With their pacific nature, American Bulldogs also get along well with other pets, dogs and cats. They may be less sociable toward strange dogs, however.
Did You Know?
The American Bulldog was bred to be what’s known as a “catch dog.” His job is to chase, catch and bring down free-ranging livestock.
American Bulldogs in popular culture
Spike and Tyke from the Tom and Jerry franchise.
The Deftones’ videoBloody Cape featured a model walking an American Bulldog down the street. The American Bulldog was actually played by two separate dogs from the Norcal’s American Bulldog Kennel. The names of the dogs were Big Trouble and Tory Hesta.
In Return to Me (2000), David Duchovny’s character’s dog, Mel, is played by an American Bulldog named Peetey.
In the 2001 film Kevin of the North, one of Kevin Manley’s sled dogs is an American Bulldog named Snowflake.
Nedd (“Nasty Evil Dead Dog”) in The Number 23 (2007)
In Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), Jangers, Tyler Labine’s character’s dog, is played by an American Bulldog named Weezer.
An American Bulldog features prominently as the titular character’s companion in the 2013 film Joe.
Since the 1990s, American Bulldogs have become more frequently used in films as family pets, replacing the previously popular Pit Bulls and Bull Terriers.