CHAPTER III. THE BULLDOG

The Bulldog is known to have been domiciled in this country for several centuries. Like the Mastiff, of which it is a smaller form, it is a descendant of the “Alaunt,” Mastive, or Bandog, described by Dr. Caius, who states that “the Mastyve or Bandogge is vaste, huge, stubborne, ougly and eager, of a hevy, and burthenous body, and therefore but of little swiftnesse, terrible and frightful to beholde, and more fearce and fell than any Arcadian curre.”

The first mention of “Bulldog” as the distinctive name of this now national breed occurs in a letter, written by Prestwich Eaton from St. Sebastian to George Wellingham in St. Swithin's Lane, London, in 1631 or 1632, “for a good Mastive dogge, a case of bottles replenished with the best lickour, and pray proceur mee two good bulldoggs, and let them be sent by ye first shipp.” Obviously the name was derived from the dog's association with the sport of bull-baiting. The object aimed at in that pursuit was that the dog should pin and hold the bull by the muzzle, and not leave it. The bull was naturally helpless when seized in his most tender part. As he lowered his head in order to use his horns it was necessary for the dog to keep close to the ground, or, in the words of the old fanciers of the sport, to “play low.” Larger dogs were at a disadvantage in this respect, and, therefore, those of smaller proportions, which were quite as suitable for the sport, were selected. The average height of the dogs was about 16 inches, and the weight was generally about 45 lbs., whilst the body was broad, muscular, and compact, as is shown in Scott's well-known engraving of “Crib and Rosa.”

When bull-baiting was prohibited by law the sportsmen of the period turned their attention to dog-fighting, and for this pastime the Bulldogs were specially trained. The chief centres in London where these exhibitions took place were the Westminster Pit, the Bear Garden at Bankside, and the Old Conduit Fields in Bayswater. In order to obtain greater quickness of movement many of the Bulldogs were crossed with a terrier, although some fanciers relied on the pure breed. It is recorded that Lord Camelford's Bulldog Belcher fought one hundred and four battles without once suffering defeat.

The decline of bull-baiting and dog-fighting after the passing of the Bill prohibiting these sports was responsible for a lack of interest in perpetuating the breed of Bulldogs. Even in 1824 it was said to be degenerating, and gentlemen who had previously been the chief breeders gradually deserted the fancy. At one time it was stated that Wasp, Child, and Billy, who were of the Duke of Hamilton's strain, were the only remaining Bulldogs in existence, and that upon their decease the Bulldog would become extinct—a prophecy which all Bulldog lovers happily find incorrect.

The specimens alive in 1817, as seen in prints of that period, were not so cloddy as those met with at the present day. Still, the outline of Rosa in the engraving of Crib and Rosa, is considered to represent perfection in the shape, make, and size of the ideal type of Bulldog. The only objections which have been taken are that the bitch is deficient in wrinkles about the head and neck, and in substance of bone in the limbs.

The commencement of the dog-show era in 1859 enabled classes to be provided for Bulldogs, and a fresh incentive to breed them was offered to the dog fancier. In certain districts of the country, notably in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, and Dudley, a number of fanciers resided, and it is to their efforts that we are indebted for the varied specimens of the breed that are to be seen at the present time.

In forming a judgment of a Bulldog the general appearance is of most importance, as the various points of the dog should be symmetrical and well balanced, no one point being in excess of the others so as to destroy the impression of determination, strength, and activity which is conveyed by the typical specimen. His body should be thickset, rather low in stature, but broad, powerful, and compact. The head should be strikingly massive and large in proportion to the dog's size. It cannot be too large so long as it is square; that is, it must not be wider than it is deep. The larger the head in circumference, caused by the prominent cheeks, the greater the quantity of muscle to hold the jaws together. The head should be of great depth from the occiput to the base of the lower jaw, and should not in any way be wedge-shaped, dome-shaped, or peaked. In circumference the skull should measure in front of the ears at least the height of the dog at the shoulders. The cheeks should be well rounded, extend sideways beyond the eyes, and be well furnished with muscle. Length of skull—that is, the distance between the eye and the ear—is very desirable. The forehead should be flat, and the skin upon it and about the head very loose, hanging in large wrinkles. The temples, or frontal bones, should be very prominent, broad, square and high, causing a wide and deep groove known as the “stop” between the eyes, and should extend up the middle of the forehead, dividing the head vertically, being traceable at the top of the skull. The expression “well broken up” is used where this stop and furrow are well marked, and if there is the attendant looseness of skin the animal's expression is well finished.