David and I were just about to leave the parking lot at Battleship Cove, Fall River, when I spotted a young English Bulldog being exercised by his owner. Now, I can assure you that there are many bulldog lovers outside of the supporters of the athletic teams of the University of Georgia, or the ivy-clad halls of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (although I do like the idea of a bulldog being called ‘Handsome Dan’) and that I am one of them, and I am equally sure that all of the other 37 American universities where a bulldog is mascot feel just as proud of their ‘bully’.
Bulldogs were first mentioned in the 16th century, as being bred to fight bulls as a public spectacle, but they also began to be used in dog-fighting matches against each other. The ancient breed was taller, narrower, and with a longer muzzle than the modern dog. The current bulldog, has been crossed with a pug in the distant past, giving it shorter legs, and the typical brachycephalic skull. This gives shortened, convoluted airways, and can lead to breathing problems. The English Bulldog has different breed standards in the UK and the USA, with adult weights (for show purposes) differing by as much as 10 lbs between the two countries.
Bulldogs can be white, fawn, red, tan, brindle (irregular, short stripes of one colour on a base of another, usually fawn), but there exist various rare colours such as black/white, chocolate, and dark slate grey! Puppies should be checked for hip dysplasia (this can reach as high as 70% in some litters) and over 80% of puppies will be delivered by Caesarian section, as many bulldog heads are too large for their mother’s birth canal! Here you can see the 16 week old ‘bully’ being taught to walk to heel. His gait seemed fine, and he had excellent manners. I asked his name, and was told ‘Otis’. I rather stunned the young owner when I asked if the dog was named after the singer or the elevator company!
One thing to remember; bulldogs are very sensitive to heat. If at all possible, keep them in air conditioning in hot climates. You can also purchase ‘cooling pads’, which are chilled in a refridgerator, for your bulldog to lie on. I know of several universities who keep their mascots in small, air-conditioned enclosures on the sidelines, during sporting events.