The term “bulldog” was first used around 1568 and might have been applied to various ancestors of modern bulldog breeds. Bulldogs were bred in England as a cross between the mastiff and the pug.
In the 1600s, bulldogs were used for bullbaiting (as well as bearbaiting), a gambling sport popular in the 17th century with wagers laid in which trained bulldogs leapt at a bull lashed to a post, latched onto its snout and attempted to suffocate it. Bulldogs have many distinct characteristics that were bred into them so they would be better suited to bullbaiting. The bulldog’s body is short, low to the ground and compact, allowing it to be able to scuttle or crawl low under the bull’s horns. The lower jaw sticks out further than the top one allowing the bulldog to grip on the nose of the animal and still be able to breathe due to the lay-back of the nose. The wrinkles on the bulldogs face allow the blood from the other animal to run down the bulldogs face instead of going into its eyes. However this is a common misconception and the breed in its current form has been so inbred by man over the years that were it to perform the task it was origninally bred for it would fail miserably.
The oldest single breed specialty club is The Bulldog Club (England), which was formed in 1875. Members of this club met frequently at the Blue Post pub on Oxford Street in London. There they wrote the first standard of perfection for the breed. In 1891 the two top bulldogs, Orry and Dockleaf, competed in a contest to see which dog could walk the farthest. Orry was reminiscent of the original bulldogs, lighter boned and very athletic. Dockleaf was smaller and heavier set, more like modern bulldogs. Dockleaf was declared the winner that year. Although some argued that the older version of the bulldog was more fit to perform, the modern version’s looks won over the fans of the breed because they proved they were equally as fit and athletic in the walking competition.