Also referred to as Bull Terriers, Bullies, or EBT's, they were originally bred as a gentleman's sporting companion when the blood sport of dog fighting was still legal. Dog fighting, bull baiting, bear baiting and cock fighting were popular gambling sports of the 19th Century in England. To this day, the breed still displays it main characteristics of strength, courage and agility. Through many years of careful breeding, today's Bull Terriers are playful, fun loving, affectionate and sensitive dogs, who make excellent pets and companions, despite their 'tough' appearance.
The origins of the breed
Dating back to approximately 1800, the Bull Terrier is believed to have been discovered by cross breeding a Bulldog to the now extinct White English Terrier. The dogs from this cross were known as the "Bull and Terrier" dogs - hence the origination of the modern name Bull Terrier - and were extremely rugged and well suited for pit fighting. The careful crossing of these breeds meant that the Bull and Terrier dog took selected characteristics from each parent - from the Bulldog, tenacity, courage and it's high threshold of pain were desired. From the English Terrier, lightening speed, agility and its unsurpassed killing instinct were transferred into the new breed of sporting dog. It was not a pretty dog with extremely bowed legs, and colourings that were described as 'smutty'. Even though the new breed of Terrier was a tough, strong killing machine, one characteristic that shone through was the dog's unfaltering devotion to its owner.
Some years later, the 'Bull and Terrier' dogs were crossed again - this time with what was believed to be a Spanish Pointer. Even today, some Pointer-like characteristics still show in the Bull Terrier. The breed remained at this standard until 1835, when dog fighting and the baiting of animals was abolished and patrons turned to the show venues to compete with their dogs; Bull Terrier fanciers decided that an entirely white dog would be more attractive. Mr James Hinks of Birmingham, England, was the first person to create a 'true white' Bull Terrier, and the new dog was enthusiastically embraced by the younger generation as the most fashionable dog - a 'distinctive looking dog, and loyal companion as well as a body guard'.
The Bull Terrier was reputedly the best fighting dog of its day. Declared as the 'Gladiator' of the canine world, this breed had to be strong and courageous. Bull Terriers were bred 'for gentlemen, by gentlemen in an era that valued fair play and scorned liars and deceivers in any game'. The dogs were trained to defend both themselves and their master courageously - yet they were not permitted to provoke a fight. Because of this trait, the true white Bull Terriers became known as 'the white cavalier', a title that the breed holds with distinction to this day.
Over many years, Hinks decided to add a few other ingredients into the genetic soup of his Bull and Terrier breed - The Dalmatian, Greyhound, Foxhound, Borzoi and the Black and Tan Terrier's (now called Manchester Terriers)were used to improve the build, character and overall appearance of the dog. Through this mixing process and selective breeding, not only was the Bull Terrier standardised, but also we saw another variety of Bull Terrier established - the Miniature Bull Terrier. In 1888 the Bull Terrier Club in England published the standards for the breed, and the American Kennel Club officially recognised the breed in 1895. In around 1900, crossing the Bull Terrier with Staffordshire Bull Terriers re-introduced colour into the breeds.
Within the strict limitations of the Kennel Club / American Kennel Club's standard for the breed, Bull Terriers should stand no higher than 15" - 17", and weigh approximately 45 - 60 lbs. Having a short coat that is flat and harsh to the touch, Bullies are bred in two main colourings. The desired standard for the breed is the 'true white'. The dog should have no other coloured markings, and slightly 'pinked' eyes and muzzle for it to be classed as a true white Bull Terrier. 'Coloured' Bull Terriers are predominately any colour other than white. Miniature Bull Terriers are exactly the same in conformation, and only really differ from their larger cousins in height. A Miniature Bull Terrier should measure between 10" and 14" to the withers.
Handling and Socialisation
Bull Terriers require firm handling from puppy hood. They are generally good tempered and friendly dogs, but are known for their independent thinking and sense of humour, and will repeatedly keep trying something to see how far they can go before being reprimanded! Also, Bull Terriers need to be socialised with children and other animals from a very early age if they are to be accepted into the dog's life without problems. Bull Terriers are genuinely bombproof with children - but as with ANY breed of dog, should be supervised whilst in the company of minors. The approximate life span is 10 - 14 years. Producing litters of 4 - 8 puppies, the only real health problems to watch for are hereditary zinc deficiency and deafness at birth.
I would like to make clear that in no way do I approve of any form of dog fighting or animal baiting. I do however love Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers - I have them as pets, I have bred them in the past, I've shown them and won silverware and rosettes, but most importantly - I lived with them. I do not 'pit' them; I do not think it makes me look 'tough' when I exercise them. I just appreciate the breed for the characters that they are. I hope others will too...