Can the Bulldog Be Saved?

The short, brutish life of the bulldog is putting the future of the breed at risk.

Comments: 125

  1. I forwarded this article to my 20-year-old daughter with deep regret. She cannot wait to finish college so that she can acquire two English bulldogs. She's even picked out their names, ZuZu and Daisy. She absolutely loves these dogs. Reading this article will be such a blow for her.

  2. I hope that dog show judges start awarding better built bulldogs!

  3. I used to own Persian cats back in the early and mid Sixties.

    Wonderful cats. A breed since completely ruined by the breeders.

    It's a damn shame. I hate to say it, but I see Federal intervention in the trade of pedigreed animals as more likely than not. People are loving our animals to death.

  4. Altering an dogs appearance for asthetics through breeding to sell more is cruel. In the 1980's I remember how Akitas would have to be "walked" with their rear legs in rolling braces because their hips were so weak. Bulldog lovers will rail against this story, of course.

  5. We have two Boston Terriers, brothers from the same litter. One of the dogs has a slightly longer muzzle than the other. What a difference that makes! The shorter muzzle dog snores, overheats much quicker and has a much harder time being active than his slightly longer muzzled brother.

    The solution is to start breeding flat faced dogs to be less extreme in their flatness. It doesn't have to be by much. The muzzle length difference between our two is around 1/2 an inch. The dogs would be better off and so would the owners.

  6. People who care about animals as fellow creatures have long been worried about this. Not new, and not just bulldogs. Hip dysplasia in Alsatians goes back to the days of Rin Tin Tin (and is mentioned in Susan Orlean's book as having appeared not long after the breed itself was developed). The purebred collie you see now is not Terhune's Lad, but a needle-nosed parody. (Perhaps this is why I see so many Shelties around. They look like collies used to look, in miniature.) Daschunds have back problems. Persian cats have the same respiratory ailments as bulldogs. The inbreeding that causes Siamese cats' crossed eyes can produce mothers so high-strung they eat their healthy newborn kittens unless the babies are taken away for bottle-feeding.

    Of course the breeder quoted in the story thinks there's nothing wrong with bulldogs. As the proverb goes, no man cries "stinking fish" (i.e., the vendor doesn't talk down his wares). There is a term, "hybrid vigour." Yet humans persist in the fallacy that "pure" bloodlines (including their own!) are somehow superior. T'aint so.

    But as long as animals are treated as ornaments, commodities, and objects, existing for the entertainment, gratification, convenience, and use of homo sap, rather than as living beings with separate interests and purposes of their own, the tragedy of the bulldog, and so many others, will continue.

  7. I blame the degeneration of most breeds to dog show judges who perpetuate the 'ideal' of these dogs.

  8. Very sad, but not too surprising that some breeders and owners will place their wants and desires above the health of the breed. The story of the Uga dogs was awful, particular when you see how the physical changes over the years have negatively affected the dogs' quality of life for no reason other than to show off the dog. As for potential dog owners, I really wish more people would do their homework before selecting a breed and would reject dogs where health has taken a backseat to cuteness.

  9. Thank you, Mr. Denziet-Lewis for writing this article and thank you NYT for publishing it.

  10. Breeding is for humans to satisfy their god-complex, which, most often, leads to disaster. With millions of animals being euthanized annually, with all the suffering of animals in human hands, it is unconscionable to continue these practices that ultimately put more unwanted, unable-to-be-cared for animals in shelters or on the streets. Where is the love? The true, unconditional love? Rescue, don't breed. Please, have a heart.

  11. I have had bulldogs all of my life and the one I have now, Sadie, will sadly be my last. The three before her all had allergies, breathing issues, and eye problems. None lived a long normal life. Sadie is physically healthy but has OCD so bad that she requires medication.

  12. Arrogant, hubristic human tinkering has turned a once healthy breed into this sadly compromised one. Why? Because we could. It is way past time to stop and think about the consequences of breed engineering. Just because we can create something doesn't mean we should. Dogs are extraordinary animals, and we have treated them like paper dolls. Lop this off, splice it there. Ooo, let's see what this will do. We have engineered breeds that can't breathe properly, can't give birth naturally, can barely walk. It's horrendous, cruel, and irresponsible. We must be more responsible.

  13. As bulldog owners, my wife and I love the personality and attitude of the breed. We also would love to see the BCA and the AKC take more positive steps to address the chronic health issues the breed has now. Our first dog was from a reputable breeder. He was a true couch potato, and passed away before his 10th birthday. His medical issues included poor breathing, an "innie" tail that needed cleaning, thyroid issues, and a major skin issue. Our current bulldog, a rescue, seems to be a better breather, but suffered from a urinary tract blockage which required surgery to correct. This was done well before he arrived at our home and could have contributed to him being found wandering the streets. We were also shocked at the fact that three UGA mascots passed in the last five years. If that is not a clarion call that there is something wrong with the bloodline, I don't know what is.

    The bulldog is generally a sweet animal, and really eager to please and learn. However, as noted in the article, there is already an explosion of unwanted bulldogs primarily due to their medical issues. The BCA, the AKC, and the majority of Bulldog breeders need to get their heads out of the show ring and into reality. From their response in the article, their concern is strictly limited to how the breed will show, not how the breed will survive. Yes, rogue breeders will taint the pool for a quick buck, but the legitimate breeders need to make the changes so that this wonderful dog breed continues as a healthy, active dog.

  14. Humans should work on improving themselves and leave the dogs alone.

  15. Nothing new in the article for me, but I am happy to see that the terrible news regarding this poorly bred dog is getting out. You could not pay me to own one.

  16. Smitten with the bulldog since I could remember, I must say the current form of the breed, does have a distinct survival advantage: cuteness equals food. The more adorable the bully's mug, the more susceptible the owner is to its begging charms. As seen here:

  17. Interesting but having studied genetics, I find the author's references to inbreeding rather naive. Inbreeding is a valuable tool for the knowThis dog ledgeable - often used in producing livestock, horses, and sometimes dogs. My boston terrier - cousin to the bulldog - will soon turn 15. Correct, according to show standards - she remains agile and alert. Yes the bulldog structure is not a sensible one but most bulldogs live good, happy lives in their bodies. Finally, check out this bulldog video -

  18. Of all the cruelties visited on the other animals populating this globe, human's slow-motion destruction of certain dog breeds is among the least of my worries.

    Mankind's population explosion is causing the greatest mass-extinction event in the Earth's history, and we're worried the bulldog's birth canal is not wide enough to accommodate the latest macrocephalic mutations?

  19. I saw a show about bulldogs on PBS recently. They showed how the dog had been completely transformed(through selective breeding) in the last 2 centuries. The dog was completely changed in it's overall shape and look. The changes were made because of what dog owners felt was a more desirable "look". Unfortunately, the dog has a harder time moving and the changes have been very detrimental to the dog itself.
    But if you can get more ribbons with the new look, I guess that's all that matters. Sorry Fido.

  20. I find it hard to call anyone a "dog lover" if their personal vanity leads them to support the breeding of a dog to fit some predetermined idea of perfection.
    It's a perversion of the unconditional love a dog gives to demand rigid breed characteristics before the owner will return that love.

  21. Breeding dogs that are so deliberately mis-shapened is cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on a innocent creature. I have a hard time believing these dogs have a happy comfortable life.

  22. This conversation has been a long time in coming. I was horrified when I found out all the physical problems bulldogs have, including the inability to mate! Breeders keep breeding to the extreme, and it's time dog show judges stopped rewarding them. There's a whole list of other dogs that need do-overs, including collies. And cat people aren't off the hook, having extreme-bred Persian cats to have a flat face that makes it hard for them to breathe and causes their eyes to tear constantly.

  23. I'm pretty sure that the Yale Bulldog preceded not only all of the other collegiate bulldog mascots but was also the very first university mascot in the United States. The first Handsome Dan was officially adopted by the University in 1889 which precedes the adoption of the Bulldog as the mascot of the Marine Corps. by 33 years!

  24. If the ideal is to be too heavy, then you have some big problems..

  25. And yes, I am sure that many will comment that breeding dogs should be curtailed or outlawed and everyone should get a shelter dog. I would love to see that, too, but I realize that people will continue breeding dogs no matter what, so let's work to make the breeding at least be in the best interest of the survival and good health of the breed.

  26. Small changes could make huge difference. Pugs are a bit less brachycephalic and can live a whole lot longer. I had one who lived to 171/2 (and then only fell to foul play). He loved to run (living with a golden helped), was playful, and of course loved to eat. The trick -- very few treats and no human food (this is an absolute rule), lots of regular exercise, and lots of variety and fun.

    One other other: the suffering of bulldogs is terrible. Their early deaths are also horrible for their families -- bad enough really to disqualify them as family pets, however lovable they are. Imagine how a child feels to lose his or her best friend at the young age of 4 or 5.

  27. Breeding for looks instead of health is not limited to dogs. Some lines of Arabian horses have been bred for smaller and smaller muzzles. The result is foals that look more like deer than horses and that grow up with
    jaws too small to fit their teeth. Hubris and "aesthetics" too often overcome common sense and even decency when it comes to animal breeding.

  28. While I like a variety of pure bred dogs I don't think it's right that any breed should suffer from extreme conformational standards for our aesthetic pleasure. Bulldogs do suffer and I believe that future breeding should aim to eliminate the aspects of their physical conformation that causes them discomfort. This can be certainly be said about other breeds as well.

  29. Our neighbors had an English bulldog that was beset with health problems, including neurological problems. Earlier this year, the dog escaped, raced across the street and attacked and bit my son on our front lawn. The neighbors gave the dog to a bulldog rescue group to have him "rehabilitated," but the dog made it through one exercise and attacked someone else. He was put down.

  30. What is called the American Bulldog now, was, according to my research, the original English Bulldog. The function of the original bulldog was to manage cattle at slaughter houses, sometimes this included forcing unruly bulls into pens or chutes. For this reason the breed was called the "butcher's dog".
    In America, the "butcher's dog" was a favorite cattle management dog whose ferocity, strength, stamina, and gameness served southern ranches as guards against bears, wolves and other predators.
    While at this time the breed was popular in the American South, in England, it was OUTLAWED along with bullbaiting. The crown decided the vicious practice of fighting the dogs against bull and sometimes bears imported from the US was cruel. It was not the breed's fault of course, but the result was that those who loved the "butcher's dog", began to breed it as a smaller, much less atheletic canine to the point that it could not longer be recognised. As often happens in these cases, human ego interfered to the point that it is difficult to justify the current incarnation of the English Bulldog.
    Any dog that can't breed on it's own, swim, outrun a child, breath without difficulty, who needs to have the wrinkles on it's face cleaned after it eats and who sometimes has problems eating at all, should not be bred. Such an animal is an insult to the entire canine world by the breeders who have essentially taken a proud,useful and loyal working breed and turned it into a clown.

  31. What a surprise. The demise of the bulldog, as a healthy breed, is all about money. Let's hear it for the free market! Every few years the sheeple go nuts for a different breed... usually because of a movie or famous association. The Jack Russell, the Bulldog, the Dalmatian, and the Pit Bull are just a few. The Bulldog is in full swing right now. They are a fashion accessory that will hopefully develop into a beloved part of a household. That's fine, when it works out and the owner can deal with a peeing, pooping, shedding money pit. But just look at a bulldog. Play with one. They are often such happy creatures trapped in a totally useless and continuously malfunctioning body. Who would knowingly do that to a dog? Who would want a cute child trapped in a cartoon body that limits mobility, breathing, and life span? It's sick.

    It's not that the B.C.A. can't see the forest through the trees,... they can't see a healthy dog through all those dollars.

    Tax the Rich.

  32. I saw that BBC program (it aired on BBC America here) and it actually made me cry. You saw what breeders were doing to the German Shepard and it was heartbreaking. They took that noble athletic breed and turned it to something that could barely walk. Yet the breeders declared this is truly how the breed should look with short hind legs (even though his front legs were still usual length). They either were oblivious or did not care about the obvious hip problems that would follow or that the dog looked uncomfortable and maybe even in pain as it labored to walk. How is this not criminal?

    How can you declare you love a breed and then watch as you create something that can't breathe, mate or give birth without difficulty or human intervention? How can you think it's ok to create a dog that lives only 4 years or at only 9 months has racked up $8000 in medical bills. This is not what people who love dogs do. This should not be acceptable to the AKC how can they not have the courage to stand up to the breeders and fight for what's right for the breeds?

    I'm not saying the answer is to give up on pure breeds. As a pure bred cat owner (Norwegian Forest Cat) I adore my breed and specifically picked her for the qualities that that breed has. (We also have a rescue and picked him based on his loud screams of pick me pick me) But I think we should stop reveling in our desire to play God and figure out what is best for the dog. Cant breath, have sex or give birth and dying early is not what's best for the dog.

  33. There will never be a shortage of dogs for people to train, love, and keep in their families. Why people need to breed purebreds in the first place is beyond me. I guess we just like exercising as much control as possible.

  34. The global warming associated with all pet ownership is selfish and shameful.

    Pet ownership is an extremely poor use of scarce resources and scarce medical resources in particular... and yes, i am saying that most vets are capable of human care at a third world level.

    Take care of the people before the dogs and stop breeding dogs as accessories, toys, or companions. You're increasing global warming.

    (Authentic working dogs are obviously not included in this indictment).

  35. A bulldog in 2012 has a better life than a human did in 30 AD.

    Toss it a bone already!

  36. I agree that the Old English Bulldogs are the way to go. I live in Texas and wanted a Bulldog. I did not want the typical English Bulldog since its so hot here and did not think they could take it. So I got an Old English Bulldog. They are able to breed and give birth without any help. The nose is a little longer and not so many folds on the face. She is taller and is able to breath with her mouth closed. And heathy, just the routin vet vists. When its cool out, we can be out walking for about a hour.

  37. I love my bulldog. Having said that everything in the article about poor health is true. My girl has terrible allergies which causes infections in her ears, feet and underbelly. She has arthritis in her hips, diagnosed at 7 months old and she had one brief bout with mild tremors. We take her to an allergy specialist and we are looking at taking the next step of allergy shots. Everything about these dogs is costly, not to mention the initial price which was nearly 3K.

    My husband and I were naive and very uneducated when we decided we wanted a bulldog that we could show and breed. Girlfriend has Dumbo ears and a small head - not "show" material. That's fine with us now that we know what the show world is like.

    She takes allergy pills daily, glucosamine for her joints and has to be fed very carefully to avoid tummy upsets. We just had her spayed, we keep her weight down and she goes to the park and on group dog walks. We want to have her for a long time - she is our heart.

    However, I am angry at breeders who know of these congenital problems and don't disclose histories ( some allergies are much worse than others) and the bulldog clubs who don't talk about any health problems at all. It's irresponsible and cruel. Thanks for the article.

  38. American Bulldogs are on my list of breeds I would never, in a million years own due to the variety of terrible ailments they face. In my experience, they attract people as owners who really would be better off with a stuffed animal. So sad.
    And of course, people pay top dollar for a bulldog but then complain about vet costs, always hgihly amusing to me. Especially when, as a country, we euthanize 5 million good pets a year.
    Tell me again how much we love our pets.

  39. Its clearly the AKC's fault. We've had pure bred Labs and Dalmatians and always worry about inbred health issues. The AKC could fix this immediately by requiring dog show winners to be certified health problem free before issuing champion ratings.

  40. I guess I'm just an ignorant hick who likes my dogs to be dogs even if they have fancy pedigrees: athletic and energetic like my Airedale Terriers and German Shorthaired Pointers have been. What's the purpose of a dog that you can't take on a hike or that can't chase sticks, balls, squirrels?

  41. It is a particularly ugly dog. No need to save it.

  42. I'd encourage folks who like the bulldog personality and cute face to consider a pit bull mix from a shelter. Many pits - while taller and more athletic - have similarly cute faces and the spirited and loving bulldog personality - they look a lot like old-fashioned bulldogs! And, with greater genetic diversity, they are far less prone to health issues. New York-area residents, check out for some potential pit bull family members!

  43. My bulldog is unique in a number of ways:
    -We didn't get him from a bully breeder, but an animal rescuer. She just happened to have two English bulldogs, and she mated them to help fund her rescue efforts.
    -He was born naturally, no c-section required.
    -He has a great snout. No breathing problems at all, though he does overheat easily.
    -No hip or joint problems. He loves to run and play.
    -Only real ailment has been allergies.
    -Finally, and unfortunately, he has terminal bone cancer. I wouldn't say that's because of his breed though. The vets say they've never seen this type of bone cancer in a bulldog. It's also rare because he's only three years old. It's a tragic loss for us, because we really feel like we dodged a lot of common bulldog health problems with him. They told us he has six months left, so we're making sure he's comfortable.

    A year ago someone offered to give us an Olde English Bulldogge, but we declined because we didn't want two dogs. After reading this article, I think we might go with that breed next. I really love my dog, but I can't help but feel that purchasing a new English bulldog would be wrong. If getting an Olde English Bulldogge will help promote the awareness of a healthy alternative, I'm all for it.

  44. I have a Bulldog. The first pure-bred dog I've ever owned, and probably the last. Because despite doing the research (including understanding the health risks), looking for all the visual clues of her formation as a puppy (and looking at the formation of her parents AND grandparents), my dog is a collection of congenital health issues. We are "frequent flyers" at our local vet, who would be the first to tell you my dog represents a vast amount of time and effort on my part.

    The money goes without saying. A walking $5,000 check? My 7 year old dog passed that mark years ago. Hip dysplasia, eye problems, skin problems - she's seen more specialists than I have. And her health problems are not as severe as some dogs mentioned in this story.

    Yes, I could have put her down a long time ago. But she's my responsibility, and these things are fixable - since I don't have children, I can afford to take care of her at this level. But I admit I probably would have had to put her down or give her up for rescue years ago if that wasn't the case, which would have broken my heart.

    What bothers me most is that I tried to report her breeder to various agencies (including the BCA and AKC) - and none of them cared. The breeder is allowed to continue to breed these dogs - who must be in a huge amount of discomfort, if not outright pain - with no penalty.

    My vets think it's criminal as well; they say, she's the type of dog you go into practice to help, because she is the consummate companion animal. A dog this good deserves a better life, and we figure the only saving grace is she's never known a life without discomfort, so she just lives with it. It makes me feel horrible to think about that, and my vet and I keep a clinical eye on her comfort levels. When she stops being happy, we will put her down.

    I love my Bulldog. But for my next dog, I'm going back to a nice "Heinz 57" from the animal shelter.

  45. The question isn't "Can the Bulldog Be Saved?" but *should* it? My sister will graduate with her DVM next year, and she says that these poor animals come into clinics with myriad health problems. They're also uncomfortable in their own bodies---their faces are so fat that the palate grows into the trachea, and vets regularly have to shave it. When there are so many wonderful dogs and cats perishing every day in shelters and rescues, you'd have to be heartless to get an animal---ANY animal---from a breeder.

  46. The lessons here are not so much about Bulldogs, but instead, speak volumes about humans.
    What a species.

  47. My wife and I have raised two sets of English bulldogs, with minimal health issues, except at the end of their relatively short ten to twelve year life span. Many problems with dogs in general have to do with unscrupulous breeders, puppy mills etc.

  48. @Bobbyn/#4:

    Actually, I think most Bulldog owners - who aren't breeders - are reading this and recognizing much.

    Also, as a general note, I find it interesting that the slideshow associated with this article featured mostly professional photography which showed how alluring the Bulldog can be. Except those features - the flat face, the sturdy build, the wrinkles - are exactly the things that are problematic. Why couldn't they find some other pictures? Granted, eyes with distichiasis, infected wrinkles and inverted tails aren't as photogenic, but they are the reality.

  49. My son and his wife inherited a bulldog named from a retired marine. The dog's name is Chesty Puller. If you are familiar with the real (Lewis) Chesty Puller (he was honored with a USA postal stamp) you can easily imagine what the dog looks like.

  50. The obvious solution mentioned is to browbeat the AKC into changing its judging standards and get the students at Georgia to demand the new standard in its standard. Not holding my breath on either one.

  51. My bulldog could not be saved but by then she was fourteen years old! She was an absolutely wonderful dog with the perfect temperament for children. As a pup she had boundless energy and could sprint like a greyhound (ok a really thick greyhound) and jump like a gazelle (also thick). She shook the house when she snored, which was often, but a little white noise is relaxing, right? She was 65 lbs. of muscle and I never let her get fat.

    This breed is absolutely worth saving. Promoting the slightly leaner dogs is all that is required.

  52. Inbreeding is against nature and should not be imposed upon a species by humans. It encourages problematic recessive genes.

    Avoid inbred dogs, favor mixed breed dogs. We must be smart and sensible with others' health and well-being.

  53. Good Morning: I love bulldogs. My family has owned bulldogs for over half a century, and our first saved my life twice, despite lameness in both hind legs. He also auditioned for the job of Yale's Handsome Dan, but was disqualified after lifting his leg on the Dartmouth mascot. Nonetheless, the breed needs help; when people ask me for advice about getting their first bulldog, I always say only one word: "Don't." AKC and BCA, please wake up; the breed needs change.

  54. We have some bulldog breeders in the family. One of them is a vet. So, I know the breed pretty well. I cannot believe anyone would own one. They are beyond expensive. They absolutely have sweet personalities, but mostly due to stupidity. I see them as an animal manifestation of the ostentatious high end purse. This animal will cost you a lot of money to buy and to own. They are born via c-section, they throw up often, their owner needs to 'floss' under their tail to get the poop out because the dog can't get in there to clean. They have allergies, eye problems, skin problems, and heart problems. Their digestive system isn't great and they have the most disgusting gas you can imagine. I have seen a roomful of people gag when the dog passed gas. It is that bad. They are too stupid to know when they are overheating and have to be monitored in the summer. They cannot go in the water for a swim because their heads are so heavy they will sink and drown.

    I understand being smitten by the dog. I have nothing against individual dogs. They have all been very loving and sweet. They make great companions. But, they are a costly, costly breed. I worry that people do not understand just how expensive it is to own one.

    They are pitiful beasts. They can hardly breath, cannot ever run with a child without putting their heart at risk, have to be walked at a sedate pace. They make me sad.

  55. Pure Bred = unhealthy and unnatural

  56. The problem is with purebreds in general. According to those shows on Animal Planet, Cats and Dogs 101, several purebred dogs and cats have significant health risks. Personally, I dont understand the appeal of a purebred animal. Who cares? Why pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a purebred animal when there are plenty of homeless animals at humane societies around the country? Support you local humane society, adopt a mutt!

  57. The current day breed of bulldog is weird and, may I say, somewhat gross. People should live with one for a day before acquiring one. Their mouths slobber dripping spittle all day and night. All over everything. They stink. They have difficulty walking, especially after the age of about 5. They are in constant misery. And you shall be too, as long as you have one.

    Go to a shelter and rescue a dog. Why would anyone want to BUY their new buddy? That is a very strange concept.

  58. How can anyone breed, or buy a dog bred for them, while literally millions of equally cute, smart, funny, playful, loving dogs are killed in the USofA each year simply because they have no home?!?!?! If you buy, a shelter dog WILL die. And besides, all purebreds are inbreds and are usually less healthy than a mixed breed. It's why you're not supposed to marry your cousin. And bulldogs suffer worst of all - they get rebuilt by their ophthalmologist, dermatologist, cardiologist and orthopedic surgeon. They die young. They have arthritic painful joints and struggle for air their entire short lives. Real animal lovers need to save a life and rescue until we run out of dogs.

  59. Where's the cuteness? I think the bulldog is an ugly, malformed creature.

  60. this will forever be the problem with 'breeders' in general. The intrude on the very power of nature, natural selection. The only dogs with the best temperament, health, strength, and all around physicality are mutts. Nothing beats them, why, because its about mixing and nature selecting those traits that are best.

    But humanity has long been obsessed with ridiculous notions of 'purity' even within its own species and whom they consider worth procreating with. Luckily most of the world has moved away from this concept in ourselves, otherwise, eventually, we'd be no better than the bulldog.

  61. As a veterinarian, I have long felt it inhumane to bring dogs in to the world with such serious health problems. I would very much support banning this breed from the AKC.

  62. I know CERTAIN people will only get dogs of a CERTAIN breed. However, these dog owners are part of the problem no matter how responsible and loving they are toward their pets. Even if these owners purchase dogs from responsible breeders - they are the targeted market. Until people stop buying Bulldogs and other breeds this problem will never go away. Simply put, it's about demand and supply. TRUE dog lovers will NOT participate in this cruel and inhuman way of life.

  63. Cute, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  64. Other than resembling Winston Churchill, what's appealing about this breed?

    No one has ever improved upon the wolf.

  65. Cute???

  66. It's sad that we impose our vanity on Canis lupus familiaris with such disastrous consequences to this animal. It could be argued that our species owes its existence to the dog. I've learned much about myself from the dogs with whom I lived - not all of it pleasant.

  67. Sadly, inbred problems such as these afflict all American Kennel Club-registered breeds to one extent or another. I've owned and loved Scottish terriers for more than 20 years, but may never share my life with another, as they are 20 times more likely than other breeds to develop bladder cancer. As long as show-dog breeders put physical "beauty" (as they define it) over the health and longevity of the dog, such problems will only worsen. We are breeding our cherished dogs into extinction.

  68. Many people believe that until all dogs are adopted there should be no breeding whatsoever. In my opinion, the puppy mills are to blame for a lot of the over population issues (and they are legal and make millions), and irresponsible owners who breed their dogs (backyard breeders). The folks who buy from the mills (over the internet or from the pet stores) are also complicit. I am okay with responsible hobby breeders if they are interested in health and temperament first and foremost. The AKC is influenced more by the look of the dog than by temperament or health. They also make a hefty profit from the mills. The 'dog industry' is terribly flawed. In the article, the breeders deny that their dogs are impaired by the 'look' of the dog, and that is ridiculous. Of course they are. Bulldog puppies notoriously do not want to walk...why is that? Perhaps it hurts or they cannot breathe? They ALL have health problems. There are Vets that now specialize in Bulldogs..lots of money to be had. Everyone should watch the BBC show Pedigree Dogs Exposed (it is on youtube). The inbreeding and lack of care for the ramifications of creating these issues is stunning. I am a prof. dog trainer and train bulldogs regularly...there are limitations to this breed due to health issues, without any doubt.

  69. I agree with most of the posters here, but frankly, I don't find bulldogs all that cute. I think they look rather slobby, actually.

  70. I like the 1800s bulldog. The newer versions look sloppy, unhealthy, and not cute to me.

  71. The AKC and like organizations have ruined many breeds of dogs. They bred the brains out of collies by insisting on tiny square heads. The ruined the hips of wonderful labradors by awarding squat wide hipped dogs. Personalities of dogs used for breeding were ignored for looks and even sweet cocker spaniels have turned into biters and nasty tempered dogs. The list goes on and on, and includes cat fanciers. Next I guess someone will ruin hamsters and goldfish.

  72. I've rescued animals my entire life, all of them good old fashioned mixed breed mutts. (both feline and canine) Aside from what many others have said in here regarding the cruelty and Frankenstein mentality that goes into altering another creature's genetic architecture, why should it be any surprise that we shallow humans project onto other living things our obsession with superficial perfection?

    It is embarrassing how invested we've become with appearance. Even more shameful is that we've transferred that human obsession to be cosmetically perfect to our beloved four legged companion friends, our pets.

    I live to see the day when breeders and puppy mills that focus on this kind of cruel manipulation of authenticity are banished completely. There are so many mixed breed animals, both dogs and cats, with marvelous personalities boasting idiosyncracies just waiting to be matched to their human counterpart. These discarded and forgotten sentient creatures do have the potential to become perfect in just one way: as loyal friends for life if only we'd give them a chance. Instead, they are euthanized for no other reason than opportunists like this bulldog outfit who have flooded the market with empty promises of stature, perfect lineage and personality. Oh, and we can't forget the obscene profit margin that has infiltrated this market as well.

    Next time you're thinking about getting a pet friend or adopting an animal, please visit your local shelter or call a rescue organization. There are literally millions of loving animals just waiting for their "forever" home.

    Elizabeth Tjader

  73. It seems the bulldogs that I have encountered lately always seem to be not quite right in some form or another. One particular fellow seems to be extremely top-heavy with his center of gravity seemingly at his collar. The other one I see seems to have difficulty walking. While the third one doesn't seem to have much energy. I would hope that more people consider the intangible costs on these poor creatures.

  74. I'll take my rescued field Golden Retriever any day over "show" Goldens. The in-breeding has resulted in a hidden affliction of torn cruciate ligaments in the early years in show Golden Retrievers who are not worked in runs and fields. The physical issues combined with behavioral issues makes "show" Goldens poor pets and poor family dogs. Dogs that are shown are rarely properly socialized and many of them don't even live with their owners most of the year--they travel with professional handlers in enormous RV's and spend the time they are not in the show ring in crates.
    If you want to compete with a dog, do it in a venue that uses the dogs natural traits; herding for shepherds, behavioral trials and agility for dogs that are good in those activities. The show ring is quite frankly a beauty show and designed for the human ego, not the joy of the dog.

  75. I really appreciated this article. I have a lot of friends who are fascinated by these dogs, and I have begged them to save both the money and the heartache--even if I can't convince them to adopt from a shelter, I ask them at least to buy a dog that isn't doomed to a life of suffering by its very design.

    Especially interesting for me was the ironic history of the bulldog, and how haphazard breeding actually was in Victorian times. It seems like they just grabbed whatever "purebred" dogs happened to be around and mated them without much regard for overall design, and a hundred years later breeders resolutely and greedily cling to the idea that the look of the bulldog is somehow sacred. The bulldog is truly, to borrow Darwin's apt term, a monstrosity, and demonstrates well how warped aesthetics can become when status hews too closely.

  76. Changing breed standards to encourage breeding away from these harmful characteristics seems to be the most practical way to go.

  77. My bulldog is going on 3 and my sisters just turned 10....feed them well, regular trips to the Vet and love. Seems easy enough to this guy

  78. bulldogs are very good dogs, but they suffer so -- esp. in the heat and not being able to move with grace. they are so eager to please, but their bodies can't take the exertion. the old-time bulldogs in your pix look like very cool dogs; i'd prefer one of those.

  79. While the show judges certainly aren't off the hook, I believe that the breed's recent commercialization is far more to blame. "Cute" is the wrong reason to make an impulse purchase of any pet, especially when it supports the explosive demand enjoyed by the worst element in the breeding world.

  80. I have always thought that buyers of bulldogs in particular and of bred dogs in general are exteemely selfish and ignorant, especially when there are millions of wonderful dogs in shelters needing homes. Bred dogs are also condemned to all kinds of--often fatal--health problems. A dog is a family member, not a fashion accessory. I have the most wonderful dog in the world, rescued from a municipal shelter and brought to NYC where I adopted her. She could not be cuter or sweeter. She has six kitties to play with, all rescues too.

  81. Why do we sacrifice animals' health at the expense of humans' need to have a pet "look" a certain way? The fact that they can't reproduce without interference tells you something, doesn't it?????( FYI over-breasted turkeys can't get it on naturally either)....

  82. Hey what's the problem? America is all about making money. If dogs have to suffer - so be it. They are here for the amusement of the owners. Mainly a collection of sitting ducks for "brands" and "breeds" and anything else this capitalistic nightmare called the USA can come up with. We are possibly the worst collection of people on earth.

  83. I am shocked by the difference between the original bulldog and today's version. People think the newer version is better? More and more I am thinking Americans need to live in a more authoritative society to save us from ourselves.

  84. This is tragic. All alumni of bulldog-mascot schools should forward this article on to their alumni association and pressure them to use healthy breeds from now on.

  85. Listen to vets, not bulldog breeders.

  86. "Moses added that unlike other breeds, bulldogs don’t try to spit out the breathing tube after waking up from surgery. “Some look around, happy as can be,” she said. “It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘Finally, I can breathe!’ ”

    As someone who has woken up out of surgery with a breathing tube, this is one of the saddest things I have ever read. Those things are not comfortable.

  87. Asking humans to resist this type of breading---an intentional monster of an animal---isn't easy especially when you witness humans themselves breading monsters. Those smart enough to recognize the monsters are summarily dismissed as insensitive.

  88. We had the dlight of owning one. She used to sit (like a human, on her spine, the likes of Winston Churchill) on the sofa during the Nebraska foodball games on tv. She got so excited that she grabbed a friends arm (gently)just as we might during a touch down. How could you not anthropormophize such a dog? But she was doomed to aches and pains and hard breathing. Smart dog but physically terribly challanged. She died, and our hearts went with her. There is an example of how people find fun with dogs who seem almost human. At least, we never dressed her up like a Thanksgiving Turkey. Don't own them; don't breed them; go back to the original or get another intelligent breed if you must have one.

  89. #11- Liza,

    I didn't know dogs could have OCD. Thanks so much for teaching me something I no had no idea existed in dogs.

  90. I wouldn't buy a bulldog if you paid me to.

  91. I love bulldogs. But after learning how they're born and breed several years ago, I could never see myself owning one. It's just not fair to them - it's just another way in which our society ignores costs and externalities in the name of self-gratification.

  92. In the 18TH and 19TH century they were this size of a German shepherd with a long square mouth and a much sturdy look. Over the century breeders genetically modified the breed, such they now have to have cesarean section birth because they became so wide especially at the shoulders.

  93. People buy purebred dogs because of the specific qualities of that breed - to match one's lifestyle, temperament. If we would take the time to educate, encourage and support the public about the need to neuter and spay all pets who are not being shown or bred, we would not have the problem in shelters that we have. Most dogs in shelters are not purebreds but are mixed breed dogs that irresponsible people breed or allow to breed, only to dump the puppies at the shelter or give them to people who should not have them. Granted, stupid people will always impulsively purchase or adopt a dog/puppy only to lose interest and dump the dog at the shelter or on the street. If you plan to dump your dog at the shelter because your new landlord won't accept a pet then why did you get one to begin with? Pets are for life - or don't get one. One common behavior is for people to adopt a puppy as training for being parents. Then they have their first child and the dog is neglected and eventually dumped at the shelter or rescue organization. Good purebred dog breeders have an ethical responsibility to understand the dogs in their pedigrees and breed for health not just looks. Most breeders I know spend their lives, hearts and money on their dogs, never making a cent. We breed out health issues that we are aware of and breed in those nice qualities that make our breed even better. However, breeders of purebred dogs and mixed breeds alike, who live off the backs of the dogs and breed for income (mother to son, brother to sister), both puppy mills, pet stores that are supplied by puppy mills, and backyard breeders, should be stopped. If there were no bulldogs, pugs, boxers, golden retrievers, poodles or rotties, our world would be so one-dimensional and sad. This type of thinking would give even more power to the people who see breeding dogs as a paycheck.

  94. Thank you, NYT, for this article. Temple Grandin speaks of this feature-specific breeding in her book, "Animals Make Us Human".

  95. Bulldog and cute should not be used in the same sentence any more than baby panda and ugly.

  96. The vet bills for my first bulldog (a gift) totalled $6,000 over 9 years. The second bulldog (also a gift) came with demodetic mange, and after four years of struggling to keep him healthy, he is now on antibiotics daily for the rest of his life to prevent him from constantly bleeding from his mouth, his face, his neck and other places. He's so lovable and good natured and cooperative and he's only four. He won't live a full life because the meds will destroy his organs. The breeder should be in prison.

  97. One other thing: the ownership of purebred animals feeds into the old American desire to be, or be close to, royalty.

    If you can't be rich and powerful, hey, at least you can have a toy that the rich and powerful have. It's like some people want desperately to be a king or queen, but since they can't, maybe a little royalty will rub off on them from their purebred dogs.

    An animal with health problems is a heck of a price to pay for bragging rights, though.

  98. For many years, my parents chose to have only purebred cats. Shortly after our previous cat died, my mother's friend basically dumped an abused animal in my parents' lap. The cat has finally warmed up to my parents, and he's happy. There's nothing wrong with a rescue pet. They provide just as much companionship and are equally trainable when you provide them with the love (if we're talking about dogs, yes, I read the cat agility training article a few days ago). Why don't we just encourage more people to consider pets from their rescue leagues instead of just going straight to the breeders? Also, a lot of animal shelters in the area will pre-spay/neuter the pet. It's so much easier!

  99. It would seem that the university might do nicely with a Leavitt bulldog, partly so that they are burying them less often.

  100. None of this will change anything . Dogs will be cross bred for show , or who knows what , regardless of how it changes the breed. The problem has been talked about again, and nothing will be done to fix it. Want a dog? Get a Pound dog.

  101. Many dog breeders - especially the ones associated with dog show competitions - have an outdated idea of genetics that dates back to the 19th century.

    In reality, it's better to regularly cross members of a breed with 'wild type' relatives, since that increases genetic diversity and reduces the chances of being homozygous for a defective gene (i.e. it's less likely that both parents would carry copies of that defective gene, so the offspring would have a better genetic makeup, percentage-wise).

    This is also done in plant breeding - crossing a high-producing agricultural corn strain with a wild-type relative produces plants with better resistance to insects and drought, but which also have high yields.

    For dogs, wild-type would refer to something closer to the wolf, coyote or jackal line than the breed in question.

    19th-century racial ideology was very opposed to such 'miscegenation' - - they thought that breeds (of humans as well as dogs, cows, etc.) should be 'purebred' - but nowadays, we call that 'inbred', and we understand that narrowing the gene pool leads to a high incidence of inherited genetic disorders, and is best avoided. Even today, not everyone has grasped this concept.

    It's also now possible to use DNA analysis to identify genetically incompatible breeding partners, whose offspring would be unusually likely to inherit defective genes. This is done in human fertility counseling, with diseases such as sickle cell, thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, Tay Sach's disease, hyperinsulinism, and others. Why can't dog breeders take similar steps?

    In any case, a good mutt is the best option - and mutts should have pedigrees, too.

  102. I had a couple of thoughts when reading this story.

    The first is that you're going to have a segment of the population, specifically the ultra-libertarians, meaning the Ayn Randian Objectivists who don't see any issue with bulldogs whatsoever. That's because, according to Objectivist dogma, nature exists to serve man, and if humans want to breed an animal that has a short, unhealthy life, then the market has spoken and no government should have anything to say about this. This is utterly inhumane and idiotic to me, but that's the philosophy. Just ask around.

    The other is this: Unhealthy, unathletic, unable to get around well, and overweight? Are we talking about bulldogs or the average American? Or should we be shocked that the breed has become so popular?

  103. The rendering of what a bulldog would have looked like in the early 1800s is a much better looking dog. And it's obvious that its conformation makes for a healthier dog. I don't find the current bulldog, cute at all. After reading how breeders have distorted the breed, the modern bulldog looks UGLY. Pity the poor dogs victimized by humans.

  104. You call these dogs cute?

  105. The vet's recommended bulldog also looks much better!

  106. Apart from the fact that this is cruelty to animals, I am glad I do not have to look at those dogs on a daily basis. What on Earth is "cute" about them?

  107. I am fortunate enough to own a purebred bulldog that is a perfect example of the smaller, healthier, more athletic ideal. Pickles weighs in at 38 lbs and was the product of a natural birth, which is very rare. He is able to go on long hikes and can keep up at the dog park. I am extremely thankful that he is so fit and healthy. As mush as I absolutely love the breed with their sweet and quirky personalities, I doubt I could ever get another bully after Pickles, unless under the same circumstances. The big bullies are adorable, but they do suffer from a much lower quality of life. I am all for changing the standard of what a bulldog should be.

  108. I don't doubt most bulldog owners love their own dogs. I just question their judgment when it comes to doing right about ensuring the health of the breed. Undoubtedly some bulldogs may lead long, healthy lives. But it seems this is not the rule. Change the breeding standard and do what's in the breed's interest healthwise. It's the morally responsible thing to do.

  109. There's breeding, and there's breeding. Healthy, well-balanced working animals (even if they're more companions than working animals), chosen from a broad gene pool by professionals for their qualities of good health and intelligence, make for more healthy, well-balanced working animals. Breeding animals for arbitrary traits of appearance is dumb and, it can be argued, unethical. Look at the differences between field spaniels and show lines--they might as well be different breeds, and it's very clear which lines are healthier.

  110. I still wonder how people can put cute and bulldog in the same sentence... No matter how much the breeders work on it!

  111. Could someone please explain to me what they find cute about bull dogs? I absolutely love dogs, but for the life of me have never been able to understand what it is that people find cute about this breed. To me, they seem fat, ugly, slow, disgusting, wrinkled, sickly, miserable, and pathetic. Everyone has their own taste, but I tend to like most dog breeds and this breed just strikes me as being blatantly horrendous looking.

  112. well everybody knows tastes differ. Apart from the fact that the Bulldog-breed is unhealthy i personally find it one of the ugliest dogs around. looks like a dog that just sprinted flat faced into a wall.
    there are much more elegant dogs like golden retriever, Leonbergers, german shepards, St. Bernhards, huskys .... the list could go on forever...

  113. Breeding that creates an animal so extreme that it could not survive on its own is absurd.

    Dogs that can only reproduce via caesarians - really?
    Furless cats - why on earth perpetuate that bizarre aberration?

    Thanks for publishing this...
    Only thing you missed in this lengthy discussion of purebreeds...

    A plea to every pet lover to adopt shelter pets!!!

  114. Yes, bulldogs used to be healthy working dogs, until breeding was taken over by a bunch of perverts in England in the 1800s. Breeding dogs for unhealthy characteristics should be outlawed as cruelty to animals, which it is, and dog shows - the criteria need to be changed away from unhealthy criteria that also favor the breeding for alpha/aggressive characteristics.

    I never liked dogs or cats with pushed in faces and always felt sorry for basset hounds, bulldogs etc., not just for the face but the difficulty they appear to have in getting around. They don't appear healthy, and breeding for that is a crime.

  115. Why is dog breeding dominated by the show standards? There are a lot of people who want pets and companions, not these freakish constructions of dog fashion. Why aren't dog breeders interested in breeding healthy, friendly, intelligent hybrids instead of purebred monstrosities?

  116. Am I the only one who thinks the 1800s version of the bulldog featured in the slide show is actually much more attractive? Love the ears and the facial expression!

  117. "There's breeding, and there's breeding."
    Actual meaning: There's breeding and then there is breeding for money

  118. My dad was an executive at Mack Trucks in the 70's and 80's. We have a lot of bulldog paraphernalia around our house from that era. Those bulldogs are taller, sturdier and represent the breed more. Today's bulldogs are short, fat and unhealthy because of overbreeding. To have a dog die at 2 or 4 is a travesty when puppies are $1500 or more. Get a shelter dog.

  119. I'm so glad this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. Heat stroke, a truly horrifying consequence of bulldogs' conformation problems, is a common problem with this breed that is too often ignored until it is too late.
    -Dr. Katrin Asbury

  120. Bred for cuteness? These dogs are sinfully ugly.

  121. I've been fascinated by purebred dogs for half a century. And all that time the blame game has gone on without let-up:
    "It's those irresponsible back-yard breeders and puppy mills" or "It's the AKC, which registers dogs regardless of their health" or "It's the judges who award prizes to unhealthy exaggerated dogs" or "The whole concept of purebred dogs is wrong, mutts are the way to go". Round and round and round. The American Bulldog is simply a gross example of what happens to every single breed selected via the show ring. It is not any particular group or organization's 'fault'. Stewart Brand used to say "the system manages the system", that is, once the rules are set, the game plays out regardless of what anyone says, thinks, does. The rules are: dogs which win in the show ring are bred on, and the others are not. No outside genetics may be introduced, ever (also known as a 'closed stud book'). Everyone breeds to the current winning dogs, discarding the others. The gene pool becomes smaller and smaller, more and more homozygous, and the recessive destructive genes start to surface. At the same time, the more and more exaggerated physical type becomes the norm due to the way the elimination-process of selecting the top winners is set up.

    The hobby of showing dogs arose in the late 19th century in parallel with the idea of 'breed purity' which in human beings was called eugenics. This pathetic outdated idea has persisted mainly in dog breeding, having been discarded by other animal breeders as knowledge of genetics has improved.

    The whole system of dog shows needs to be scrapped along with the idea of 'breed purity'. But I'm not holding my breath.

  122. Leonardo da Vinci would sometimes buy all the captive birds at a market and set them free then and there. Why do people have these creatures called pets that have no choice in their masters, are confined to houses and yards when they are naturally given to square miles, fed mostly a repetitive diet of low quality and sometimes rotting food before processing, when there are so many people around to love? This is in addition to the vanity exposed in this article. Berserk anthropocentrism.

  123. I own a cross breed of Pug and Boston Terrier called a BUGG. she is 50/50 and in the winter she cannot go outside to be walked not for the cold but because it is so hard for her to breath. I am conscious to keep her weight down and even at rest her breathing or her struggle to breath sometimes keeps me awake as I worry. She also has skin problems that cannot be identified so she scratches at times till welts appear.
    She is adorable and loving and has a lot of energy but I agree with this author. Unfortunately the cuter the dog the more problems they are going to have just like the Shar-Pei.

  124. Correction: The first Handsome Dan was adopted as Yale mascot in 1889, not the 1920s, as the article implies. Handsome Dan was the first live mascot for a college or university ever.

    Thank you for bringing such a dispicable situation to light. I certainly hope that Yale decides to go with a healthier and more historically correct dog in the future.

  125. Last summer my daughter brought home a pit bull mix who had been dumped with a litter of 8 puppies, all of whom had been taken. We absolutely loved this dog, but we had to keep her segregated, as she tried to attack and kill our cats, and ultimately had to put her down, because she got out and killed a neighbor's cat. This was heartbreaking for us -- this dog was extremely loving and friendly, but also a cheerful, unrepentent predator who had survived in the wild with a litter - and for our neighbor, who lost her cat.

    People adopt purebred dogs because they want a particular temperament as well as a particular look. I loved our stray's cheerful, affectionate disposition and temperament, but by the time we found her, she was an experienced predator who represented a danger to cats and other small animals, and I wonder if that's a trait that could have been trained out of her had we adopted her as a puppy without an effort that took more time and resources than we had to spend.

    We've always adopted mixed breed dogs, but I look for mixes whose breeds tend to have a gentle disposation. With more and more people living in neighborhoods with small yards that may lack fences, it's become more difficult to have a dog who needs lots of room to run around or who isn't friendly.