GENERAL BREED INFO

Bully Dog Breeds: Loving Dogs with Unfair Reputations

Bully dogs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

There are many dog breeds that are popular among dog owners, but they are still considered to be ‘bullies’. Many of these dog breeds are, unfortunately, the victims of inaccurate stereotypes, because it is the fact that each dog is different even though each breed has more or less tendencies towards violence. Some people say that there isn’t a bad dog but a bad owner. This article will present some of the most (in)famous ‘bullies’, or dog breeds that are considered to be dangerous due to their appearance or reputation.

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The title ‘bully’ usually invokes the sense of fear and intimidation, however, this term has a lot to do with the breeds’ origin and history. These bully breeds come from the breed called Molosser, which is a group of big muscular dogs with large bones, originating in ancient Greece. The bully breeds that we think we know today are the result of the Molossers mixing with other breeds. Even though the original purpose of these dogs was to protect livestock and property, some people began to use them in blood sports, dog fights and bull baiting, and hence the term ‘bully’.

Boxer

The boxer is a dog breed of medium size that was developed in Germany in the 19th century. Boxers are known for having broad and short skulls, square muzzles, strong jaws and even more powerful bites and smooth short coat. They are part of the Molosser group and they were bred from the Old English Bulldog and the now already extinct Bullenbeisser. According to the American Kennel Club statistics, the Boxer is one of the top 10 most popular dog breeds in the USA.

Boxer dogs

Their most distinctive feature is definitely the head which is protruded, broad and strong. Their black and powerful muzzles make them recognized anywhere. Their tails and ears are usually docked and cropped, however, due to the pressure of the animal rights groups; this practice has decreased in some countries. When it comes to their temperament, they are known for being distrustful to strangers and suspicious of anyone whom they do not know.

They are also loyal, cheerful and also very protective which makes them a great candidate for a family dog. They tend to be patient with children, however, they are known for being stubborn and headstrong — therefore a dog owner should start training from an early age. Boxers and instinctive guardians but they are not vicious. Their origin and appearance has earned them the status of being a bully.

American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier or Amstaff is a dog of medium size and short coat. He was accepted by the AKC in the 40s and his origin is American. However, despite his name, the dog was first bred in the 19th century in Birmingham, rather than in the English county of Staffordshire. In 2013, The American Staffordshire Terrier was ranked as the 76th most popular dog breed in the USA.

American Staffordshire Terrier

They are easily recognizable because of their medium size and stocky build which makes them look fearless. Their jaws and heads are strong and their legs are of medium length. It is their appearance that earned them the status of a bully.

When it comes to his personality and temperament, just like the Boxer, he is very loyal and protective of his family. The Amstaffs love to have tasks and jobs to do; otherwise they can become easily bored and self-destructive. They also love to be part of the family and you won’t get a better guardian and protector. They can be friendly, but they are always loyal to their one and true family and the early socialization is a must if you don’t want your Amstaff to become suspicious and distrustful.

Bull Terrier

The Bull Terrier is a dog of medium size that belongs to the terrier family. He is easily recognizable because of his ‘egg-shaped’ head and the front of the skull which is almost completely flat. The eyes are deep-set, black and very small. The interesting fact is that bull terriers are the only dogs that have triangular eyes. The bodies are strong, stocky and full and they are usually only white. People also call them the ‘Gladiators of the canine race’.

Bull Terrier

They are stubborn and independent, and they are not really suitable for an inexperienced owner. However, they are also very protective and loyal and they have a playful nature. They go along with children, but they should be properly trained because they can become rowdy and accidentally knock over a child. This breed is also very popular in Hollywood, having in mind that it starred in many movies such as ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Babe: Pig in the City.’

However, their egg shaped head with strong jaws is another reason why this breed is considered to be a bully. The physical appearance makes them look aggressive and violent; when they are the opposite if they are loved and cared for. The Bull Terrier is actually a very loyal and family oriented dog breed.

Pit Bull Terrier

The American Pit Bull Terrier is probably one of the most infamous dog breeds in the world, unfortunately. It is easily distinguished by its stocky and muscular built, medium size, short coat, small eyes and powerful jaw. This dog comes from the same lineage as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, except that he is bigger and heavier than the latter.

His first purpose was to bait bulls and bears and later rats and dogs and since this baiting was taking place in pits, hence the name ‘Pit’. Pit Bulls are able to perform a variety of tasks as companion dogs, police dogs and even therapy dogs.  They are also used in many dog sports such as weight pulling, flyball, coursing, dog agility and obedience competition. However, there are the owners who use them as attack and guard dogs, which is why they got the title of bully dogs.

Pit Bull Terrier infographic

When it comes to temperament, it is said that their essential characteristics are strength, confidence and zest for life. Pit Bulls require owners who would love them and give them tasks and not put them in pits for illegal dog fighting. Showing at least some level of aggression is due to their prominent physique and origin, but that does not mean that a healthy and properly cared for Pit Bull would attack randomly. They are actually well behaved around children and eager to please their masters.

The English Staffordshire Bull Terrier is also called Staffie or Staff and he is a dog of medium size, with almost the same appearance as Pit Bull. The difference between the two of them is that the Pit Bull outweighs him by almost 14 kg (30 lbs.) and has longer legs. The Staffie also has broad head, dark eyes, pronounced cheek muscles and a scissor bite. They are friendly and affectionate towards their owners, just like Pit Bulls.

The problem occurs when these two breeds are exploited by their owners who use their eagerness to please by training them to attack other people, dogs and animals. Even though the blood sports and dogfights are illegal, they still happen in the USA and Britain.

American Bulldog

The American Bulldog is a dog of medium size and he was developed as a working dog. He is stocky, strong, and muscular with a large head and muzzle. It has a short coat which does not shed a lot, small dark eyes and prominent ears. The colors vary but they are usually white, black, brown etc. When it comes to his character, he is loyal, confident, and active and love being part of the family. They are so emotional that they can become self-destructive if ignored long a long period of time.

American Bulldog

They always bond strongly with their owners, and even though their origin and physique give them a bad name, if you give them proper training and socialization, you won’t get a better family and companion pet. That means that walking and exercising them regularly while making them meet other dogs and people is a must.

Olde English Bulldogge

The Olde English Bulldogge is a recently created dog breed that is supposed to be a recreation of the old working bulldog from the early 1800s in England. It was created by crossing Pit Bulls and Bullmastiffs with English Bulldogs. It looks similar to the now extinct English bulldogs but it also has a friendly and kind temperament. It was recreated in the 70s in the USA and it has a stocky and powerful body like his descendants. The skull is large, the ears and eyes are small while the stocky legs are of medium length.

Olde English Bulldogge

The Olde English Bulldogges are suitable as companions and family pets because they are loyal and affectionate like most ‘bully’ breeds. They are also alert, confident and bond strongly. The Olde English Bulldogge became a fully recognized breed in 2014 and represents the old English bulldog but less aggressive and friendlier.

Bullmastiff

The Bullmastiff is a dog of large size and he was developed in the 19th century, created from the old English Mastiff and the now already extinct Old English Bulldog. What is interesting about this breed is that they rarely bark and they can be very quiet. The coat is short and usually reddish brown or brindle.

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They are the natural guard dogs, which means that they do not need specific training to guard their families. However, you should keep in mind that they are rather independent and in order for them to become well-behaved family dogs, they must be trained properly and with patience.

Bullmastiff

They get bored easily if the tasks are repeated and repeated all over again but they are great in obedience, tracking, and agility and carting. They are strong and powerful, and even though their physical appearance seems intimidating, they are actually very sensitive and emotional. Having in mind that they are huge dogs, they should be taken out and exercised regularly. That is why they are more suited for life in suburban parts or houses with wide yards.

English Bulldog

The English or British Bulldog is usually referred to as simply the Bulldog and it is different from the American Bulldog. It is a muscular dog with a famous wrinkled face, pushed up nose and short legs. According to AKC, the Bulldogs are the 5th most popular dogs in 203 in the USA.

The differences between the English and American Bulldogs are in the size since the American Bulldog is a bit bigger and heavier. Some of the first mentions of this breed can be found in the literature from the 16th century and the Bulldog has been a popular mascot ever since. It was the official mascot of the US Marine Corps and many universities use him as the official mascot.

Since they are short faced and have small nasal cavities, they have difficulty breathing, especially during the scorching summer days. You must keep your pet from the intensive heat and always provide him with fresh water and shade. It is not unusual for a Bulldog to die from the results of hyperthermia.

English Bulldog

When it comes to their health, it is the fact that over 80% of Bulldogs are delivered by Caesarean section since they have huge heads that can easily get stuck in a mother’s birth canal. Other important things concerning health are about cleaning – the Bulldog’s folds on his face must be cleaned daily in order to avoid infections, since they can become very sweaty. The same goes for their curling tails which can get very tight so they require applying ointment. And like all dogs, they must exercise daily because if they become overweight, they can acquire heart and lung problems, including the stress on their joints due to the inability to stand all the weight.

English Mastiff

The English Mastiff is a dog breed of large size that is a descendent of the ancient Alaunt and Pugnaces Britanniae and it also belongs to the ancient Molosser group of dogs. What makes them distinguished is the enormous size, a massive head and the famous ‘black mask’ or the black muzzle. The modern lineage of this breed can be traced to the 19th century in England.

Even though this dog breed is feared because of its huge size and intimidating appearance, the English Mastiff has a gentle and loving nature which makes him a gentle giant indeed. He is considered to be the largest dog in the world in the terms of mass since the typical male can weight 113 kg and the female 91 kg. The colors of the short coat can vary, and they are usually sand colored and the ‘black masks’ are a must. They are described as powerful yet gentle dogs, brave and loyal and best suited for country or suburban life due to their huge size.

English Mastiff

When it comes to their health, having in mind that they are huge dogs, they require daily exercise and training. However, it is recommended that you do not allow excessive running until the puppy is two years old, because that can damage his growth plates. You should also provide your dog with a soft surface so he would not develop various swellings and other health problems. The average lifespan is 7 years.

Other ‘Bully’ dog breeds worth mentioning

  • Victorian Bulldog
  • Bulldog Boxer
  • Bhote Kukur
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Rottweiler
  • Renascence Bulldog
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Pug
  • Old Boston Bulldog
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Great Dane
  • French Bulldog
  • Brazilian Mastiff
  • Bordeaux Mastiff
  • Argentine Dogo
  • Cane Corso Mastiff
  • Majorca Mastiff
  • Brazilian Buldogge
  • Boston Bulldog
  • Belgian Draft Mastiff
  • Banter Bulldog
  • Bantam Bulldog
  • Aussie Bulldog
  • Catahoula Bulldog

To sum up, these ‘infamous’ bully breeds come from the breed called Molosser, which is a group of huge muscular dogs with large bones and powerful bites, originating in ancient Greece. Today, most of these bully dogs are characterized by intimidating physique which makes them infamous in the press and society.

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However, the bad owners are at fault, since they are the ones that still use these dog breeds for dog fighting and blood sports, thus exploiting their eagerness to please and affectionate natures. All of these actions are illegal and fatal in both physical and mental sense for a dog. Not to mention that there are many illegal breeding houses and backyard puppy mills which exist only for the profit and sell the poor puppies to irresponsible owners and sellers.

Bully breed type

Some of the bully dog breeds mentioned in the article are: Boxer, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, Bullmastiff and English Bulldog. All of these dog breeds are very affectionate towards their owners and families and if they are properly trained, socialized and cared for from an early age, they can become great family members and companion dogs.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Emily Parks

    I guess stereotyping is horrid- for humans or animals. Dogs have different temperaments, and the kind of home life you provide do count a lot. My neighbor has a Pittbull who is so darn sweet. She was raised with cats and I guess it rubbed off on her as well.. :)

    • Stereotyping dogs is really a bad thing. Some pet parents have no idea what they are actually missing!

  • Anna Tomson

    I need advice for my daughter who’s moving in an apartment with a ‘bully breed’. There are many apartment in our areas that have breed restrictions and it’s just horrible. Are there any good rental searches or sites that we can look into? Being a bully breed owner is a struggle. But my daughter wouldn’t give up her sweet dog.
    She has a doberman.

    • John Walton

      You should put state laws about dog regulations to make sure your daughter’s dog will be conforming to the implemented law. Indeed, bully breed ownership is a struggle and we are hoping to get the stigma removed.

  • Albert Dorell

    My dad owns an American Bulldog. He is always explaining that in he is in fact not a ‘pit bull’. People can’t recognize the differences of the two bullies. Anyways, all dogs are amazing!

    • Bully breeds are heavily stereotyped. They are indeed amazing dogs!

      • Ann Shea

        My experience with bull terrier breeds is that they are perhaps more malleable (able to be imprinted with whatever personality traits they are coaxed for) than other dogs. I have gotten to know several in the past year and it totally blew out of the water the bias that I was starting to acquire from their sensational coverage where I live. They are outlawed as pets in the Miami, FL area. Unfortunately, some people use them as fighting dogs. It seems they can be either as vicious or sweet as people program them to be. The fault is generally mishandling of their nature. As they are incredibly strong, they could do more damage. But the pit bulls I’ve met (and some other bull terriers) are some of the sweetest, more affable dogs I’ve enjoyed getting to know.

  • Ann, we sincerely appreciate you being around. Thank you very much for the points you’ve raised and your opinion is ever so valuable. Mishandling, stereotyping, everything seems wrong with them in the eyes of a misinformed individual.

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