ENGLISH BULLDOG HISTORY DEEPDIVE
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The origin of the English Bulldog is somewhat steeped in mystery and is also something that has resulted in massive controversy between breed fanciers and cynologists alike. The great debate is how and when the Bulldog came about. Some say it was by crossing mastiffs with pugs, which resulted in the English Bulldogs. But others argue that the breed was descended from the now-extinct Alaunt, an ancient mastiff-type breed.
What we do know if the first mention of what could have possibly been the contemporary Bulldog was in 1631 found within the contents of a letter from a man named Mr. Eaton, a Spain resident, to a friend in England. This was the first time the Bulldog was referred to its own entity rather than being lumped in with the Mastiff.
The Bulldog was developed for bullbaiting. Back then, the breed was larger. They had stocky bodies, big heads, and the dogs were highly aggressive. The breed spent 500 years being subject to a race of survival of the fittest while competing in this grueling and bloody spectacle leading to even more aggressive and physically capable dogs. There were two bullbaiting practices. The first was originated from the misconception that beef should be baited before being consumed. As it supposedly tenderized the meat and butcher's that did not bait, their bulls first could be subject to a penalty as the meat would be considered unfit to eat. The second was mainly for sport. A pack of dogs would be released into an area with a large bull tied to a metal rod on a chain, and the goal was for one of the dogs to latch onto the bull's nose and force it to the ground. Whichever dog could force the bull to the ground first would be the victor. However, bullbaiting found itself slowing in 1802 when the first bits of legislation in England had formed to outlaw the sport. And decades later, in 1832, the legislation was finalized and passed in Parliament banning the practice altogether, leaving the Bulldog in a rather precarious situation.
In the Red:
After the banning of bullbaiting, the Bulldog was left in a terrible position. After five-hundred years of something more akin to natural selection than deliberate breeding for selecting the athletic ability and downright aggression. Some of these purebred bulldogs found themselves repurposed in dogfighting rings. But, this was also a grim future despite having a new purpose. As the practice of crossing bulldogs with terriers began as it was believed, the addition of the terrier added more fight to the dog.
The only saving grace was that the breed had something of a fandom of the purebred Bulldog. These were the individuals who stepped in and decided that they wanted to try and preserve the breed rather than let it become a piece of history. Though, the question was what to do with it? It was eventually decided that the breed would be repurposed as a companion breed, and so the journey began.
The Bulldog underwent some severe changes on the journey from a fierce athlete to a family companion. Breeders started to focus on a more sustainable and amenable temperament, and they altered the appearance as well. The breed became shorter and developed a flatter face. It wasn't until 1860 that the what was now the English Bulldog made it back into the spotlight—but this time in the UK showering. The breed was then inducted into the UKC and AKC in 1886.
The first official English Bulldog club was established in 1864 by R.S. Rockstro. Though the club only lasted for three years. This is where the first official standard for the breed was written thanks to member Samuel Wickens.
The very first English Bulldog to be shown was named Mr. Dick. He was shown in a UKC show in 1860 and again in 1864. Jacob Lamphier owned him. Another one of Mr. Lamphier's dogs was the first English Bulldog ever to be registered in the UKC studbook by Adam's name.