Olde English Bulldogge

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Olde English Bulldogge
Ss 051 / Wikipedia.org

The Olde English Bulldogge is a re-creation of a dog that existed in the 17th century, but with a tweak to their temperament. This modern imagining of the old-fashioned bulldog is a dog of delightful character that is reliable, easy-going and good with children.

Those original bulldogs from centuries ago had a more pronounced muzzle. They were, after all, working dogs and needed to be able to exercise and breathe. Selective breeding of bulldogs as pets led to them have that famously flat-face (with all the health problems this incurs). However, the Olde English Bulldogge is true to their more athletic forebears and has none of these breathing difficulties.

Indeed, the Olde English Bulldogge is very much a dog for the modern age. He enjoys family life, loves children, and is able to run and plays like a normal dog. This paragon of a pooch is indeed worthy of praise and there could well be an Olde English Bulldogge shaped hole in many families that this dog would do well to fill.

About & History

The story of the Olde English Bulldogge goes back to the 13th century and their distant ancestors, the original English Bulldog. The later were working dogs with a job to do. That task was to immobilise bulls by holding them by the nose, so that the farmer could approach to slaughter them.

To do this required a stocky, muscular dog with a low centre of gravity. Hence the solid, blockish stature we associate with Bulldogs. He also needed to be utterly fearless in the face of an angry bull and totally determined to grip onto the bull no matter what.

This meant those early bulldogs were fierce, fighting dogs, rather than pets. Indeed, back then, although they didn’t have the long muzzle of more athletic breeds, such as the Greyhound, they did have a snout. That squished-face came about some centuries later when those bull-baiting days were over and people wanted them for pets.

However, our tale of working dogs soon takes an unsavoury twist. From around 14th to the 19th centuries the horrific ‘sport’ of bull baiting was hugely popular. We won’t go into the details, but needless to say, to the modern way of thinking, it is both repulsive and immoral.

But back then bull baiting was big business, so big that each town centre had its own bullring where such matches took place. Indeed, in cities such as Birmingham, the famous Bull Ring area is testament to this unhappy past. However, with a growing awareness of animal cruelty, in 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed. This made bull baiting an illegal pastime and almost overnight the bulldog became defunct.

For three decades, the bulldog fell from favour, so much so that the breed was endangered. But, in 1865, bulldog enthusiasts recognised this predicament and set about breeding it for pets. As a fashion for flat-faced breeds took hold, so the Bulldog was rehabilitated to a new, more domestic life with those now famous squish-faces.

However, this meant the original working type dog had disappeared completely. This was something a Pennsylvanian called David Leavitt decided to remedy. In 1971, he started the task of recreating the original Regency period bull baiter but with a twist. Whilst the dog was to look like the original, they were to have a gentle disposition.

To do this, Leavitt breed together dogs of exemplary character with certain physical characteristics. Indeed, his foundation stock included English Bulldogs, Mastiffs, American Bulldogs, and American Pit Bull Terriers.


Olde English Bulldogge Large Photo
Cindy Funk / Flickr.com

At a quick glance, the Olde English bulldogge is easy to mistake for his more modern cousin. He has the side wide, bulldozer chest; the same sturdy legs; and the same impression of strength and power of a modern bulldog. His neck is short to non-existent, mounted onto those wide shoulders. His legs are set in the corners of his body, giving him a wide-set stance – a sort of 4x4 of the canine world.

But look beyond the facial wrinkles and you’ll see this fellow has a snout – not a long one, but it’s there all the same. This makes a big difference to his ability to breathe and helps him be more energetic.

Despite those big-bones and naturally rotund proportions, the Olde English Bulldogge is surprisingly nimble and athletic. He’s certainly not built for flat-out speed, but he’s fully capable of engaging in an active game of fetch, without suffering the breathing difficulties of the regular bulldog.

The Olde English Bulldogge has a short coat that lies flat to his body. He comes in a variety of familiar colours, including solid fawn, black, red, or black & white.

Character & Temperament

Despite his roughy-toughy outward appearance, the Olde English Bulldogge is a big softie at heart. The breed is summed up using words such as ‘sweet,’ ‘gentle’, and ‘eager-to-please,’ which are lovely attributes for any dog to have.

Another trait is that the Olde English Bulldogge loves to chew. And, with impressive jaw-crunching capacity, it’s as well to feed this need to chew with appropriate chew toys… or, risk the dog redesigning your chair legs.

The Olde English Bulldogge makes for a great family dog, even down to a natural protective instinct. Should an Olde English Bulldogge feel the family is threatened, they will make no bones about standing up to that threat.


Photo of Olde English Bulldogge puppy
Tierpfotografien / Wikipedia.org

The love-to-please attitude of the Olde English Bulldogge makes them highly trainable. Use reward-based methods where the dog’s good behaviour is encouraged with praise and treats, and they will do just about anything for you.

As with any dog, be sure to make training sessions fun, so the dog regards it more as a game than work. Train on a daily basis with short sessions spaced over the day. This prevents the dog becoming over-taxed and keeps things enjoyable.


The anatomy of the Olde English Bulldogge means that he lacks the fore-shortened nose of the English Bulldog. This contributes greatly to his welfare, as he is better able to breathe and doesn’t suffer from brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome. However, he is still over-represented when it comes to certain health conditions. These include:

Hip Dysplasia

This is a hereditary condition, where genes coding for badly fitting hip joints are passed down from parent to puppy. The term hip dysplasia refers to a malformation of the hip, which causes them to rub and bump with each step. This causes inflammation, which in turn, leads to pain. In the short term, the outward signs include a limp or reluctance to use stairs.

In the longer term, inflammation causes further remodelling of the joint which makes the problem worse rather than better. With severely deformed hips the dog is in constant pain and struggle to walk.

Treatment ranges from pain killers to help mild cases through to a total hip replacement for the most severely affected. Ultimately, prevention is better than cure. By screening the parent dogs ahead of breeding, and only using those with good hips to produce the next generation, this disabling condition can be radically reduced.


The barrel-like chest of the Olde English Bulldogge predisposes the breed to bloat. This life-threatening condition happens when the stomach flips over on itself so that gas cannot escape.

As the stomach distends with air, this causes circulatory failure and organ failure. This distressing condition has the potential to kill within a few hours, so it’s important to recognise the signs and seek immediate veterinary attention.

Symptoms to be alert for include non-productive retching (trying to vomit but not bringing anything up), distress (such as pacing and staring at the flanks), and a distended abdomen.


Bulldogs have a tendency for eyelids to turn inward, pressing the eyelashes against the cornea. This is a trait that the Olde English Bulldogge also inherits.

Watch out for excessively watery eyes or signs of ocular discomfort, such as rubbing the face or keeping the eye partially closed.

Skin Fold Dermatitis

The wrinkles of the Olde English Bulldogge can predispose him to skin infections. Furred skin rubbing against furred skin, such as in a deep furrow around the nose, causes soreness and inflammation leading to infection.

Monitor those skin folds for stickiness or a stinky discharge. In the first instance, clean the fold with weak salt water and then dry well. But if the problems persist, then veterinary treatment is required.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Olde Englishe Bulldogge does need plenty of exercise, but he is an endurance athlete rather than a sprinter. In practical terms, this means he prefers a long hike to herding or chasing, as he likes to take things at a sedate pace.


Brush and go! That short coat requires minimum care other than a regular slick over with a brush, to spread the natural conditioning oils. But be sure to check the dog’s skin folds regularly for signs of infection.

Famous Olde English Bulldogges

Check out their irresistible stocky, sweetness on Pinterest.


The Olde English Bulldogge has had a struggle to establish itself. Therefore breeders are focused on preserving the purity of this relatively new breed, than to use it for outcrossing to produce hybrids.

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