Owner's Guide to the Classic American Bulldog

American bulldog pup lying in sunny room

The American Bulldog is one of the fastest growing breeds in the United States, despite not being recognized by many breed registries. The breed has been accepted into the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service. This powerful, intelligent and loyal dog can make an excellent companion for the right dog owner.

American bulldog breed card

Origin and History

The American Bulldog's ancestry dates back to 1121 B.C. and it has existed in the United States since the 17th century. It has also been called the English White, White English, Alabama Bulldog, Southern Bulldog, Old Southern White, American Pit Bulldog, and Bulldog. The current name emerged in the 1980s. The dog was originally bred for bull, bear, and buffalo baiting and as "catch dogs" in the Southeast. Farmers used them for general protection and for catching big animals.

Registry and Types

Recognized by the American Bully Kennel Club, the American Bulldog consists of two main types: the Scott and the Johnson, named after the breeders who created them. Each type has its own distinct characteristics:

American Bulldog laying down at home
  • Johnson types tend to be larger and stockier, with undershot lower jaws like an English Bulldog. Mostly white, they look like Bull Mastiffs or English Bulldogs.
  • Scott types have a more level bite and are smaller. They look more like an American Pit Bull Terrier, but they larger and with longer, more athletic legs. They're usually white with brown, black, or red patches, although some are all white.
  • A third type, the hybrid, blends the Scott and Johnson varieties. A few other types in the Southeast are smaller subsets of the breed.

American Bulldogs Compared to English and French Bulldogs

American Bulldogs are not the same as English or French Bulldogs. While all bulldogs have similar origins, they have different characteristics.

Young boy with an American Bulldog
  • An American Bulldog is much larger, weighing up to 120 pounds, and is primarily a working and protection dog.
  • English Bulldogs, also known as British Bulldogs, weigh up to about 55 pounds. Today, they are bred as companion dogs. They have much stockier bodies and brachycephalic faces.
  • French Bulldogs weigh up to 30 pounds and were first created as miniature English Bulldogs. They have perky ears and less droopy facial features.

American Bulldog Compared to the Pit Bull

A pit bull is not a purebred dog, but it does share a similar ancestry with the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Even though they look similar, the American Bulldog is descended from the English Bulldog, while pit bull-types are descended from bulldogs crossed with terriers. The American Bully is also often confused with the American Bulldog.

American Pit Bull Terrier and American Bulldog

While American Pit Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs look similar and share many characteristics, they are clearly different dogs when viewed next to each other. In the photo above, the white dog on the right is an American Bulldog with a clearly thicker, heavier framer, larger body and fuller face. The American Pit Bull Terrier on the left is also a muscular dog, but smaller, with a more agile build and a less jowly face.

Breed Characteristics

The American Bulldog is a powerful dog with a unique look. This utility breed is athletic and friendly, and has been a fixture in parts of the United States for a long time. American Bulldogs are high-energy, and require attentive owners to ensure they are properly trained and given enough stimulation to thrive.

Appearance

Male American Bulldogs can weigh from 66 to 130 pounds, and females can weigh between 60 and 90 pounds. Males are anywhere from 20 to 28 inches high at the shoulder, while females are in the 20 to 24 inches range at the shoulder. Life expectancy is 10 to 16 years.

They tend to be muscular dogs that range from stocky to athletic. American Bulldogs are sometimes mistaken for other "pit bull-type" breeds, though they are not necessarily classed in this grouping. Though the American Bulldog is often confused for a "pit bull," they are not part of this category.

American Bulldog puppy in a field

Temperament

The American Bulldog is a powerful dog that requires training. Early socialization is a must.

  • They tend to be affectionate with their humans and can make good family dogs with older children.
  • They can be protective around strangers and will bark to warn threats away, but overall are not heavy barkers.
  • They were bred to be working dogs and need to have adequate mental stimulation and physical activity to be happy.
  • They can do fine with cats and other dogs but are known to be aggressive with other unfamiliar animals or dogs of the same sex in their home.
  • Inter-aggression situations can arise in the home between American Bulldogs and other pets, even ones they have been raised with, and while many American Bulldogs do not display these behaviors, owners should be aware of the potential for conflict.

Training

American bulldogs are extremely intelligent, making them relatively easy to train. However, with intelligence comes a stubborn streak, so remaining positive and consistent is key. They are active in sports like agility training and weight pulling, and some even enjoy playing and swimming in water.

As with any breed, early socialization is also critical in making them a well-rounded adult dog. Although an adult dog can also be socialized, the earlier socialization begins, the easier it will be for your dog to acclimate to new experiences.

Exercise Requirements

The American Bulldog is a playful breed with high activity requirements, and they thrive in households that can keep them busy with frequent walks and playtime. They can be kept in apartments as long as you have the ability to exercise them throughout the day, although they are recommended for those living a more rural lifestyle.

Health

American Bulldogs are prone to for a number of possible diseases and health problems.

White American Bulldog up close
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia can lead to complete loss of mobility in advanced cases.
  • Skin allergies can manifest as an especially dry or oily coat, sometimes with visible flakes of skin.
  • Demodectic mange causes the dog to feel incredibly itchy all the time.
  • Deafness can be hereditary and can start within weeks after birth if not already at birth.
  • Entropion is when the eyelid "rolls" inward and hair rubs up against the cornea.
  • Thyroid issues can lead to lethargy, dullness and weight gain.
  • Brachycephalic Syndrome affects flatter-faced varieties.

Lifespan

The American Bulldog is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, though some members of the breed may live to be 14 years old.

Grooming

Their short coat requires minimal grooming, aside from regular brushing and a few baths during the year. They do shed quite a bit, despite having short hair. American Bulldog coloring is either all white or a mix of white with brindle, fawn, red, or tan patches. Many, though not all, American Bulldogs will drool, so be prepared to deal with some slobber.

Regular brushing helps control shedding, but American Bulldogs do not have undercoats, and do not blow their coats. They are relatively easy to maintain, and their short coat made up of fine hair sheds year-round.

Fun Facts About American Bulldogs

  • American Bulldogs can be found in popular media. Chance, the dog from the beloved family film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, was an American Bulldog. Other movies featuring American Bulldogs are Joe, Cheaper by the Dozen and Petey in the remake of the Little Rascals.
  • Game company Zynga Inc.'s logo features a silhouette of the owner's American Bulldog Zinga.
  • American Bulldogs are known for having unusually large litters for dogs of their size. A pregnant female can have up to 11 puppies!
  • Like most other bulldog breeds, American Bulldogs can be "talkative" and speak to their owners in a variety of snorts, grumbles, and other amusing noises.

Purchasing or Adopting an American Bulldog

If you want to find a purebred American Bulldog puppy, you can find a breeder via the American Bulldog Association and the United Kennel Club. Expect to pay around $775 to $800 for an American Bulldog puppy, although papered dogs with titles can run as high as $1,600 to $8,000.

Rescue Organizations

If you prefer to rescue, try contacting the following breed-specific rescues:

American Bulldog puppy chewing on rawhide

Additional resources include Petfinder and Save-a-Rescue. Expand your search to include pit bull, bully breed, and large dog rescues, and of course, check with your local shelter too!

Is This the Breed for You?

The American Bulldog does best with an owner who can meet their needs responsibly. This includes providing active and regular physical activity, ensuring early and continued socialization throughout their life, and dealing with possible aggression. Be aware that some people and government entities may see your dog as a pit bull and subject you to Breed Specific Legislation as well as difficulty getting home insurance. BSL laws vary widely, so you should check your location to see if there is a breed ban and if American Bulldogs are included.

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Owner's Guide to the Classic American Bulldog