Although the history of the English Bulldogs is filled with aggression and violence, it is one of the gentlest, funniest, and loyalist dog breeds around. They tend to be a little polarizing in the canine community with some people thinking Bulldogs are cute and others exclaiming the dogs are ugly. While they may look mean, Bulldogs generally have good temperaments and are highly photogenic.

The characteristics of English Bulldogs have led to the breed becoming symbols for sports organizations, businesses, and even countries. The development of traits like stubbornness and courage is rooted in their ancestry, the correctness of which is hotly debated in the cynology community.

One thing that the experts can agree on is that Bulldogs got their name from the time in history when they were used as bull baiters. In the Middle Ages around the reign of Queen Anne, English noblemen and royalty participated in a “sport” known as bull baiting. The bull would be tied to an iron stake on a rope that only allowed them to move in a radius of 30 feet. Afterwards, specially-trained dogs would be let loosed on them. The goal of the “game” was for the dogs to successfully immobilize the bull.

Bull baiting became so ubiquitous during that time, that people believed bull meat was only good if the animal had been baited beforehand. Butchers were fined and subjected to other serious penalties if they butchered and sold meat from non-baited bulls. Thankfully, the practice was eventually outlawed.

Though Bulldogs at the time were bred to be aggressive and fierce, breeders have made a concerted effort to filter those traits out while retaining those characteristics that make them so lovable. They are courageous and strong willed, which makes them less inclined to bark and whine unless there is a serious reason to do so. This is why Bulldogs require overly attentive and protective owners. They must constantly be checked on to ensure they are healthy and safe; otherwise, they would just suffer through their hardships with nary a whimper, which can be disastrous.

Though tenacious at times, Bulldogs are incredibly patient and easygoing. They will tolerate the, at times, rough handling by children with grace. This makes them good family dogs. It’s important to note that children, particularly young ones, should always be supervised around pets. This is for the pet and the child’s safety. Dogs are not babysitters and kids must be taught to respect their canine friends before being left alone around them.

A Bulldog’s average lifespan is 8 to 12 years. Unlike other dogs, Bulldogs tend to have long childhoods, taking an average of 36 months to mature mentally, physically, and behaviorally.  Even afterwards, they retain a few puppy-like behaviors such as chewing. You’ll have to train your Bulldog to chew on safe objects like toys; otherwise, he or she will nibble on everything including clothes, electrical wires, and furniture.

Bulldogs have a reputation for being clumsy and ungainly. This is not without cause. The way their bodies are formed can lead to some awkwardness in their movements. However, they are quite capable of performing astonishing athletic feats, if only in short bursts. They can sprint pretty fast for a little while, and they know how to use their stout bodies to knock down larger animals including humans.

Though their previous viciousness has been bred out of them, Bulldogs will not hesitate to use their abilities to protect their families and homes from perceived threats. They can be courageous when they need to be. However, their appearance is often enough of a deterrent to make would-be aggressors and intruders think twice.

Bulldogs do have health challenges, starting from when they are puppies. Their large upper bodies and small lower bodies can make it difficult for the female dogs to birth them. They are sensitive to changes in the temperature, especially heat. In addition to breathing problems, Bulldogs can fall victim to other illnesses such as hip dysplasia, dermatitis, mange, allergies, heart and eye problems, and elongated soft palate. When adopting a Bulldog, it’s critical to have these issues identified or diagnosed so you can take appropriate steps to ensure your dog is well care for.

One way to avoid getting a Bulldog with a host of medical issues is to purchase puppies from a reputable breeder. Do not purchase dogs from a pet store, puppy mill, or a breeder who sells their dogs to either. Chances are good that a breeder who does this won’t care much about breeding out undesirable traits or reporting that a dog may have health concerns. Do not buy a puppy that’s less than eight weeks old. It takes about two months of living with their moms and littermates to properly socialize the dogs. Anything less than that is just asking for trouble.

Treat your Bulldogs with love and train them properly. It may be a challenge to do so, but you’ll end up with wonderful companions who’ll love and protect you the rest of their lives.