Well known and famous in print and on screen as 'Bulls Eye, the dog owned by Bill Sykes in Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' , the Bull Terrier is a distinctive looking dog with what is often described as an 'egg shaped' head.
The English Bull Terrier is thought to have been bred from the Bull Dog and other terrier breeds, including the Manchester Terrier. They were originally bred for dog-fighting, more notably bull baiting until 1935 when these blood sports were outlawed, however, illegal matches still continued to take place.
By crossing a bulldogs and terriers many of the behavioural and physical traits desired by followers of this 'sport' were gained and as such the English Bull Terrier gained a reputation for being one of the most agile, aggressive and brave dogs to undertake this task, often fighting till the death. This reputation earned the Bull Terrier the somewhat dubious title of the 'canine gladiator'
In 1850 a gentleman called James Hincks standardized the breed by selectively breeding this dog with other terrier including White English Terriers. This resulted in an all white Bull Terrier with which many are now familiar.
It is not known what other breeds were crossed along the generations giving the defined and distinctive head shape and 1887 the first breed club was formed in the UK with standards defined the year after. In 1917 a dog named 'Lord Gladiator' was the first of this breed recognised as the modern Bull Terrier.
Average height to withers: Males and females between 18-22 inches
Average weight: Males and females between 22-38kg with males erring on the heavier side.
No other dog has the head and eye shape of this breed. Distinctive to the last, the Bull Terrier has an individual shape of head (described as egg shaped) and the eyes are uniquely 'triangle' shaped being small and set deeply into the skull. The nose is well defined and round and the semi erect ears are often carried at a reverse angle to the head. The Bull Terrier has a rounded, well defined and well muscled body with heavy shoulders which are powerfully built. The tail is long and thin and carried horizontally to the body. This breed is noted for being a predominantly white dog, although other colours are permitted. The coat is short and smooth.
Despite appearances, the Bull Terrier is a fun and people-loving dog. They are courageous, active, clownish, exuberant and fearless. They enjoy being around people and are generally not recommended for families with children as this exuberance, can be problematic given the nature of their heritage. They are best suited to experienced dog owners, especially those with prior experience of this type of breed. With comprehensive socialisation and training at an early age, they can live with other animals (caution should always be observed as they do retain thier strong terrier hunt-prey drive) but will always have a determined and somewhat stubborn streak. With other dogs, unaltered males may not get along with other male dogs but males and females can live together happily, and two females can also be a good option.
This is a breed which is hardy and healthy generally, and will live on average between 9-12 years. As with any other white haired animal, they need to be checked for deafness which is known to occur in around 20% of white coated dogs. This can be difficult to detect in younger dogs and puppies and is worth seeking veterinary advice on. As a short coated dog, they can be prone to skin allergies and can react to flea and tick bites quite violent. It is also worth bearing in mind that in hot and sunny weather they can get easily sunburned and every precaution should be taken to avoid this.
They are also known to develop habits quite easily which could be compared to obsessive compulsive disorders such as excessive licking and tail sucking especially in times of stress and separation from their owners.
It cannot be reiterated enough that this is a dog which should be owned by people who have prior experience.
Regular exercise is a must and the owner needs to be aware of potential agitation around dogs not known to it.
Given the nature of their coat and potential allergies, breeders are often advocate of adding oils to their daily meals to help keep it in tip top condition. This is a breed which sheds an average amount, but will still benefit from weekly grooming and attention.