THE BULL TERRIER
The Bull Terrier’s most recognisable feature is its head, described as ‘egg shaped’ when viewed from the front, the top of the skull is almost flat from ear to ear. Profile curves gently downwards from top of skull to tip of nose, which is black and bent downwards at tip. Nostrils are well developed and under-jaw deep and strong snout. The unique triangle-shaped eyes are small, dark, and deep-set. The body is full and round, while the shoulders are robust and very muscular and the tail is carried horizontally. They are generally white in colour, walk with a jaunty gait, and are popularly known as the ‘Gladiator of the canine race.
Early in the mid-19th century the “Bull and Terrier” breeds were developed to satisfy the needs for vermin control and animal-based blood sports. The “Bull and Terriers” were based on the Old English Bulldog (now extinct) and one or more of Old English Terrier and “Black and tan terrier”, now known as Manchester Terrier. This new breed combined the speed and dexterity of lightly built terriers with the dour tenacity of the Bulldog, which was a poor performer in most combat situations, having been bred almost exclusively for fighting bulls and bears tied to a post. Many breeders began to breed bulldogs with terriers, arguing that such a mixture enhances the quality of fighting. Despite the fact that a cross between a bulldog and a terrier was of high value, very little or nothing was done to preserve the breed in its original form. Due to the lack of breed standards—breeding was for performance, not appearance—the “Bull and Terrier” eventually divided into the ancestors of “Bull Terriers” and “Staffordshire Bull Terriers”, both smaller and easier to handle than the progenitor.
About 1850, James Hinks started breeding “Bull and Terriers” with “English White Terriers” (now extinct), looking for a cleaner appearance with better legs and nicer head. In 1862, Hinks entered a bitch called “Puss” sired by his white Bulldog called “Madman” into the Bull Terrier Class at the dog show held at the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. Originally known as the “Hinks Breed” and “The White Cavalier”, these dogs did not yet have the now-familiar “egg face”, but kept the stop in the skull profile. The dog was immediately popular and breeding continued, using Dalmatian, Greyhound, Spanish Pointer, Foxhound and Whippet to increase elegance and agility; and Borzoi and Collie to reduce the stop. Hinks wanted his dogs white, and bred specifically for this. Generally, however, breeding was aimed at increasing sturdiness: three “subtypes” were recognised by judges, Bulldog, Terrier and Dalmatian, each with its specific conformation, and a balance is now sought between the three. The first modern Bull Terrier is now recognised as “Lord Gladiator”, from 1917, being the first dog with no stop at all.
Due to medical problems associated with all-white breeding, Ted Lyon among others began introducing colour, using Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the early 20th century. Coloured Bull Terriers were recognised as a separate variety (at least by the AKC) in 1936. Brindle is the preferred colour, but other colours are welcome.
Along with conformation, specific behaviour traits were sought. The epithet “White cavalier”, harking back to an age of chivalry, was bestowed on a breed which while never seeking to start a fight was well able to finish one, while socialising well with its “pack”, including children and pups. Hinks himself had always aimed at a “gentleman’s companion” dog rather than a pit-fighter—though Bullies were often entered in the pits, with some success.
All puppies should be checked for deafness, which occurs in 20% of pure white dogs and 1.3% of dogs and is difficult to notice, especially in a relatively young puppy. Many Bull Terriers have a tendency to develop skin allergies. Insect bites, such as those from fleas, and sometimes mosquitoes and mites, can produce a generalised allergic response of hives, rash, and itching. This problem can be stopped by keeping the dog free of contact from these insects, but this is definitely a consideration in climates or circumstances where exposure to these insects is inevitable. A UK breed survey puts their median lifespan at 10 years and their mean at 9 years (1 s.f., RSE = 13.87% 2 d. p.), with a good number of dogs living to 10–15 years.
Bull Terriers can be both independent and stubborn and for this reason are not considered suitable for an inexperienced dog owner. They are protective of their family, although comprehensive socialization when they are puppies will prevent them from becoming over-protective and neurotic. They have a strong prey instinct and when unduly challenged may injure or kill other animals, especially cats.That said, puppies brought up with cats and other animals get on well with the animals they know. Early socialisation will ensure that the dogs will get along with other dogs and animals.
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