If you’ve ever seen an American and English Bulldog side-by-side, you may find it hard to believe that they’re related, as they seemingly have little in common.
You may be surprised to learn, then, that both dogs have a common ancestor: the Old English Bulldog, a breed that has since gone extinct. (The Old English Bulldog is not to be confused with the Olde English Bulldogge, a relatively new breed that was designed to address some of the issues with modern English Bulldogs.)
In this guide, we’ll show you how English and American Bulldogs compare, so you can have a better appreciation of both of these amazing breeds.
A Quick Overview
Does the common ancestor bring about common traits? We’ve got a quick overview of the two breeds below.
As mentioned above, both dogs are descendants of the Old English Bulldog, a breed whose history is under dispute. Some believe this dog was a large, Mastiff-like creature that was used in combat by the ancient Greeks, while others say it was descended from war dogs used by tribes native to the Caucasus Mountains.
Regardless of where the breed came from, we know it was used for bull baiting in England as early as the 17th century C.E. Bull baiting is a terrible sport in which dogs try to bring a bull down by its nose and pin it to the ground; fortunately, humanity eventually came to its senses and banned the practice.
After the end of bull baiting, some Old English Bulldogs were taken to the newly-discovered American continent, where they were put to work on farms. They herded livestock, protected ranches, and most notably, hunted feral hogs.
The Old English Bulldogs that stayed behind in the United Kingdom were largely kept as pets, and as a result, they no longer needed the large bodies and ferocious temperaments that made them such fearsome bullfighters.
American Bulldogs are much larger than their British cousins, which is in large part due to the fact that they had to be big enough to take down wild hogs. These pups can weigh as much as 130 pounds, and they’re incredibly strong.
American Bulldogs have stubby noses relative to many other breeds, but theirs aren’t so pushed-in that it causes respiratory problems. These dogs are still capable of putting in a full day’s work.
English Bulldogs, on the other hand, have largely been bred to be adorable. They’re no longer even remotely capable of bringing down a bull (or anything bigger than a large pizza, really). Their noses are so short that they often have trouble breathing, and they have precious little stamina.
Both breeds tend to be bow-legged with broad chests, and they both have wrinkly faces (although English Bulldogs tend to have more loose skin). Their coats both come in a wide assortment of colors, with multi-colored markings on their faces.
Temperament is another area in which the two dogs can differ wildly.
American Bulldogs are much more active, however, so if you don’t give them the exercise they need, they might take their frustrations out on your house. They love to play, and they take to training well (although they will try to test you, so it’s important to be firm and consistent).
On the other hand, the English Bulldog is a born couch potato. They can still be disruptive if not given enough exercise, but for them, “enough exercise” could be a walk around the block. They’re also easily trained, although they’re generally not quite as intelligent as their American cousins.
However, both tend to be friendly and eager to spend time with their masters, and both have stubborn streaks a mile wide. Both also need plenty of training and socialization, beginning when they’re puppies.
Both do well with kids, provided they’ve been sufficiently trained and socialized. English Bulldogs do well with other dogs and pets; American Bulldogs aren’t bad with them, per se, but they do require plenty of training and socialization.
This is one area where their divergent breeding practices are readily apparent. American Bulldogs were bred to be hard workers, whereas modern British Bulldogs were largely bred to be cute. This emphasis on adorability has cost them in terms of their health, however.
Simply put, English Bulldogs have horrific health issues — so much so, in fact, that an entirely new breed, the Olde English Bulldogge, was developed to address their problems.
While their stubby noses are adorable, they make it harder for them to breathe, and the breed is prone to respiratory problems. Similarly, their little round bodies have joint and skeletal issues, and they’re likely to suffer from obesity and cancer.
Their heads are so gigantic, meanwhile, that most English Bulldogs can’t be born naturally and have to be delivered via C-section. They’re prone to overheating and their lifespan is only about eight years.
American Bulldogs are much healthier (and live about twice as long), but they’re not without their issues. They often suffer from hip dysplasia and other joint ailments, and they can get fat if not properly exercised. Overall, though, American Bulldogs are much healthier dogs.
Neither dog requires much in the way of grooming, as both have short coats that don’t shed excessively. Bathing isn’t much of an issue, either, and you can likely get away with only a bath or two a year.
Both need the wrinkles on their faces cleaned regularly, though, or infections could occur.
Two Very Different Dogs
While these breeds share a name, they’re very different animals. However, they’re similar in the most important: namely, the fact that they’re adorable, loyal, and fun-loving.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to adopt one or the other, you’ll get more for your money (both in terms of cost of ownership and lifespan) with an American Bulldog. They’re more high-maintenance, though, so that might not be a trade-off you’re willing to make.
The good news is, you can’t go wrong with either dog. Whichever one you pick, you’ll have a buddy that you’ll cherish for as long as you’re together, and one that will give to you as much as you give to it (and we’re not just talking about flatulence here).
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.