Here’s a dog that fools most people. Just because bulldogs look wild makes people think they are wild. Most of the time the opposite is the case. Bulldogs are among the gentlest dogs to own today.
That was not the case hundreds of years ago. Back then, these hardy dogs were tough and vicious. They had to be. Those who were weak or lacking courage did not survive.
You may be wondering how he got the name Bulldog and why the dog is built the way he is. Both were the result of a cruel “sport” popular in medieval times called bullbaiting. It was something like modern-day bullfights in Spain and Mexico—except instead of a man, a dog fought the bull.
Bullbaiting involved putting a dog in a ring with a raging bull to fight for survival. The dog needed a strong jaw for a good bite. And once he had a good bite, he needed a short nose and a huge chest so he could breathe while holding the bull tight with his mouth. When a dog has a good, solid bite, it usually defeats the bull. But the bull also had weapons. Many a dog has been crushed with a hoof or gored with a horn.
By 1835, when bull baiting was banned in England, this bullfighting dog had been developed to look like today’s bulldog. The humane law that stopped bull baiting almost caused the breed to become extinct. Back then, dogs were rarely kept as pets – if a dog was fed, it had to work. And since these dogs could no longer be used for bull baiting, many owners stopped breeding their dogs. Luckily, some nobles kept their dogs as guard dogs, and the breed was able to survive.
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