Bulldogs: Ten Things You May Not Know About Them

Some say the Bulldog was descended from the Mastiff, and others claim the opposite is true. No one is certain but it seems more likely that both breeds sprung from a breed of dog called ‘Alaunt’ which appears to have possessed a short, thick head and short muzzle with undoubted power and strength, especially in the forelegs. Here are ten more things you may not know about the Bulldog, sometimes called ‘Bull Dog’ …..

* In the 19th Century Bulldogs were used to chase and terrify Bulls before they were slaughtered, hence the name ‘Bull Dogs’. It was widely believed the flesh of animals baited this way immediately before death tasted better than others killed in more humane fashion!

* In his diary, Samuel Pepys says he was present at a bull-baiting in Southwark, London, on August 4th, 1666, which he described as “a very rude and nasty pleasure”.

* Bulldogs were also used to bait full-grown bears and for dog-fighting. Henry VIII had his own Bull and Bear gardens and watched many bull-baitings. Queen Elizabeth was also very fond of the ‘sport’.

* When England’s James II declared his disfavour toward bull-baiting in 1685, the activity fell into rapid decline among the upper classes although the lower classes continued to enjoy the despicable ‘sport’ for many years to come. In 1835 bull-baiting and dog-fighting became illegal and Bulldogs fell out of fashion.

* As the breed regained popularity in the late 1800s, some amazing prices were fetched for specimens for breeding or showing purposes, including: In 1901 Rodney Stone fetched £1,000 and was exported to the USA. Also exported to the USA for £1,000 apiece were Heath Baronet in 1904 and Chinsham Young Jack in 1909.

* For many years the Bulldog has been used to portray the quintessential British ‘John Bull’ caricature even though some insist the breed came originally from Spain! This seems to be due to a plaque being found in Paris by an Englishman, John Proctor, on which was portrayed the head of a Bulldog with inscription ‘Dogue de Burgos Espaque (Spain) - 1625.’

* Those against the theory of Spanish origin point out that Philip II became King of Spain in 1556 and took many English fighting dogs to that country. They insist also that British dogs may have traveled back to Spain with sailors of the Armada in 1588.

* The first known mention of the Bulldog in literature was in 1500 by W. Wulcher who referred to the dog as ‘Bonddogge’ - the words ‘bond’ and ‘dog’ referring to the belief that the dog was considered so fierce it should be kept tied up (bound) for the protection of other living beings. Also in literature, in ‘Treatise of the Dog’ (1576), Dr. Caius referred to the Bulldog (still known as bonddogge) as: “a vast, huge, stubborn, ugly and eager dog of a heavy burdensome and body serviceable to bait a bull, and two dogs at the most were capable of subduing the most untamable bull.” Around 1630 the dog took on its more familiar name, with slightly different spelling of ‘Bulldogg’.

* The Bulldog was appreciated by the ancient Romans, for his courage and power, and was even mentioned by Claudian, the last of the Latin classic poets, who says of the dog’s ability to floor a bull much bigger his size: “The British hound that brings the bull’s big forehead to the ground.”

* In 1864, at the Agricultural Hall in London, forty Bulldogs were on exhibition, and Mr. Jacob Lamphier, of Soho Street, Birmingham, won the first prize with his celebrated dog Champion King Dick. Born in 1858, the dog died aged eight, just a few days after the death of his master. The story is recounted that when Lamphier died, King Dick was relegated to the yard until after the funeral when he was let loose and immediately began searching for his master. Unable to find him the dog began a slow decline, refusing all offers of food and attention from Lamphier’s daughter. The dog is said to have given up looking and went to lie down on a rug where he died four days later without ever moving or feeding again.”

Avril Harper is the webmaster at http://www.dog-breed.net

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