November 25, 2011
Given the current popularity of the English Bulldog (now in the top 6 most popular AKC breeds) and the short life span (6 years average) and immense health problems, is it right to keep breeding our beloved Bullies?
I have struggled with this question over the years because of the health issues my Bulldogs have had, how I see them suffer, and when I hear so many sad stories from my newsletter readers.
An in depth article in the New York Times Magazine goes into depth about the Bulldog breed, how the British have changed the standard to reduce some obvious health problems such as breathing and hip dysplasia.
Citing the University of Georgia Bulldogs, all named Uga, with their short life spans in the public eye, the article casts a dim view of some breeding practices.
Here are some excerpts:
The short lifespan.
Though there is no recent comprehensive study in this country comparing the life spans of different breeds, a 2010 British study published in The Journal of Small Animal Practice reported that the typical bulldog lives only slightly longer than six years. “The bulldog is unique for the sheer breadth of its health problems,”…
Why are they so popular?
“We have, to some extent, accentuated physical characteristics of the breed to make it look more human, although essentially more like caricatures of humans, and specifically of children,” he told me. “We’ve bred bulldogs for their flat face, big eyes, huge mouth in relation to head size and huge smiling face.”
On Bulldog breathing:
the human equivalent to breathing the way some bulldogs do “would be if we walked around with our mouth or nose closed and breathed through a straw.”
On the history of the breed:
Bulldogs get their name from their role in bull-baiting, arguably the most popular sport of the Elizabethan era…
Fighting bulldogs were leaner and higher off the ground than bulldogs today, and their muzzles were longer. They had smaller heads, fewer facial rolls and a long tail…
“Bulldogs today are not even a figment of what they used to be.”…
The bulldog might have disappeared into obscurity had 19th-century Victorian England not gone dog crazy…
the bulldog underwent a physical, temperamental and public-relations transformation.
On the uneducated owners of Bulldogs:
“A lot of people buy a breed like the bulldog without realizing just how compromised it is,” he said. “They also have no idea how to differentiate a ‘responsible’ breeder from an irresponsible one.”
I heard the same thing from Laurette Richin of the Long Island Bulldog Rescue. When she opened the doors to her rescue organization in 1999, Richin had 13 bulldogs that needed homes. Last year, she had 218. “This breed is so popular right now, and people fall in love with the dog’s face and buy it on impulse without doing their homework,” she said. “Then, when the dog ends up being too ‘needy’ or too expensive, people give them up.”
To read this compelling article on the Bulldog breed in it’s entirety: