Friday, 23 January 2009

Bulldogs - chewing on that wasp

How did we get from this?

To this?

From dogs that looked almost athletic...

To a breed that can have trouble doing simple things like eating, breathing, reproducing...?

I was recently sent this article by the Victorian Bulldog Club and as it arrived just as we are putting our March issue to bed it was too late to include it traditionally - so I asked if I could blog it instead as a little extra for our blog readers.

Could the Victorians have the answer today?

Bulldog skull changes

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week you will have heard about the Kennel Club’s revised breed standards designed to create healthier dogs. Many breeds are to be revised, but none has created such a wild and frenzied reaction than with the nation’s iconic dog the British Bulldog.

The Bulldog has in fact been through many upgrades and evolutions over the past 300 years in this county. However in the past 70 it has evolved into its most radical form which many of us simply take for granted. It has been accused of being inbreed, undershot with cruelly deformed features crippling it from breeding or whelping naturally let alone being able to “catch” as it was designed.

But few know that something positive was being done about the Bulldog long before any of the Kennel Club proposed reforms this week. Indeed in the mid 1980's the late Ken Mollett started a breeding program in the UK with the aim of creating a healthier Bulldog similar to the dog of the late Victorian period far and away from the type seen in the show ring (the modern Kennel Club Bulldog) today. He had many critics insisting the Bulldog was fine and to leave it alone mirroring the incensed reaction today from breeders. But unsatisfied with its humane fitness he persisted with his vision of a healthier Bulldog with a line he created known as the “Victorian Bulldog”.

The “VB” as it is known among its fanciers is more able than the show type, ie able bodied; climbing stairs, enjoying long walks with his owner, jumping and playing freely breeding naturally with less breathing problems whilst retaining the same happy friendly temperament it is loved for.

The Victorian Bulldog was carefully created by the selective crossing of the following breeds, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bullmastiff, Dogue De Bordeaux & top modern show type Bulldogs the highest percentage of being the later breed. The Victorian Bulldog Foundation which was founded in 2003 with a view to promoting & continuing Mr Mollett's blood line states “We do not profess to have “pure” bred dogs, this “pure bred” snobbishness is one of the reasons for a lot of problems with in pedigree breeds” explains Mr Martin Moran Chairman of the VBF. “The VB was not created to be a working type breed like the earlier Bull-baiting dog it is modelled on the bulldog of the late Victorian period before it began shrinking and developing the many problems we see today, it is in my opinion when the breed was simply at its truest and at most awesome.”

The size of the Victorian Bulldog makes it highly suitable to be kept as a family house dog. They are medium sized, slightly bigger than a Stafford and tending to be calmer natured. Although the Victorian Bulldog was not bred to be a guard dog the sheer look of them is probably enough to deter undesirables. Moran continues “What tends to make the Victorian Bulldog larger than the KC show Bulldog is its leg length plus the body is not as “cobby” resulting in a more physically able to walk, run & play. Along with less exaggerated physique, a good natured breed and a great family dog.

Victorian Bulldog head

How and why did we change their faces into this shape?

Victorian physique

Martin Moran has been promoting VB’s for the past 12 years go to his site and one can clearly see the impact of the Victorian Bulldog against its modern counterpart. “We’re simply breeding the Bulldog to the official standards chart of 1887 no more no less, they we’re very specific about all measurements of the animal”. He continues “But what people fail to realise is how incredibly far the modern KC bulldog has drifted from those standards. If you consider that the breed is over 300 years old and in just 70 years breeders have destroyed it to the point of failure, but, not anymore” he chuckles. And he’s right one only needs to line them up against each other to see the radical differences he’s so concerned about and the good ethical work he and his community have done. “The Bulldog we know today is a totally different dog entirely” says Moran, “When the Edwardians got hold of the dog in the 1920’s they began inbreeding it to accentuate its “funny” features; creating massive undershot jowls and deeply compressing the nasal passage (see pic one). This of course instantly disabled the dog from being able to “catch” any prey to do its job and by crushing the nasal passage to such radical lengths disabled to dog from breathing freely and excessive mobility.

Not satisfied with distorting the head the Edwardian breeders extensively shortened the original dogs legs and grossly widened its chest.

Moran enthuses “It’s amazing nobody questions that my dogs are NOT Bulldogs when I take them out to the park, even though no one has ever seen a Bulldog like this for a hundred years, but what they do question eagerly is “where did I get it from, how much did they cost and where can they get one from”

So what is the future for the modern Kennel Club Bulldog? “Well, I guess they need to do what we have done and rebuild the dog or they could be breeding with our dogs using the bloodline to unravel all the damage that 20th century breeders have created getting the standard back in line with the new Kennel Clubs’ directives. But then again that’s something we’ve been busy working on for the past 25 years. It takes about 25 years to create a solid bloodline and today we have it, pup after pup, so the timing with all this is just about perfect for us, in fact we can show our dogs as they are now. I doubt any modern KC Bulldog breeder wants to get into the ring with anyone of our dogs.” Moran continues, “You know I was originally a Kennel Club Bulldog enthusiast but I just lost heart with all of the artificial elements to maintain the breed. I thought to myself this is the historical profile breed of this nation.
“And when I heard of what Ken was doing and seeing the results of his program I joined him, working side by side producing fit Bulldogs giving me great pleasure. Ken passed away in 2002 and I have been flying the flag if you like for the true British Bulldog since then, along with all my fellow VB breeders."
He continues, “Once the true Bulldog gets into your blood you can’t get it out. Bit like owning a real piece of Chippendale compared to some MDF flatpack”. Martin chimes, “I mean when I see a Bulldog shuffling down the street, its belly and chin practically on the pavement, out of breath and as artificial as plastic it saddens me as it’s just cruelty plain and simple cruelty. I look at my dogs and realise I am doing more to keep this breed alive; I care about the welfare of this breed.”
“Trust me nobody laughs at my dogs when I walk or show them, they command absolute respect with an air of nothing to prove, exactly as they were intended to, can you say that about the modern Kennel Club Bulldog?” Moran shrugs.
“Enough is enough which is exactly why the Kennel Club finally had to say something."
“The VB is the Bulldog that Churchill was based on and the one Tommy had in his veins fighting in the trenches and a family pet the one anyone can now own guilt free”.

You can visit the Victorian Bulldog Site here and the VBF here to talk to Martin or the breeders:

The good old days

The new Victorian


Fiona said...

How utterly wonderful. Thank you so much for posting this as I am sure there are thousands, like me, who had no idea that this was out there.

More please:)

Fiona said...

Forgot to ask. Do the VBD's have undocked tails? I do hope so.

Anonymous said...


British Bulldogs have undocked tails.

and even if they didn't docking is now banned in this country except for certain breeds which are proven to be bred for working.

Taken from the KC Breed Standard
Set on low, jutting out rather straight and then turning downwards. Round, smooth and devoid of fringe or coarse hair. Moderate in length – rather short than long – thick at root, tapering quickly to a fine point. Downward carriage (not having a decided upward curve at end) and never carried above back.

Anonymous said...

I have actually seen many VB in local papers/yellow paper etc. I've always thought they were beautiful dogs. It's great to find someone actively promoting a Healthy Bulldog. Great feature.


Fiona said...

You're right Anonymous(?) Docking is now, thanks to a long campaign, illegal in the UK apart from some working breeds. I obviously didn't explain myself very well. I had meant to ask if they had been traditionally docked in the past.

Btw, my name's not Durr:)

SatansLittleHelper said...

All i can say is WOW, what fab looking dogs..!!! So nice to see after viewing the other Bulldog breed for so long, makes my heart sing to see a "real" Bulldog that can enjoy life...just as dogs are meant to..!!!
:-) Long live the Victorian Bulldog, hopefully the Bulldog of the future..

Chapstaff said...

Briefly - who on earth ever decided the modern Bulldog would look better or be a better type than the original Bulldog?

Re "Durr" - well said Fiona, what a rude remark from "anonymous!!"

Anonymous said...

just wondering what health test are in place for your vb's,
do you do bva hip+elbows scores (large breed health problems),
L2 hc (Stafford health problems),only for someone to promote a breed as healthy alternative to kc dogs then surely all the health problems in all breeds used should be tested for................

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, thank you.

I am a very proud owner of a Victorian Bulldog. I'd wanted a bull dog for years but didn't agree with these poor short legged, vanishing nose, no neck types. I always feel sorry for them when I seen them struggling around the park, not able to breath very well, so not very active.

It took me almost 15years to find a very heathly, bouncing off the wall VBD. I'm so proud of him and find it very amusing when folk as me what kind of dog he is....his he a short Boxer or is he a cross breed bulldog.

I hold my head high and gently put them straight.

Jules said...

Interesting comments.
This article is a fab read. We have a Victorian Bulldog called Bugsie and he is wonderful. He is fit, very active and healthy, and has no breathing or skin problems. Bugsie has such a lovely personality that we are having another, she should be home with us by June.
Everyone said that Bulldogs are hard to train, but ours is so good and does as his told and hasn't chewed anything that he shouldn't, puppy and advanced training classes have helped and he is as competent as the Collies there.
I would recommend these loving Dogs to anyone, especially if you have children.

Anonymous said...

We have an English Bulldog just about one year old. He has the most beautiful looks that fits what an English Bulldog should look like. His disposition is perfect in that he rarely barks, growels, and is wonderfully affectionate and loving. On top of that, he his very smart. He knows over 50 words and responds to our commands fairily well (for a bulldog). He walks wonderfully, he plays with his toys, and he is a real home-body fellow! I grew up in the 1940's with English Bulldogs and our guy now is wonderful in all respects. I hope his breed will be maintained forever. For those who want the VB breed, I understand but I want my breed to never fall off the cliff! RWB - Savannah, GA

Jessica Tinker said...

I have to say that this is a wonderful thing you are doing. We recently adopted our first bulldog. She wasn't purebred (Rottweiler in the mix 6 generations ago) but we fell in love with her anyway. Now I'm very thankful for that mix. Not only is she rather athletic with straight strong legs, but her chest isn't anywhere near as wide and she has a snout (still wrinkled but no giant roll). She has no problems breathing (though she still snores and has gas) and can wear out our Siberian husky and our terrier mix long before she's worn out. She's an amazing family dog and loves to snuggle. She's only 8 months old now and a sturdy 40lbs but I imagine, full grown, she'll look much like these VBs. please continue the good work. It's horrible what the bulldog has become over the years.