The American Bulldog is the ancestor of the Old English Bulldog that was preserved by working class immigrants who brought their Old English Bulldogs with them when they immigrated to the American Colonies. The dogs are thought to have first been brought to the United States. Small farmers and ranchers would use the Old English Bulldog as an all-around, multi-use working dog for tasks including guarding the home, stock dogs, and catch dogs.
At this time, the American Bulldog didn’t have a breed by the modern standards of the word. Kennel clubs and breed registries wouldn’t exist until the late 19th century, in 1875, at least 200 years after the Old English Bulldog first migrated to the Americas.
Curious to learn more about this canine? Read on!
The History of the Bulldog: 17th and 18th
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Old English Bulldog was bred for labor purposes and sport. Bull-baiting, a common blood sport at the time, became one of the leading causes of innovation within the Old English Bulldog breed until it was banned in 1835.
The Old English Bulldog suffered no recorded strain losses following the banning of bull-baiting in the United States of America, indicating that by the time bull-baiting was banned, the sport had lost a lot of its popularity, as even dogs initially bred for the sport were now being used primarily for other purposes.
Landrace strains are shown to have been brought to the United States alongside some masters. Still, after migrating to America, most dogs would be bred to work, with the bulldog taking the helm for utilitarian working dogs in North America.
The presence of feral pigs is ultimately credited for the bulldog breed’s survival in the American South. European settlers would bring pigs, some of which would escape and become feral. The pigs had no natural predators here in America, and the bulldog breeds became synonymous with protecting oneself from the wild pigs and dealing with this pest situation.
The breed had nearly gone extinct by the time World War II hit until a fancier, John D. Johnson, traveled into the back roads of the South looking for breeding specimens to revive the breed. During this time, Alan Scott, still young, would grow interested in Johnson’s work and begin working with him on the revitalization process.
At some point, Scott’s work took on a life of its own, and he began infusing non-Johnson catch bulldogs from working Southern farms and Johnson’s lines. These dogs would become the Standard-Type American Bulldog, also known as the Scott type.
Johnson also began crossing his original lines with an English bulldog from the North that maintained the genetic traits associated with the Old English Bulldog, creating the Johnson or “Classic” type.
In the Modern Day: What Are American Bulldogs Doing Now?
Nowadays, there’s no threat of the American Bulldog going extinct. The breed is thriving in and outside of its home nation of the United States of America. They’re popular working and protection dogs used worldwide as “hog dogs” or dogs used to catch escaped pigs or hunt razorbacks. American Bulldogs also see plenty of use in agriculture as cattle drovers and K-9 Sports. American Bulldogs have seen successful competition in dog obedience, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondioring, Iron Dog competitions, and weight pulling.
American Bulldogs are also exhibited worldwide in conformation shows in the UKC, ABA, ABRA, ORKC, and EKC. The American Bulldog was officially added to the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service on November 11, 2019.
Are American Bulldogs Aggressive?
Bulldogs and other “bully” type breeds have gotten a bad reputation in recent years. Pit bulls—a breed still yet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club because they want to be distanced from the breed’s history—were bred for dog fighting in the United States and are related to the bully breeds.
This reputation, combined with excessive overbreeding, has caused bulldogs and bully breeds into coming under fire as “aggressive” dogs that are all-around bad dogs, and this could not be further from the truth.
These dogs are energetic and often don’t know how strong they are. They need a firm guiding hand to teach them how to behave in public and be respectful of other living beings. Pit bulls don’t display any more aggression than any other working breed dog and working breed dogs are known for becoming aggressive and destructive when bored.
So, remember before bringing an American Bulldog into your home. This dog will need a job that it can do, and you’ll have to give it that job!
Bulldogs are decorated dogs with a long history leading up to the dogs of the current day. Nowadays, bulldogs live luxurious lives as companion dogs and show dogs, and some still work on farms worldwide. When it comes to this breed, there’s as much to love about them as there is history for them…and there’s a lot of history!
Featured Image Credit: Zanna Pesnina, Shutterstock