The term "bulldog" was first used around 1568 and might have been applied to various ancestors of modern bulldog breeds. The ancestors of the Bulldog were the ancient breed called Bullenbeissers. These were a Mastiff-like dog used for guarding and attacking wild animals in Greece, Egypt and Rome. These dogs came in various sizes and were used by Teutonic and Celtic tribes. In England the originally large Bullenbeisser were bred smaller around the 13th century to begin a career as bull baiters.
Over the years this breed was perfected to become the ideal bull baiter, it was incredibly tenacious and impervious to pain. Also the bulldog's weight is primarily in its head so that when the bull shock the dog was less likely to break its back. In 1875 The Bulldog Club was formed in England and the members of the club met regularly at the Blue Post Pub on Oxford Street, London. They wrote the first standards for perfection in the breed. Fortunately Bull baiting and dog fighting were banned in England in 1935, so from then on breeders began some selective breeding to eliminate some of the aggressive nature of the breed and produce dogs that were more good-natured pets.
Bulldogs are still often determined, stubborn and difficult to train but they are intelligent, devoted and amusing. A firm handler is required to train Bulldog but as they are very sensitive to the voice so will not react well to be shouted and screamed at. In fact it is more likely to go and curl up in a comfortable spot and ignore the owner completely.
The bulldog's compact, stocky body results in particularly unique and recognisable gait. They are also well known for their short muzzles and saggy skin on their faces creating the trademark frown. They come in a variety of colours and have a smooth short coat; a typical weight for a fully grown male is around 25 kilos. The bulldog has an unmatchable temperament and is an excellent family dog that will get on with children and other pets. The breed is a little too friendly to be a good guard dog but can defend a family member in need.
As with most pure breed dogs the Bulldog is prone to some health problems. Some have breathing issues due to the shape of the lower jaw and shortness of muzzle, this usually make them snore. They can suffer from cysts between the toes, these cause discomfort be can be treated by a vet, and in older bulldogs hip issues sometime occur. It is important to clean a Bulldogs face fold daily to avoid infection due to moisture accumulation and regular brushing of teeth with a soft human toothbrush is recommended.
As with all dogs, bulldogs need regular exercise to keep their weight down and reduce the chances of health problems related to the lungs and heart. The breed is also very sensitive to heat and great care should be taken of them during warm periods making sure shade and water is always available.
Due to their famous strength and tenacity, Bulldogs have been adopted as the mascots of many sports teams and universities. They have also appeared in many TV shows, cartoons and movies. Some examples of famous Bulldog characters are:
- Spike the Bulldog and Butch the Bulldog are animated cartoon characters in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Merry Melodies and Disney cartoons. Spike is also the name of Tom's nemesis in Tom and Jerry. In this series, Spike was often accompanied by a puppy, his son Tyke
- Butch is Droopy Dog's nemesis in the theatrical Droopy Dog cartoons.
- Uga V was a University of Georgia mascot and the first live college mascot to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine (April 28, 1997) and was named College Mascot of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. Uga V also earned a co-starring role in the feature film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, directed by Clint Eastwood. Uga V also gained notoriety in the media when during a football game on November 16, 1996 he lunged at an Auburn University receiver in an apparent attempt to bite the rival player and bring him down. Uga V, March 6, 1990 to November 22, 1999, was buried in Sanford Stadium with the epitaph "Defender of his Turf."
- Handsome Dan, a bulldog, is the athletics mascot at Yale University.
- Winston, who Davey Boy Smith often brought to the ring during part of his singles career in the World Wrestling Federation.
- Meatball and Matzohball, are Bulldogs owner by Adam Sandler
- "Mr. Beefy" from 'Little Nicky' movie
- The movie Van Wilder features a well-endowed bulldog