A Bulldog, colloquially known as the British Bulldog, or English Bulldog, is a type of dog which traces its ancestry to England. It should not be confused with other varieties such as the American Bulldog or the French Bulldog, which has a similar appearance.
The term "bulldog" was first used around 1568 and might have been applied to other various ancestors of modern bulldog breeds before adorning the breed we recognize today.
It has been theorized that bulldogs were bred in England as a cross between the Mastiff and the Pug, though their genetic origin is debated. Since the pug did not arrive in Europe until the late 16th century, it is unlikely that the breed is an original progenitor of the Bulldog. The Bulldog and the Mastiff are widely thought to have common roots in the ancient Pugnaces Britanniae of Great Britain.
In the 1600s, bulldogs were used for bullbaiting (as well as bearbaiting)--a gambling sport popular in the 17th century with wagers laid while trained bulldogs leapt at a bull lashed to a post. The bulldog's typical means of attack included latching onto the animal's snout and attempted to suffocate it.
However, the bulldog's early role was not limited to sport. In mid-17th century New York, bulldogs were used as a part of a city-wide round-up effort led by governor Richard Nicolls. Because cornering and leading wild bulls was dangerous, bulldogs were trained to seize a bull by its nose long enough for a rope to be secured around its neck.. The use of dogs for fighting with other dogs or other animals was banned in the United Kingdom by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, but Bulldogs as pets were continually promoted by dog dealer Bill George.
In time, the original Old English Bulldog was crossed with the pug. The outcome was a shorter, wider dog with a brachycephalic skull. Though today's bulldog looks tough, he cannot perform the job he was originally created for, as he cannot withstand the rigors of running and being thrown from a bull, and cannot grip with such a short muzzle.
The oldest single breed specialty club is The Bulldog Club (England), which was formed in 1878. Members of this club met frequently at the Blue Post pub on Oxford Street in London. There they wrote the first standard of perfection for the breed. In 1891 the two top bulldogs, Orry and Dockleaf, competed in a contest to see which dog could walk the farthest. Orry was reminiscent of the orginal bulldogs, lighter boned and very athletic. Dockleaf was smaller and heavier set, more like modern bulldogs. Dockleaf was declared the winner that year. Although some argued that the older version of the bulldog was more fit to perform, the modern version’s looks won over the fans of the breed because they proved they were equally as fit and athletic in the walking competition.