Bulldogs: what did old bulldogs used to look like, original British bulldog purpose - what were they bred for?

Experts have advised that English bulldogs should be bred to have less extreme body features, or they risk being banned on welfare grounds.

Experts have advised that English bulldogs should be bred to have less extreme body features, or they risk being banned on welfare grounds.

According to a new study, English bulldogs are substantially less healthy than other dogs, and many of the illnesses they suffer from are linked to the features for which they were bred.

The Royal Veterinary College used records from veterinary offices across the UK to compare the risks of common illnesses in 2,662 English bulldogs with 22,039 animals of other breeds.

Here is everything you need to know.

What problems are bulldogs prone to?

According to the Royal Veterinary College’s findings, which were published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics, the breed is twice as likely as other dogs to be diagnosed with at least one additional illness.

They had a higher chance of breathing, eye, and skin problems than other dogs, according to the study, and showed predispositions for more 24 out of 43 specific disorders.

Study author Dan O’Neill said: “These findings suggest that the overall health of the English bulldog is much lower than that of other dogs.

“However, what is most concerning is that so many of the health conditions that English bulldogs suffer from, such as skin fold dermatitis and breathing problems, are directly linked to the extreme structure of their bodies that has been selectively bred for.

A bulldog rests (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

What did bulldogs used to look like?

English bulldogs were originally developed as a muscular and athletic dog for bull-fighting.

This involved setting dogs onto a tethered bull after placing bets on each one. The winner would be the dog who grabbed the bull by the snout and pinned it to the ground. It was common for the bull to maim or kill multiple dogs by goring, hurling, or stomping them.

Bull-baiting dogs evolved the stocky bodies, enormous heads and jaws that are characteristic of the breed, as well as a fierce and savage disposition.

Bulldogs were later bred as show animals and pets, with exaggerated features including a short skull, a protruding lower jaw, skin folds and a squat, heavy build.

Today’s bulldogs may appear tough, but they are incapable of performing the task for which they were bred, and cannot withstand the rigours of chasing and being tossed by bulls.

Bulldogs are known for their large heads and shoulders, thick brow folds, big, black, wide-set eyes, a short muzzle with distinctive folds, hanging skin under the neck, drooping lips and pointed teeth, and an underbite with an upturned jaw.

Although they are not as physically adept as their forefathers, modern Bulldogs have a much calmer disposition due to lower levels of aggression.

Because of this - and despite the dogs' physical characteristics, which make them prone to major health problems - the breed has seen a sharp increase in popularity in the UK during the last decade.

In recent years, several countries, such as the Netherlands and Norway, have imposed restrictions on bulldog breeding.

What can be done?

Experts behind the Royal Veterinary College’s proposed that English bulldog breed standards be modified towards more moderate features, allowing the UK to avoid following other countries in banning the breed due to welfare concerns.

Study author Dan O’Neill said: “Given the continued popularity of the breed, the body shape of the typical pet English bulldogs should be redefined towards more moderate physical characteristics.

“Doing so will not only improve the dogs’ health, but could also enable the UK to avoid following other countries in banning the English Bulldog on welfare grounds.”