Image by/from Justayton
The American Bulldog is a large breed of utility dog descended from the now-extinct Old English Bulldog. They are now used on animal farms, dog sports, and for showing. They are part of American culture and history, and may be used as a cultural icon for the United States. They are generally represented as being strong and tough. In November 2019, the American Bulldog was added to the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service (FSS).
The Old English Bulldog was preserved by working class immigrants who brought their working dogs with them to the American South. Small farmers and ranchers used this all-around working dog for many tasks including farm guardians, stock dogs and catch dogs. These dogs were not an actual breed as considered by today’s standards but were a generic bulldog type. There were no recorded pedigrees or records and breeding decisions were dependent on the best working farm dogs despite breed or background. Several separate strains of the “bulldog” type dogs were kept by ranchers as utilitarian working dogs.
Perhaps the most important role of the bulldog and the reason for its survival, and in fact why it thrived throughout the South, was because of the presence of feral pigs, introduced to the New World and without predators. The bulldogs were the settlers’ only means of sufficiently dealing with the vermin.
By World War II, the breed was near extinction until John D. Johnson scoured the back roads of the South looking for the best specimens to revive the breed. During this time a young Alan Scott grew an interest in Johnson’s dogs and began to work with him on the revitalization process. At some point, Scott began infusing non-Johnson catch bulldogs from working Southern farms with Johnson’s lines, creating what is now known as the Standard type American Bulldog, also called the Scott type. At another point, Johnson began crossing his original lines with an atavistic English bulldog from the North that had maintained its genetic athletic vigor, creating the Bully type American Bulldog, also known as the Johnson type of the Classic type.
American bulldogs are now safe from extinction and are enjoying a healthy increase in popularity, either as a working/protector dog or as a family pet. All over the world, they are used variously as “hog dogs” (catching escaped pigs or hunting razorbacks), as cattle drovers, and as working or sport K-9s. American Bulldogs also successfully compete in several dog sports such as dog obedience, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondioring, Iron Dog competition and weight pulling. They are also exhibited in conformation shows in the UKC, NKC, ABA, ABRA, EKC and the SACBR. The AKC added the American Bulldog to the FSS on November 11, 2019.
The American Bulldog is a stocky, well built, strong-looking dog, with a large head and a muscular build. The shoulders and chest tend to be the most muscular parts of the American bulldog. Its coat is short and generally smooth. The breed is a light to moderate shedder. Colors, while historically predominantly white with patches of red, black, or brindle, have grown in recent years to include many color patterns including black, red, brown, fawn, and all shades of brindle. The color conformation is quite varied, but solid black or any degree of merle is considered a cosmetic fault, and a blue color is a disqualification by the National Kennel Club Breed Standard. Black pigmentation on the nose and eye rims is traditionally preferred, with only some pink allowed. Eye color is usually brown, but heterochromia also occurs, although this is also considered a cosmetic fault. American Bulldogs are known to drool more than other breeds of dog. The Bully type is generally a larger, heavier dog with a shorter muzzle. Standard types are generally more athletic with longer muzzles and a more square head. Many modern American Bulldogs are a combination of the two types, usually termed “hybrid.” In general, American Bulldogs weigh between 27 and 54 kg (60 to 120 lb) and are 52 to 70 cm (20 to 28 in) at the withers, but have been known to greatly exceed these dimensions, especially in the “out of standard,” nonworking stock.
American Bulldogs are typically confident, social, and active dogs that are at ease with their families. They bond strongly with their owners, and are happiest with lots of time and attention. They are capable of jumping in excess of 3 feet (0.91 m) vertically due to the dense muscle build of the breed. American Bulldogs may be slightly aloof with strangers, but should be confident animals when mature. This breed tolerates children and can do very well with them, provided they are socialized early and understand their limits. They can do well with other dogs in the household or who visit regularly when properly introduced and supervised. They are not necessarily good with strange dogs especially in chaotic environments like the dog park. The more exposure to good training practices and clear behavior expectations with other dogs and people, the more likely the success at being controlled both inside and outside of their environment. Ongoing training both in the home and outside of the home is essential for this breed. While the goal of the breed was originally to produce a working farm utility dog that could catch and hold wild boar and cattle, kill vermin, and guard an owner’s property, when properly trained, exercised and socialized, this breed can become a family pet.
American Bulldogs generally live from 10 to 16 years, and tend to be strong, physically active, and often healthy. Some health problems in American bulldogs are often found within certain genetic lines, and are not common to the entire breed, while others, such as neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), Ichthyosis, disorders of the kidney and thyroid, ACL tears, hip dysplasia, cherry eye, elbow dysplasia, entropion, ectropion, and bone cancer are more common to the general population of American Bulldogs. There are DNA tests available to help breeders screen breeding animals for NCL (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis) and Ichthyosis. A Penn Hip (Pennsylvania Hip Improvement project) or OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) screening is recommended for all potential breeding animals. Some American Bulldogs are prone to allergies.