Everything that would be considered wrong for any other breed of dog is right for the Bulldog." This oft-spoken statement of dog fanciers is a controversial one when it is said in the presence of those devoted to their beloved Sourmug. For after all, there are some aspects of the Bulldog breed standard, including the description of hocks, that would fit many other breeds. Regardless of all the many differences between their breed and most of the others, Bulldog fanciers probably think their breed is "in step" and the rest of the fancy's breeds are not!
Certainly, the Bulldog's construction is dramatically different from that of any other breed. It is the only breed whose body cavity is "slung" between its front legs. In contrast to other breeds, which carry their weight on their front legs, the Bulldog carries its weight between its front legs. This is possible because the muscles of the front are so strong and powerful that they combine to create an arch of strength to support that weight. This arch goes from one front foot, up across the shoulders, and down to the other front foot.
Furthermore, no other breed's centre of gravity is as far forward as that of the Bulldog, with its heavy brachycephalic head and huge front assembly. Because this huge front and barrel chest are accompanied by lightweight hindquarters, the Bulldog has a unique pear-shaped body when viewed from above.
In studying various breeds and attempting to analyze how those fronts relate to those breeds' specific job descriptions,my studies have led me to conclude that a wide range of canine skills and athletic adaptability to the workloads required of various breeds is achieved by what has been termed the "normal front" construction called for by most breed standards. It consists of a shoulder and an upper arm of about equal length that meet at close to a right angle, bringing the elbow under the top of the well laid-back shoulder at about the fifth or sixth rib. This socalled "norm" is the front assembly associated with endurance trotting and loping, and it serves a wide range of breeds from all seven groups.
Breeds whose fronts differ from this description include the sighthounds, with their slender fronts and refined, bladed bone; the earth-digging terriers, with shorter upper arms; and those earth-digging breeds that have wrap around fronts because their specific job descriptions place less emphasis on endurance trotting and loping, it is not in the best interest of thesebreeds to have the front-end assembly called for by most breed standards.
Nor is it in the best interest of the Bulldog to have the "normal" front-end assembly found on most breeds. It is vital to recognise that these varying fronts did not develop as they did for frivolous reasons. Rather, each particular front evolved to serve that breed's ability to function in its specialised job description.
No Easy Task
Consider that the Bulldog's original job was no easy task: to bait, throw and pin the bull. Although this custom offends us today, it evolved because early British fanciers and butchers thought the process served to "tenderize" the animal's meat before slaughter, according to Enno Meyer in The Bulldog. Evidently, the practice dated back centuries and gave rise to the blood sport that was enjoyed even by British royalty before it was outlawed in 1855.
Following the demise of bull-baiting, the breed became an endangered species, only to be saved a few decades later by the advent of dog shows. We are fortunate that those show-dog fanciers of the late 19th century dedicated themselves to preserving the breed in its original form, the form that suited the function of bull-baiting. Because of them, we are able to see the Bulldog as it appeared in its historical context: a pugilistic-looking dog built low to the ground with a configuration able to absorb the punishment inflicted by an angry bull. For as the tenacious dog clamped its correctly shaped and powerful jaws onto the muzzle or nose of the beleaguered bull, the dog's body was subjected to tremendous trauma as the mighty animal struggled to free itself. The proper Bulldog front-end assembly, which encased the correct rib cage, was all-important to the survival of the dog as it was banged back and forth by the bull.
Because the bull threatens with its head in a low position, the dog must be low enough to get under the bull and escape its horns, and agile enough to spring and grab the bull as it passes over. Just as dangerous as that first stage is the process of hanging on while the bull shakes back and forth with crushing force. Fortunately, the Bulldog's structure helps to protect it from being injured. The body "slung" between the legs is able to swing back and forth as it "rolls with the punches." cushioned by the tremendous muscling and body texture of the entire front assembly. Without this well-engineered shockabsorbing system, no dog could be safe from the rage of the bull.
Stability and Agility
No wonder that whereas other breed standards call for sloping, well laid-back, clean shoulders refined at the top of the blades, the Bulldog standard calls for very heavy muscular shoulders that are widespread and which slant outward, forming a protective padded layer around the capacious, swinging rib cage. Bulldog experts describe these shoulders as "tacked on" and wider between the top of the blades than are the shoulders of other breeds, as well as lower in relationship to the spine. The entire picture is one of great frontal stability. When the animal is viewed from the front, the inside of the front legs, the bottom of the brisket and the ground join to form a square. Although the front legs appear short and curved, much of that look is created by the extremely heavy muscling along the bones.
The result is a front assembly with great spread that is heavy enough to bring the centre of gravity forward. This provides ballast in handling the bull, and also serves to protect the environment in which the vital organs are housed. At the same time, the front is agile enough to allow the animal to manouvre into different positions, enabling it to do its job. The exaggerated forward centre of gravity also works to reduce whiplash stress to the back during the shaking encountered with the bull. The required short back and light weight hindquarters also add to its forward centre of gravity, again reducing stress and the likelihood of spinal injury.
In fact, everything about the Bulldog, including its massive head. proves that this unusual construction was contrived to be utilitarian. The tremendous underjaw and laid-back nose allow the dog to simultaneously grasp onto the bull and breathe.
The head-wrinkles act as gutters to deter the bull's blood, keeping the dog's eyes, nose and mouth free to do their job.
So when you look at a Bulldog it is important to appreciate the reasons why its front and the other components of its physique are different from those of other breeds. These are the structural elements that enabled it to expertly perform its original job description.
Even though bullbaiting has been outlawed for almost two centuries, we must never lose sight of what the breed was developed to do.
Rather than thinking of how different the breed looks from other breeds, think of how alike all breeds are, in that each has its own personal set of characteristics, traits and nuances that make it so special.
For if dog shows are to have a real meaning beyond accumulating awards and records, we all must continue to reward those traits that created the breed in the first place. The powerful message is: It is the duty of the guardians of a breed to protect its purity by preserving the breed in the form that best facilitates the performance of its original job description. That is what the purebred dog is all about.