Back in the 19th century, bullbaiting was still allowed in England. When this cruel activity was banned in 1835, the dogfight as a “sport” became very popular. Since this too was illegal, however, people wanted a smaller dog which was easier to hide under the jacket should the police raid the party, and soon someone came up with the brilliant idea of crossing the old type bull dogs with different terriers, and the result was a dog who had the alertness and the power of a terrier combined with the power, tenacity and high threshold of pain from the Bulldog. In short words; the Brits had created a dogfighting machine which was known as the “canine gladiator” who would fight to the death only to please his owner.
However; it didn’t take long until dogfighting became illegal as well, and the New Bull and Terrier breed was taken over by a man called James Hinks from Birmingham, England. He wanted to create something completely different and began working towards his goal of a white “gentleman’s companion”. Hinks used only white animals in his breeding program, and brought in other breeds to perfect his goal of a completely white dog who would defend himself and his family, but not instigate hostility. Among other breeds that helped creating the Bull Terrier are Dalmatians, the Bulldog, the English White Terrier (which is now distinct). All these breeds contributed in creating the Bull Terrier of today that we all know and love; the white, compact, strong and muscular dog with that funny-looking, concave headshape, the erect ears and the humorous glint in their eyes (although I personally find it hard to see any trace of the Dalmatian, but that’s just me).
The “New Bull Terrier” was first shown at a dog show in 1862, by the same James Hinks I spoke about earlier. He and his family is considered the original breeder of the Bull Terrier. In 1887, The Bull Terrier Club was formed. One year later, the first breed standard was published, and in 1895 the Bull Terrier was acknowledged by the American Kennel Club. In 1922, the AKC recognized the two sizes; the Standard and the Miniature Bull Terrier.
Around the 19th century, attempts were made to create a coloured version of the breed. This was done because some issues were associated with the breed’s white coat, deafness and albinism. The man responsible for bringing colour to the Bull Terrier was named Ted Lyon, and his favourite colour was brindle. Today, the white and the coloured are the same breed.
Like other breeds who has been used for dog fighting, the Bull Terrier usually had their ears cropped as close to the head as possible, until cropping became illegal in 1895. After cropping of ears was prohibited, breeders began breeding dogs who had ears that were in harmony with the rest of the body. Through this work, the breed suffered a short setback through the attempt to obtain the upright ears, without loosing other qualities.
The first modern Bull Terrier was born in 1917 – Lord Gladiator, who was the first Bull Terrier born with the headshape lacking a stop, that we know and love.
The Bull Terrier is only one of the breeds that were used for dog fighting and ended up being amazing family pets. What we should remember, however, is that their origin from bull dogs and terriers give them competitive spirit, strong will and stubbornness, courage and sometimes lack of tolerance for other animals (if they live in the family and the Bull Terrier grows up with it, it’s usually another story). While these dogs can be absolutely amazing family pets, they do need a firm hand and solid training to thrive and be the star he can be. But do that, and you’ll have a very affectionate friend who loves hanging out with your children, and who’ll love anyone who comes to visit.