What Unethical Breeding Has Done To Bulldogs
Over the past 100 years the Bulldog has gone from a great athlete to one of the unhealthiest breeds around. And the problem of course is man made.
We’ve bred Bulldogs to be extreme; shortened their snouts and legs, increased the size of their skull, and of yes, we’ve even made their underbite a desirable feature. What have we really done to bulldogs?
Bulldogs Are Increasing in Popularity
You know the Bulldog; with their stocky build, flat face, and underbite they’re one of the easiest recognizable breeds. They used to be a healthy, athletic dog; what we have now is a short, stocky breed plagued with health problems.
Despite numerous health concerns they’ve gained a lot of popularity amongst dog owners rising from the 16th most popular AKC registered breed in 2003 to number 5 in 2014. They make wonderful companions – generally laid back and easy going. But the Bulldog is plagued with numerous health concerns which can leave many loving owners heartbroken.
To many they’re an adorable barrel chested companion, to others they’re the poster child for what’s gone wrong with dog breeding. What have we done to the Bulldog?
The Origins of the Bulldog
Commonly referred to as the English Bulldog the term “Bulldog” can be traced back to the year 1568. They were originally bred in England to help control livestock.
The dog became widely used in the sport of bull baiting; dogs would be set onto a tethered bull and whichever dog brought the bull down would be declared the winner. The sport gained a lot of popularity but it didn’t last. Baiting was made illegal by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.
Dog show enthusiasts wanted to preserve the breed and decided to selectively breed out the aggressiveness of the original Olde English Bulldog.
After the outlaw on baiting many Bulldogs were exported to the United States & Germany. In Germany they were crossbred to eventually create the Boxer. In the United States they continued to work at herding livestock.
What Unethical Breeding Has Done to Bulldogs Over the Years
Over the years the Bulldog’s physical traits have been bred to be more extreme. The face has become flatter, the legs have shortened, the head has grown larger, and the underbite has grown. These changes have been made to give the Bulldog a more expressive face, emulating the look of a human child.
Bulldog Birthing Problems
Most Bulldogs can’t breed without human intervention, both in the actual mating & birthing process. If it weren’t for this intervention in breeding the Bulldog as it stands now would become extinct.
As many as 95% of Bulldogs are delivered by Cesarian section. Their head has been bred to become larger over the years, and as a result these dogs cannot birth them naturally through the pelvic canal.
Bulldog Health Concerns
The breed is has numerous health concerns and I’m sure many Bulldog owners can sympathize. The annual veterinary costs for a Bulldog are twice as much as those for a Labrador Retriever.
They have problems with their breathing and respiratory systems due to the enlargement of the soft palate and narrowing of the oropharynx. They’re also known for problems with their heart, hips, eyes, and skin.
Bulldogs are extremely intolerant of heat. They must be kept in an air-conditioned area with limited trips outside when the outside temperature is over 80 degrees or the humidity is high.
It is unbelievable that we need invasive surgery just to repair the basic needs of the dog. Breathing is the most basic need and this is no way acceptable from any ethical point we have today. – Dr. Oechtering
Documentary Exposes Unethical Breeding Practives
In 2008 BBC One aired a documentary called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” in which looked into the health and welfare of pedigree dogs in the United Kingdom. The film spawned three independent reports that all found that breeding for “extreme traits,” like the massive and short-faced head of the bulldog are detrimental to the health and welfare of the dogs. The program stated that most Bulldogs are unable to give birth naturally because their heads have become so large.
The film didn’t just focus on Bulldogs, they highlighted some drastic changes in other breeds such as the Pug, German Shepherd, Basset Hound, Bull Terrier and Dachshund. It’s not the greatest quality but you can find the full film on vimeo. The BBC released “Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On” in 2012.
The breed is noted to have locomotion difficulties, breathing problems, an inability to mate or give birth without assistance. Many would question whether the breed’s quality of life is so compromised that its breeding should be banned. – Dr. Nicola Rooney
The Kennel Club’s Breed Standard
The British Kennel Club issued new standards for Bulldogs in 2009. The new standard calls for a “relatively” short face, “heavy, thick-set, low-swung body,” a “very short” face and muzzle and a “massive” and “undershot” jaw. The standards were issued to create a healthier and leaner Bulldog.
The Bulldog Club of America owns the copyright to the American standard and doesn’t plan on following the new standards. The American Kennel Club responded by saying they have no plans to pressure the club into changing it’s mind.
When Breeding Goes Too Far
I’m not against good breeding practices. There are many breeders out there who are truly dedicated to the welfare and health of their animals. They do proper health screenings and do not sell their dogs to pet stores. They demonstrate a great knowledge of their breed and value their reputation for seeking ways to improve their breed. They screen potential owners and can provide references from happy customers.
All breeds can be susceptible to bad breeding, the Bulldog is the most extreme example. The current breed standards for the Bulldog are beyond what I would consider healthy. When you’re breeding a dog that’s been changed so drastically over the years to become such an unhealthy breed I find it questionable. When we breed dogs for such extreme traits to make them more marketable something has gone wrong.
It’s these extreme features that make the Bulldog so desirable for consumers, yet so detrimental to the breed’s well being.
The breed is noted to have locomotion difficulties, breathing problems, an inability to mate or give birth without assistance. . . . Many would question whether the breed’s quality of life is so compromised that its breeding should be banned. – Dr. Nicola Rooney & Dr. David Sargan
What Can We Do?
What’s been done to Bulldogs by bad breeding has had such a negative impact on the animals it defies common sense. They wanted the extreme look of what we now know as the modern Bulldog and sacrificed the dogs welfare to achieve it.
It’s a shame what’s been done to them because they have such great personalities and make wonderful companions. Hopefully one day a healthier breed standard will emerge.
If you’re considering getting a Bulldog please adopt one from a rescue or shelter. Don’t support bad breeding practices by buying a Bulldog puppy from a breeder or pet store.
- Dog Behavior Science – 100 Years of Breed “Improvement”
- NYTimes – Can The Bulldog Be Saved?
- Slim Doggy – Pedigree Dog Health Issues
- VIN – Veterinarian Speaks Out Concerning Bulldog Health Concerns
- PBS – Selective Breeding Problems
- GAIA Research Institute – Bulldog Welfare Concerns