The ideal show Bulldog must be of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs. The size for mature dogs is about 50 pounds (23 kg); for mature bitches about 40 pounds (18 kg).
Bulldogs were originally used for bullbaiting, in which trained bulldogs attacked and killed tied-up bulls for sport during the 17th century, these bulldogs would leap up at the bull and latch onto its nose, suffocating it. This is the reason the bulldog has such a short and slightly upward facing snout that enables it to breathe whilst keeping hold of the bull, it has also given the breed great endurance and a determined personality. The practice of bullbaiting was banned in England in 1835.
After bullbaiting was banned, the breed started to dwindle. Fans of the breed turned to dog shows during that time. The first show to have a class for bulldogs was in Birmingham. Just a few years later, in 1864, a club was organized to enhance the breed.
Unfortunately, this group never picked a specific breed standard, and in 1891, the two top bulldogs, King Orry and Dockleaf, were greatly different in appearance. King Orry was of the older appearance, lighter boned and very athletic. Dockleaf, was smaller and heavier set (appearing 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.
Recently, many people have tried to recreate the old bulldog, for example, the olde english bulldogge, renaissance bulldog, victorian and dorset old thyme bulldog. The Older breed, however, still exists and may become more popular in the future. It was seen in India in the 1980s in remote villages where it was introduced by the British colonists and has been bred by the Wilkinson family in Canada who brought it from Scotland in 1946.
Bulldogs tend to have breathing problems as their flat face restricts air, because of this they should be closely monitored in hot weather as they can suffer heat stroke easier than breeds with long noses. They also have problems swimming and can drown if left unattended near a pool. Other common health problems include cherry eye, allergies, and (among older bulldogs) hip problems and cataracts. Because of the large heads in proportion to body size, baby bulldogs are usually delivered by c-section as most pups get stuck in the birth canal during natural birth.
Contrary to classic cartoon parodies and nicknames of the breed, such as 'Sour-Puss', that depicted the bulldog as ferocious and wearing a spiked dog collar, the bulldog is not a vicious dog breed (though it was during the days of bullbaiting, the aggressive tendencies were bred out of them by the time of the Second World War) and gets along well with both humans (including children) and sometimes other dog breeds. Bulldogs are very friendly and playful, whilst also being stubborn and protective, characteristics which have helped make the breed one of the unofficial symbols of the United Kingdom.