Bull baiting - the practice of baiting bulls, or rendering them furious, as by setting dogs to attack them.
This blood sport, popular in England during the 18th century was banned in 1836. The sport consisted of a bull, bear, horse, ape or other large dangerous animal that was tethered in a pen. Dogs were released into the pen and were used to harass the animal. The dogs would often take a hold of the bull or other animal's nose to pin them while the other dogs bit at it. This brutal sport often left many dogs dead in addition to the bull. Many times the bull was kept alive in order to endure this ritual many times for the purpose of entertainment. It was argued that because the bull was being kept alive, that the animal avoided slaughter, however, such a life would be filled with pain and suffering, rather then relatively quick and final death of slaughter.
In some places, the practice was so popular that before slaughtering a bull, a butcher was required to bait it first, or pay a fine. The sport was commonly held during wakes, fairs, holidays and even local elections. Bull baiting usually took place in a innkeeper's yard, an accessible open field, or a market place. The sport began to decline in the late 1700's due to many factors. Butchers began refusing to have their bulls baited. Publicans didn't want to host the events anymore for fear of losing their licenses, sponsorships dried up and interest declined. By the time the sport was banned it had nearly become extinct.
The sport's appeal came from its brutality. The dog was often tossed by the bulls horns, the people thought it was great fun to hear the dog howl as it was thrown into the air. People often bet upon the event. The origin of bulls-eye is thought to originate from betting on the bull. Though it does not share any direct origin to bull-fighting the goal is relatively the same, to use the animal as a display of human superiority.
Bulldogs and Pit Bull Terriers were named because they were bred, more or less, for this sport.
Information about the sport obtained from http://www.oakengates.com/history/bull%20baiting.htm