The American Bulldog is a breed of working dog developed for catching livestock and for protecting property. There are generally considered to be two types of American Bulldog, the Johnson type and the Scott type, named after the breeders who were influential in developing them, John D. Johnson and Allen Scott. These are more commonly known as Classic or Bully type and Standard or Performance type.
American Bulldog Appearance
The American Bulldog is a stocky, strong-looking dog. Its coat is short and either white or white with patches. The Johnson type is a larger dog with a shorter muzzle than the Scott type. However, many modern American Bulldogs are a combination of the two types. In general, American Bulldogs weigh between 27 to 54 kg (60 to 100 lb) and are 52 to 70 cm (20 to 28 inches) at the withers.
Confusion With Other Breeds
There are two distinct strains of American Bulldogs, Classic (Johnson, Bully) and Standard (Scott, Performance) which is often mistaken for its second cousin the American Pit Bull Terrier because of its appearance, and for its much smaller European relatives because of its name. The American Bulldog is different from any of these. The American Bulldog is massive in comparison to the French Bulldog or English Bulldog and was never bred to be a lap dog. The Standard American Bulldog does resemble the pit bull-type breeds on many points, such as being muscular dogs that can be all white or white with patches. However, the pit bull’s head is in the shape of a wedge coming to a more rounded point at the muzzle, whereas an American Bulldog’s is box-shaped. The American Bulldog’s ears are also typically uncropped, and it is heavier and a little bulkier.
American Bulldog Temperament
An American Bulldog is typically a happy, friendly, and assertive dog that is at ease with its family and fine with strangers as they get to know the stranger in question. They are quite fond of children but sometimes do not know their own strength, thus, as with all dogs, they should be supervised with small children. They bond strongly with their master and family but, because of strong guarding instincts and a somewhat dominant attitude, they need a firm but fair hand; they should be socialized and obedience trained early to expose them to other dogs and people and to ensure that they can be controlled around company as they get older and larger.
They need room to expend their energy and so do best in a home with a backyard. They are not always well behaved towards cats and smaller pets, but correct socialization at an early age can greatly increase the chances of them accepting these animals. They can be stubborn with training though once they are trained they tend to obey their masters faithfully. American bulldog puppies can be relatively difficult to housebreak, but it is important to be persistent.
American Bulldog History
The history of Mastiff-type dogs in the British Isles dates back beyond the arrival of Ceasare, who reported of the ferocious dogs. With the arrival of the Normans in 1066 came Alaunts from the continent. The breeding of the indigenous mastiffs to the newly arrived ones produced the Mastiff and Bulldog of England. An interesting aside, is that all descriptions of the Alaunts (there were three types) mention an all white, or almost entirely white coat – something only the American Bulldog still has.
In England during the 17th and 18th centuries, bulldogs were used on farms to catch and hold livestock; as butchers’ dogs; and as guardians, as well as for other tasks. This eventually led to bloodsports such as bull-baiting, popular for both entertainment and the potential for gambling. These practices extended not only from the British Isles but also to the colonies she acquired during this time, including what is now the United States and in particular the South; many settlers brought their dogs with them to help around the farm, hunt in the woods, and use in gambling.
In 1835, the sport of bull-baiting was outlawed in the United Kingdom and, over time, the Bulldog there became a common pet, being bred into today’s more compact and complacent version. The product was as much the efforts of selectively bred bulldogs as it was the introduction of the Pug. Conversely, the American strain maintained its utlitarian purpose, and thus underwent less modifications; even as its popularity declined in favor of other breeds. Even the slight modifications the bulldog underwent in England from the late Renaissance into the Industrial Revolution (pre 1835), were absent in the American strain. (Most settlers of the American South came from the West Midlands and as a result of the Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians, well before the Industrial Revolution).
Perhaps the most important role of the bulldog and the reason for its survival and in fact why it thrived through out the South was because of the presence of feral pigs, introduced to the New World and without predators. The bulldogs were the settlers only means of sufficiently dealing with the vermin. By World War Two, the breed was near extinction until John D. Johnson and his father scoured the backroads of the South looking for the best specimens to revive the breed. During this time a young Allen Scott grew an interest in Mr. Johnson’s dogs and began to work with him on the revitalization process. At a point, Allen Scott began infusing non-Johnson select dogs with John D. Johnson’s line creating the now Standard American Bulldog. Therefore, the base stock of the Standard American Bulldog is the Classic American Bulldog. This created a falling out between Johnson and Scott causing them to go their separate ways and breed the two slightly different versions of the American bulldog.
American Bulldog Today
Today the American Bulldog is safe from extinction and is enjoying a healthy increase in popularity, both as a working dog and as a loving family pet. In the South and West they are used as “hog dogs” (dogs used in the catching of escaped pigs and/or hunting razorbacks) and are also used in tracking, driving cattle, and in various dog sports such as schutzhund and weight pulling.