Among the most comical and mischievous citizens of dogdom, the Bull Terrier is playful and endearing, sometimes stubborn, but always devoted. These unique “eggheads” are exuberant, muscular companions who thrive on affection and exercise.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 57 of 192
- Height: 21-22 inches
- Weight: 50-70 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-13 years
- Group: Terrier Group
About the Bull Terrier
Bull Terriers are robust, big-boned terriers who move with a jaunty stride suggesting agility and power. The breed’s hallmark is a long, egg-shaped head with erect and pointed ears, and small, triangular eyes that glisten with good humor. Coats come in two types: white; and any other color (including an attractive brindle striping), either solid or with white markings. A well-made BT is the picture of muscular determination and balance. There are four keys to BT happiness: early socialization with dogs and people; firm but loving training; ample exercise; and lots of quality time with his adored humans. If these requirements are met, there is no more loyal, lovable, and entertaining companion. This is the ultimate “personality breed.”
It is an irony that some of the AKC’s most amiable breeds began their careers as ferocious gladiators in blood sports. Such is the case of the Bull Terrier.
The pastime of bull-baiting, in which Bulldogs were turned lose on a staked bull as spectators bet on the outcome, was popular in Britain beginning in the 13th century. By the more enlightened 1830s, blood sports with animals were outlawed. This didn’t stop those with a taste for such gruesome spectacles. They simply went underground to evade the law. Bull-baiting was, of course, too conspicuous an activity to continue illegally. Instead, the blood sport of choice became dogfighting, with dogs mauling other dogs in indoor pits, often in the cellars of taverns.
Bulldogs proved too slow and plodding to provide much entertainment in these gruesome affairs. Thus began the process of crossing Bulldogs with terriers to produce fighters with the power of a Bulldog and the animation and fiery spirit of terriers. Among the breeds created in this way was the Bull Terrier.
Before long, the law caught up with pit fighting and this, too, was banned in Britain. Happily, the suddenly unemployed Bull Terrier became fashionable among young gentlemen of the mid-1800s. Breeders set to work on refining the breed’s looks and sweetening its temperament, better to play the role of an upper-crust companion dog.
“Hinks found a Bull Terrier a battered old bum/And made him a dog for a gentleman’s chum.” So goes an old bit of doggerel. It was in the early 1860s that Englishman James Hinks took an old fighting breed, a Bulldog-terrier cross called the Bull-and-Terrier, and refined and standardized it as the modern Bull Terrier. Hinks’s dogs were white, but by the early 20th century colored specimens were seen. BTs came to the AKC in 1885 and have been American favorites ever since. Famous Bullies include General George Patton’s Willy; Rufus, the 2006 Westminster winner; and Bullseye, the Target mascot.
The Bull Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Bull Terriers need a good diet that includes natural calcium, especially when they are youngsters. One expert breeder gives the dogs a little yogurt or whole milk in the morning and in the evening before bed. She also recommends adding some naturally high-calcium food like broccoli to their diet when they are going through periods of rapid growth and bone development.
Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Bull Terrier’s short, flat, harsh, and glossy coat requires minimal maintenance. A weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush or a hound glove will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. The ears should be regularly inspected and cleaned if needed. The nails should be trimmed often, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort and problems walking and running.
Bull Terriers benefit from daily, moderate exercise that provides good mental and physical stimulation, such as nice, long walks with the family. The breed was developed for sport as well as to be a gentleman’s companion and possesses great strength and agility. Participation in canine sports such as obedience, tracking, agility, and coursing ability tests is an enjoyable way to channel the BT’s energy.
Owners should remember that the breed exhibits the tenacity and courage of the Bulldog but is also a member of the Terrier Group. This is an independent free-thinker with a higher commitment to “fun and games” than to a work ethic. Bull Terriers operate on the principle that if it is fun, they will do it. If not, why bother? Make training fun, and they will excel. Positive reinforcement with food or toys is an excellent place to start. Bull Terriers can excel at a variety of dog sports (including agility, flyball, freestyle, weight pull, and carting) as well as in roles such as bomb detection, search-and-rescue and as service, assistance, health-alert, and therapy dogs. There is no limit to what Bull Terriers can do if trained in a positive manner with patience and humor.
Owners of potential sires and dams being bred should show proof of testing for kidney and heart issues, and pups should be tested for hearing before leaving the breeder. Dedicated breeders communicate with each other regularly and work together for breed health and the preservation of the breed’s best qualities. Bull Terriers from good breeders who health-test usually become healthy, happy, family members.