The Evolution of the Bulldog

Britain was made a Roman province in the year 50 A.D., when the British Chieftain Caractacus was defeated by Emperor Claudine. At that time there were ``pugnaces", or war dogs, in Britain, which were used in war, for the contests in the amphitheatre and in the chase. These fighting dogs of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain" during the Roman era, and there is very little doubt that they were the original and remote ancestors of our Mastiff and Bulldog. They appealed immensely to the Romans, who sent considerable numbers of them from Britain to Rome to take part in the sports of the amphitheatre, and it has even been said that the Romans appointed an officer to select British dogs and export them to Rome. The ``pugnaces" of Britain were specifically alluded to by Arrain in the year 130, and somewhere about 390, when the Western Empire was beginning to decline, Claudian, the poet, mentioned them, and distinguished them from all other dogs as being able to pull down a bull. Twenty years later the Goths, under Alaric, sacked Rome, whose Western Empire fell after 437 years of power, and the same year (410) the Roman garrisons were withdrawn from Britain, which was left a prey to its Saxon invaders. There is evidence that from Italy the breed of British war dogs was disseminated over the Continent in the year's 50/410.

The Saxon Kingdom of England was succeeded in 1066 by the Norman kings, and the training of bulls, bears, horses, and other animals for the purpose of baiting them with dogs was practiced by the jugglers who were introduced into England by her Norman conquerors. As early as Henry II's time (1154) the baiting of bulls and bears by dogs was a popular amusement. Henry II had gained Bordeaux on his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1151, and this important town remained in the hands of the English till about 1411, for approximately 260 years. From 1356 to 1367 the Court of King Edward III (father of Edward the Black Prince), with its attendant English sports of bull and bear baiting, was held at Bordeaux.

It was in or about 1406 that Edmond de Langley, Duke of York, the Fourth of the seven sons of Edward III, wrote a treatise entitled the ``Mayster of Game". Edmond de Langley was master of the game and of the hawks to Henry IV, and in his treatise he described the Alaunt or Allen as a dog with a large, short, and thick head and short muzzle, which was remarkable for his courage, so that when he attacked an animal he hung on, and which was used in bull-baiting. But it is well known that Edmond de Langley's treatise was to all intents and purposes nothing but a translation of a work written a few years earlier by Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix, who described the great French Alant, drawing a distinction between the Alant Gentil and the Alant de Boucherie. Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry, wrote ``Knight's Tale" about the same time (1390), and extolled the Alaunt therein as a dog of great size, strength, and courage, used in the chase of the lion and the bear. There can be very little doubt that the French "Alant" of Gaston de Foix were one and the same dog, the French Alant being the descendent of the English Alaunts exported to Bordeaux, and in turn the ancestor, without any doubt whatsoever, of the Dogue de Bordeaux, the huge fighting dog of the South of France.

In 1556 it is known that Philip II introduced great numbers of English Alaunts into Spain and the island of Cuba for the purposes of the arena.

IN 1576 Dr. Caius, of Cambridge, described the ``Mastive" or ``Bandogge", which was undoubtedly the direct descendent of the Alaunt, as a vast, huge, stubborn, ugly and eager dog, of a heavy and burdenous body, serviceable to ``bait and take the bull by the ear", two dogs at most being sufficient for that purpose, however untamable the bull might be.

In 1585 A. Hondius painted an oil painting on an oak panel (which came into the possession of Mr. Frank Adcock) which depicted two bandogges or Alaunts attacking a wild boar in the bed of a shallow stream. One was red, with a black muzzle and the other white, with brindle ear patches and they both had ``rose" ears, and long fine tails, and looked a s though they must have weighed 100lbs. To 120 lbs. The red dog had a firm grip on the left ear of the boar.


In 1900 Mr. John Proctor, and Englishman resident in Antwern, who was a well-known dog fancier, and who had judged the Dogues de Bordeaux at Paris in 1894, purchased an old bronze placque or medallion in Paris from Monsieur A. Provendier, a noted breeder of French Bulldogs. This antique bronze placque was dated 1625, and bore in bas-relief the head of a cropped Bulldog, and the inscription ``Dogue de Burgos España", the artist's name being Cazalla. From this bronze placque the late Mr. George R. Krehl, who was in 1900 the editor of ``The Stock Keeper", built up a theory as to the origin of the French Bulldog, after having in 1893 created somewhat of a sensation by benching at the Kennel Club Show St. Crispin, Lizette, Saida, Rayon d'Or, Riquette, and Jeanne la Folle, funny little creatures, freshly imported from Paris. He deduced from this placque, and from the fact that Burgos is the principle town of Old Castelle, and was formerly noted for the breeding of dogs for use in the arena, that the Bulldog originated in Spain, and migrated thence to Bordeaux, where services of the animals were in demand for fighting and for dog and donkey contests, and that finally the dogs traveled up to Paris where they bantamised the breed into the French Bulldog.

In my option, Mr. Krehl's theory will not for one moment hold water. The fact that the ``pugnacious" of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain" and that Claudius in 390 stated that they were able to pull down a bull, shows that these dogs were, of course, in a rough and typical manner only, the original stock from which the Bulldog and Mastiff sprang. That these dogs were in the years 50/410 exported to Rome by the Romans, and from Rome disseminated over the Continent, there is no doubt. Further, it has been shown that as early as 1154 the baiting of bulls and bears by dogs in England was a popular amusement, and it stands to reason that these dogs were the descendents of the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain". Also, it has been shown that from 1151 till 1411 Bordeaux belonged to England, and that the English Court was actually situated there from 1356 till 1367, with its accompaniment for bull and bear baiting. It was whilst the English still held Bordeaux that Comte Gaston de Foix described the great French Alaunt so fully, and it is clear from the words of Edmond de Langley and of the poet Chaucer that the French Alant of Comte Gaston de Foix and the English Alant of de Langley and Chaucer were one and the same animal. The Alant of England was undoubtedly exported to France from 1151 onwards for a period of 260 years, and he was almost certainly crossed there with some remote descendents of the British war-dogs which hundreds of years previously had traveled to France via Rome. The English Alaunt, when Chaucer wrote in 1390, was a dog of great size, as he would have to be if used against the lion and the bear. The words of Dr. Caius in 1576 (186 years later) and the painting of A. Hondius in 1585 shows that at that period he still remained in England. A huge and heavy dog and obviously none but a very large dog could ``take the bull by the ear," to use Dr. Caius' words. It is absolutely in keeping, therefore, imagining that the Dogue de Bordeaux, as imported into England in 1895 by Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and the late Mr. H.C. Brooke, was originally descended from the English Alaunts which were exported to Bordeaux from 1151 to 1411. read more
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Original idea, design and development by Catherine Marien-de Luca. 
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by R. H. Voss
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English bulldog breed description and origin
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