Australian Bulldogs


• Article 2 - Bulldog Structure - the extreme build for an extreme purpose

Australian Bulldogs has included this article on our site, for the general public’s interest. Although it describes the standard and purpose of the British Bulldog, our Aussie Bulldogs and other bulldog breeds for that matter, owe a great debt to this magnificent breed. We are striving to conserve all the unique features of the British Bulldog, but in a less exaggerated form, the Australian Bulldog. Please be warned that some may find this article disturbing.  

This article gives a brief description of the anatomy of the British Bulldog, and how this unique build allowed it to carry out the arduous task of bull baiting. The anatomy of the British Bulldog contradicts many breed standards. For example, the standard for many breeds, capable of great endurance, states that the shoulder and upper arm should be relatively equal in length and meet to form a 90 degree angle, with the elbow being in line with the 5th rib, lying under the top of a well laid back shoulder. In contrast the Bulldog was not bred to trot a great distance, this is evident in the standard, which calls for “widespread, muscular shoulders which slant outward”, evidently playing a protective function rather than a locomotive one. Instead, the Bulldog was bred to bait bulls (See Article 1), a role that requires a number of specialised structural adaptations, which will be discussed in this article.

For many, the look of the Bulldog is all about those irresistible wrinkles, which can collectively create the most intriguing range of expressions, leaving us speechless, at their mercy, defenceless. However, what we now appreciate in our much loved companions, once served a vital role, historically. Firstly, the jaw of the Bulldog is undershot 1/2 to 3/4 inch (the bottom jaw extends past the upper jaw), and the length of the jaw determines it’s overall strength. The jaw can be compared to a piece of timber, the longer the piece the weaker it will be. Therefore, ideally the Bulldog should have a very short face and jaw. The stop should be deep, and in relation the nose should be higher. From the top of the nose to the underjaw, the muzzle should slant back at an angle of 45 degrees. The chops should hang well below the mouth even when the dog has its mouth open. The ears of the bulldog should be small, set high, yet to the side of the head, and be rose shaped. Originally the bulldogs ears were pricked, until handlers realised that this was disadvantageous as blood would run into the ear, whilst baiting, causing the dog to release its grip, in order to shake its head. Similarly, the button ear was also disregarded, due to its tendency to block the dog’s vision, and hence impair function. The eyes of the Bulldog are placed wide apart, thus ensuring a wide field of view. On each side of the eye, there should be two prominent frontal bones at the point of the eye brow. Between the eyes from the top of the skull to the bottom of the stop, lies a deep furrow. All of these features combine, tactfully, functioning like a drainage system and allowing the Bulldog to successfully execute it’s task.
Firstly, when the Bulldog grabs the bull by the nose, clearly there is no way the dog will be able to breath through it’s mouth whilst holding a mass of flesh. Therefore, the dog relies on it’s nose to breath, and the 45 degree angle between the nose and the bottom jaw ensures that the nose is not obscured by the flesh or blood of the bull. Furthermore, the wrinkles on the top of the skull, direct the bulls blood, toward the deep furrow (between the eyes) this combined with the prominent frontal bones either side of the eyes, ensures that the blood doesn’t hinder the dogs vision. The depth of the stop is lower than the top of the nose and contains a roll, ensuring that blood doesn’t enter the nasal cavity, cutting off the dogs air supply, rather, the blood is directed down the side of the skull, via the chops. The chops hang lower than the bottom jaw, ensuring that blood doesn’t enter the mouth, which would congeal and choke the dog. The blood then flows past the dewlaps and onto the ground. 

When viewed from above the midline of the bulldog is pear shaped, with the cranial (Front) end forming the widest portion of its body, and tapering caudally (to the Rear). Similarly, all the weight of the dog is in the cranial regions, including its relatively large head, muscular and heavily boned front. Therefore, the Bulldog’s centre of gravity lies very heavily in its front end, rather than being more balanced as in other breeds. The advantage of having a greater mass cranially as compared to a lighter rear, becomes apparent when the dog is being shaken about by the bull, with the front end, being muscular and heavy this reduces the whip lash on the spine, and effectively acts as a “shock absorber”. Furthermore, the muscular and barrel like rib cage, combined with the heavy cranial aspect, ensure that the vital organs (Heart, lungs etc) of the thoracic cavity are protected, if the dog is thrown onto a solid surface. Furthermore, the brisket of the bulldog should be well let down and round, this ensures that when the dog is crouching and approaching the bull, its brisket touches the ground and provides stabilisation so the dog doesn’t loose its balance. Similarly, a deep brisket aids the dog in grabbing the bull’s nose, by contributing to its springing action.

The alignment of the elbow and the rib cage, should be such that one can “bury” a hand between them. Similarly the neck of the Bulldog should be well muscled, arched, thick and moderate in length. The back of the dog, should dip slightly behind the shoulder, before arching at the loins, and once again curving smoothly down to a low set tail. Therefore the Dorsal (Back) aspect, follows the curves created by the brisket and tuck up of the ventral (underneath) side of the dog, in parallel. The ribs must be very deep, and the tuck up must be pronounced. A relatively strong rear is required, therefore the Bulldog should have a descent turn of stifle to the hock, which should then fall at a 90 degree angle to the ground (straight down). All of these features combine to create a very flexible dog, which has the ability when being tossed about by the bull to effectively “curl” up into a ball. To achieve this state, the hind legs, are moved up into the (abdominal region), where the rear feet then fit inside the crevice provided by the elbow and the ribs, the front legs then curl back. The Bulldog now looks like a ball, and this structure provides protection against the bull’s advances, and reduces the risk of injury to the neck, spine and limbs of the dog.

In conclusion, although many today are of the opinion, that the British Bulldog is structurally, a poorly built specimen, I believe that everyone should have a great degree of respect for this breed and appreciate that every aspect of its structure had a purpose. However, in saying that I do not condone the breeding of features, to the point where they become over exaggerated, and hinder the quality of life, which every dog deserves.
Some may find it interesting to peruse through our Australian Bulldogs website and observe the presence or lack of the features described above, in this closely related, hybrid of the British Bulldog.


  1. Brearley J.M. (1985) The Book of the Bulldog. TFH Publications.
  2. Thomas C. (2000) Bulldogs Today. Ringpress Books.

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