According to thelisti, English Bulldogs are the 4th most popular dog breed in the world, and with good reason. Bulldogs are friendly, fun, and patient, traits that make wonderful family pets. They tend to get along swimmingly with other animals and love children. Given their sturdy stature, Bullies are not bothered when the youngest member(s) of the family pull, poke or prod them. While not known to be very bright – they have consistently ranked as one the least intelligent breeds – and can be stubborn at times, they are also loyal, loving, funny and eager to please. This wasn’t always the case.
In Europe, harking back to the 1500’s, Bulldogs were bred to be extremely athletic, aggressive and ferocious animals. They were equipped with overly muscular bodies, massive heads and powerful jaws, and were trained to fight to the death. They were used primarily as a participants in the brutal “sport” of bull-baiting. In this sport, Bulldogs (and other animals) were coaxed into clamping down on the snout of an enraged, tethered bull; wagers were then placed, and whichever Bulldog immobilized the bull by pinning it to the ground 1st, would be declared the victor.
Those adorable wrinkles that help distinguish Bulldogs from various other breeds were once intended for the blood of a bull to meander through so as not to interfere with the Bulldog’s iron-clad grip. The Bulldog’s pushed in face allowed it to continue breathing – ironic because present day Bulldogs have a litany of respiratory problems - while its powerful jaw clamped down on a bull’s nose. During bull-baiting matches, dogs were often maimed or even killed and bulls were often badly injured too.
In the United Kingdom, bull-baiting reached the peak of its popularity in the early 19th century. However, the sport’s status and its association with gambling coupled with the growing horror of animal rights activists, served as a catalyst for politicians to get involved. In 1835, lawmakers made bull-baiting, along with bear-baiting and cockfighting, illegal via the Cruelty to Animals Act. By the stroke of a pen, the English Bulldog’s primary use in the U.K. and other parts of Europe was rendered null and void.
Bulldogs as pets?
After the Bulldog’s original raison d’etre was effectively terminated by legislation, dog dealers spied an opportunity to market and place the animals in people’s homes in Europe and across the Atlantic Ocean, in America. Breeders moved swiftly to create a modern-day version of the canine with the objective of preserving most of the Bulldog’s defining physical traits: large head, broad shoulders, muscular body, pushed in face, wrinkles and short tail but removing its ferocity and aggressiveness. For the most part, they succeeded. While modern day Bulldogs are neither as agile nor physically fit as their predecessors, they are sweet, docile animals that make excellent family pets. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of decades of super-specialized breeding has rendered the modern-day English Bulldog a walking medical disaster, which along with it, brings exorbitant veterinary bills.
Bulldogs have a life expectancy of between 8-10 years, with the median (middle) being ~8.5 years vs over 10 years for most other breeds. Less than 10% of Bulldogs perish because of “old age.” Bulldogs have the highest rate of cancer of any dog breed; ~20% of Bulldog deaths are attributed to cancer. Due to their severely disfigured faces and narrow airways, Bulldogs suffer from a range of serious cardiac and respiratory ailments. ~20% of Bulldog deaths are blamed on cardiac and related issues. Over 70% of Bulldogs suffer from hip-dysplasia, the most of any breed. Other ailments that commonly affect Bulldogs are fungal infections, eczema and cherry eye. Bullies are extremely sensitive to hot weather and can easily overheat if not in a temperature-controlled environment. And Bulldog pups must be delivered via caesarian section because too often, their heads get lodged in the mother’s birth canal.
Meet the Olde English Bulldogge.
In the early 1970’s, a Pennsylvania man named David Leavitt sought to create, or rather, re-create the original, sporty version of the English Bulldog used in bull-baiting contests; but with today’s English Bulldog’s gentle demeanor, sans its serious health issues. Leavitt incorporated a breeding method first used for cattle, and after much trial and error, settled on the following cross: 1/2 English Bulldog, 1/6th Pitbull, 1/6th Bull Mastiff, and 1/6th American Bulldog. Leavitt was remarkably successful. The result of his work was an athletic, mild mannered, relatively healthy dog, able to be delivered traditionally, that came to be known as the Olde English Bulldogge (OEB). In 2013, the United Kennel Club (UKC) declared that beginning in 2014, the OEB would be an officially recognized breed.
Here is a photo of a woman with an OEB to her right and an English Bulldog to her left. They resemble close cousins, and for all intensive purposes, they are. Both dogs are stocky, powerful, and have similar facial features, but OEBs are larger (males are ~80 lbs & ~20 inches vs ~55 lbs & 12 inches) a bit more muscular, and significantly more active and athletic. Their temperaments are similar: loyal, fun-loving and gentle. Like English Bulldog’s, OEBs will probably not be confused with a rocket scientist.
OEBs are materially healthier than English Bulldogs, which translates into a longer lifespan. As we noted earlier, Bulldogs typically live between 8 and 10 years; OEBs closer to ~12 years. Some health issues that compromise English Bulldogs afflict OEBs, but less often, and when they do, typically not to the same degree of acuteness. OEBs do not typically suffer from the respiratory issues that often hinder the English Bulldog. OEBs can walk for miles; an English Bulldog with a breathing problem might be challenged to walk more than a few city blocks, especially in the heat. OEBs are not sensitive to extreme heat or cold.
Which Bulldog is right for you?
English Bulldogs and OEBs are extremely loving, playful and make for delightful family pets. Both are great with children and typically get along well with other dogs and even other animals. Because of their physical limitations, English Bulldogs are probably better suited for apartment living; they enjoy lounging, do not require too much exercise and must be in an air-conditioned space in the summer. OEBs are active, require at least a moderate amount exercise and thus would be better situated in a house with a backyard or a larger apartment and be walked consistently.