Bulldogs are an extremely old breed that dates back to at least the 17th century. They’ve come to be synonymous with “British-ness,” and they were often used in WWII to represent Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The United Kingdom is mighty proud of their favorite breed, to say the least.
But did you know that there are two different types of British Bulldogs?
It’s true. The most common type is the English (or sometimes “Olde English”) Bulldog, but there’s another called the Victorian Bulldog. They’re very closely related, and it might not be easy to tell the difference at first glance, so we’ve put together a handy guide to telling the two apart.
A Quick Overview
The Victorian Bulldog and the English Bulldog have a lot of similarities, but they have their sets of unique characteristics. Let’s break it down.
This is the pooch you likely picture when you think about bulldogs: short, stout, flat noses, huge heads.
It’s those heads that really make them stand out, though. Seemingly as big as the rest of their body, these massive noggins are extremely broad, with folds of skin dangling around their nose to give the appearance of wrinkles. They also tend to have a noticeable underbite.
The reason for these features is a grim one. These dogs were originally bred for a gruesome sport called “bull-baiting,” in which a pack of bulldogs would be set upon a tied-up bull. The dog that could grab the bull by his nose and bring it to the ground would be the victor.
As a result, the dogs needed stocky bodies, extremely strong heads, and skin that wasn’t prone to tearing. Fortunately, bull-baiting is now illegal (and these dogs are no longer capable of handling that much exercise anyway), but the breed’s physical traits remain.
Personality and Disposition
Temperamentally, however, there’s little about these dogs to suggest they were ever capable of violence. They’re incredibly sweet, even-mannered dogs, although they can still prove effective as guard dogs if need be.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a particularly healthy breed, as generations of inbreeding have left them with some pretty serious health problems. Their snouts have gotten progressively stubbier over the years, which makes it difficult for them to breathe, and so vigorous exercise is pretty much a no-go for these dogs (much like Winston Churchill, come to think of it).
Health and Lifespan
Their heads are also so large that it’s very rare for an English Bulldog to give birth naturally, and most have to be delivered via C-section. As a result, they’re often only attainable via breeders, and getting your own puppy can be very expensive.
They also tend to be predisposed to hip dysplasia, which can make them quite creaky in their golden years. The leading causes of death for these dogs are cardiac arrest and cancer, and they only have a lifespan of about 8 years.
Still, the 8 years you get with these dogs are sensational to be sure, as they’re hilarious, agreeable companions that get along well with kids and other pets. Just realize that, if you get one, you may be forced to root for England in every World Cup.
The other kind of bulldog is the Victorian Bulldog, and they’re far less common. They tend to be taller and leaner than their cousins, with a smaller head that’s better proportioned to their bodies.
History of the Breed
These dogs actually went extinct for quite some time, as their more-popular English cousins forced them out of existence. However, the breed was revived in the 1980s by a breeder named Ken Mollett, who combined English Bulldog specimens with those from Bull Terriers, Bull Mastiffs, and Staffordshire Terriers.
The goal behind bringing the breed back was to create a version of the bulldog that didn’t suffer from so many health issues. That’s why they’re taller, with more pronounced snouts and smaller heads.
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As a result, they manage to sidestep many of the issues that plague their cousins. Victorian Bulldogs can give birth naturally, as the smaller heads aren’t at much risk of getting lodged in the birth canal, and they have a greatly reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. They also tend to live around 12 to 14 years, giving you more time to spend with your beloved companion.
Beyond that, they’re very similar to English Bulldogs. They still have a stocky build, wrinkly face, and a (less-pronounced) underbite. They also tend to share the same temperamental traits, as they love attention and rarely show aggression.
You likely won’t notice much difference between the two if you own a Victorian after having had an English — until you realize how much you’ve saved on vet bills, that is. Then again, they are hard to find, and you should expect to pay a pretty penny to get your hands on one.
So Which is Better?
If there’s anything you should know about us, it’s that we would never say that one dog is better than another. All dogs are great and wonderful and should be cherished.
That said…Victorian Bulldogs are probably better. They’re basically the same dog, but with fewer health problems and a longer lifespan. Who doesn’t want that?
Of course, this isn’t to disparage English Bulldogs in any way. Anyone who’s ever been around one knows that they’re wonderful doofuses, and you’d be lucky to have one in your life. It’s just heartbreaking to watch them suffer through health problems, not to mention them losing them years before you should.
So, while either breed would make a fantastic addition to your household, why not save yourself (and your dog) some pain and invest in a Victorian Bulldog? If you can find one, you’ll have all of the benefits of regular English Bulldogs, with a lot less of the downsides.
You’re still going to have to deal with a lot of drool and flatulence, though. Can’t breed that out.
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