The Evolution of the Bulldog


The Dogue de Bordeaux was in 1895, in the year that Mr. John Proctor judged the breed at Bordeaux Show, a dog of an average height of 25 ½ inches and of an average weight of about 120 lbs. He had a very big wrinkled skull, a broad, deep, and powerful muzzle, very pendulous flews, and underjaw, which projected slightly, large nostrils. He also had small and deep-set eyes of a light color of a wicked expression, a deep furrow up the skull, a thick neck, muscular shoulders, a wide and deep chest and powerful limbs. The color, which was preferred, was a reddish-fawn, with light eye, a liver-colored nose, and a red mask without dark shadings.

These dogs were for a great many years, from the English occupation of Bordeaux onwards, bred for encounters in the arena, being pitted against each other or against the bull, the bear, or the ass, and even as late as 1906 these encounters occasionally took place. Matador du Midi, a young fawn dog which Mr. H.C. Brooke imported in 1895, was of the old fighting strain, and amongst his ancestors were; Caporal (for seven years champion of the Pyrenees), Megre (a Bitch which had been pitted against bear, wolf, and Hyena) and Hercules (which was finally killed by a jaguar in a terrific battle in San Francisco).

When it was 18 months old Mr. Brooke gave Matador du Midi a ``jump" against a big Russian bear, and the dog showed great science in keeping his body as much sideways as possible, to avoid the bear's hug, and threw the bear fairly and squarely on the grass times. The average skull circumference of Dogue De Bordeaux measured 26 ½ inches, although his average height was only 25 ½ inches, and from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose the average measurement was 3 inches.

In 1896 a club was formed in England for the Dogue de Bordeaux, and Mr. H.C. Brooke, Monsieur Megnir, (of L'Eleveur), Dr. Wiart, and others drew up a standard, but the anti-cropping edict of the Kennel Club in 1898 killed the breed stone dead in England.

In 1907 the dog's use in the arena in France began to be entirely discontinued, and at Paris show that year there were only 10 Dogues on view, and the winners had button ears and black masks, like English Mastiffs. When I stayed for three months in Bordeaux home with me, but in the home of the breed I only saw three or four Dogues, and only one good one. None of them was cropped, and they had either rose or button ears, and only one had the red mask, the light eyes, and the liver-colored nose.

During the reigns of Mary, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, which covered the years 1553 to 1649, the baiting of bulls and full-grown bears by dogs was a very popular sport. Hentzner, in his itinerary, printed in Latin in the region of Queen Elizabeth in 1598, stated that there was a place built in the form of a theatre which served for baiting of bulls and bears, which described as being fastened behind, and then worried by `"great English dogs", which shows that in 1598 the dogs were still very large.

In 1556 Philip II became King of Spain and introduced great numbers of English Alaunts into Spain and the islands of Cuba and Majorca for purposes of the arena. In my own mind there is very little doubt that the dog from Burgos depicted upon the old bronze plaque, dated 1625, was a descendant of these English dogs, or wan an imported English dog himself.

It was not until 1631, in the reign of Charles I, that the name `"Bulldog" was first mentioned in England. There is a letter in the Record Office, which was written in 1631 from St. Sabastian, in Spain, by an Englishman called Prestwich Eaton to his friend George Wellingham in St. Swithin's Lane, London, asking for a good `"Mastive" dog and two good "Bulldoggs" to be sent out to him. This is definite proof that the Bulldog and the Mastiff were then becoming separate breeds. It is also definite proof that six years after the date of the Burgos plaque the export of Bulldogs (as they were just beginning to be called) from England to the sport-loving dons of Spain, which had been commenced by Philip II 75 years earlier, was still continuing. The cropped dog depicted on the old Spanish placque of 1625 was very noticeably a big dog and very noticeably a Bulldog, being much underhung, with a big skull and a well laid back nose. Many years later, in the year 1840, Bill George imported from Spain a Spanish Bulldog, which he called Big-headed Billy, whilst in 1868 Mr. Macquart brought over Bonhomme and Lisbon, and in 1873 Mr. Frank Adcock acquired Toro and Alphonse in Madrid. All these five were termed pure-bred Spanish Bulldogs, and they were all exactly of the type depicted on the 1625 placque. Big-headed Billy was brindle-pied, Bonhomme a brindle, Toro a red carroty brindle, and Alphonse a rich fawn with a black mask and slight white markings, and all these four dogs weighed exactly 90 lbs., whilst I heard it stated that Lisbon, a brindle bitch, weighed slightly more than 90 lbs. Lisbon and Alphonse were both noted dogs in the arena in Spain. Toro had a 22-inch skull, stood 22 inches at the shoulder, and measured 2 ½ inches from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose.A very good red Spanish Bulldog, with a black mask, was exhibited at the Royal Aquarium in 1896, and mistakenly entered as a Dogue de Bordeaux. He had a good Bulldog head, with his nose well laid back, and was very much underhung, as was Monsieur Rieu's brindle dog of the fighting strain, whelped about 1900, and reputed to be a grand dog in the arena. This dog also weighed about 90 lbs., his height at the shoulder was 21 inches, and he only measured 2 inches from the corner of eye to the tip of the nose. Seeing that Mr. George Raper's Ch. Rabagae, whelped 1893, which weighed only 56 lbs., and had a 20 ¼ inch skull, also measured 2 inches from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose, it is clear that these big 90 lb. Spanish dogs were reasonably short in face, and they had proper Bulldog tails, with a downward crook at the root and another at the end. They were all cropped.

It seems to me quite clear that the Dogue de Bordeaux, which averaged 120 lbs. in weight, 25 ½ inches in height, 26 ½ inches in skull circumference, and 3 inches in length of face, and which in many cases light eyes and `"dudley" noses, and in all cases only slight projection of underjaw and tails which reached to the hocks, represented the original English Alaunt as bred in England and Bordeaux in the years 1151/1411. Whilst the Spanish Bulldog, which only averaged 90 lbs. in weight and 2 ¼ inches in length of face, and which had dark eyes and a black nose and mask, and was well underhung, with a moderately short, crooked-down tail, and the Bulldog's rolling gait represented the English Bulldog as bred in the years 1556/1649, when the Bulldog was just beginning to be a different dog from the Mastiff.

To modern eyes both the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Spanish Bulldog would appear of Mastiff type, but the latter definitely less so than the former. This seems clearly due to the fact that the English dogs which began to go out to Spain in 1556 were already much more of Bulldog type than the English dogs which went out to Bordeaux in the years 1151/1411. Before the Bulldog and the Mastiff had begun to emerge from the Alaunt and to take definite shapes of there own.

The Spanish dogs which Messrs. George Macquart and Adcock imported in the year's 1840/1873 was very massive, though less so than the Dogue de Bordeaux, and exceedingly muscular and active and they had close-cropped ears. They all appeared to have black muzzles, very deep flews, and large nostrils a deep stop and furrow, and were moderately short in face and considerably underhung. They were well wrinkled, had a deep double dewlap, a very thick and muscular neck, very muscular shoulders, a thick and slightly bowed forearm, large feet, a broad and deep chest, round ribs and strong loins. There was a considerable fall at the shoulders, and from that point the loins began to rise. The hindquarters were small, compared with the forequarters, and considerably higher.
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