Most Common Traits of the Bull Terrier Breed (Is It Right for You?)

Published February 24, 2022
Woman doing exercises outdoors with her Bull Terrier dog

Bull Terriers, often referred to as bullies, are an independent and goofy breed. These dogs make loyal, affectionate companions, but have a tendency to be stubborn. If you've just become the proud owner of a Bull Terrier or are interested in acquiring one, you should learn about the unique traits the breed boasts.

Breed History and Origin

The Bull Terrier's origin is a complex one. These dogs are the result of numerous breed crosses. The first Bull Terriers were created in Britain in the 18th century after breeding the Bulldog with various terriers, particularly the English Terrier (a now extinct breed). The reasoning behind creation of the breed was to produce a fighting dog with the power of a Bulldog and the lively spirit of a terrier.

The breed transitioned from this "bull and terrier" mix to a true Bull Terrier after Englishman James Hinks standardized the breed in the 1860s. They're sometimes called the English Bull Terrier due to their country of origin. However, this breed is not to be confused with the American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as these are distinct breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the modern Bull Terrier in 1897.

Miniature Bull Terrier

The Miniature Bull Terrier was developed as a result of breeding down the standard Bull Terrier. This smaller version was intended to be a more manageable sized dog with the same qualities. The mini Bull Terrier was recognized as a distinct breed within England as early as 1939, but the AKC didn't recognize them until 1992.

Characteristics of the Bull Terrier

Bull Terriers have a recognizable appearance and an equally charismatic personality.

Bull terrier breed card

Appearance

Bull Terriers are sturdy dogs with a muscular frame. The standard size is larger than the miniature variety. Females typically reach 21 inches tall at the shoulder and average 45 to 55 pounds, while males are about 22 inches tall and 55 to 65 pounds.

The breed has a stocky appearance with a broad chest, sloping shoulders, muscular neck, and well-developed legs. They have small, triangular ears that stand erect and a short, thick tail. Eyes are also small and triangular. However, the head is the most distinct feature of this breed. Bull Terriers have a recognizable oval head that many describe as being "egg-shaped."

There are several available coat colors. These include white, red, fawn, brindle, black brindle, white and red, white and brindle, white and fawn, or tri-colored (white, black, and tan). They may have markings on the face, ears, chest, or legs.

Temperament

Bull Terriers are gentle and friendly dogs that can make wonderful companions. These dogs are big goofballs who love playing and cuddling. Despite their numerous positive qualities, Bull Terriers are notoriously stubborn. They can also have dominant tendencies toward other dogs if not socialized properly.

Due to their loyal personalities, they are often highly protective of their family. This makes them excellent watchdogs, but they can be wary of strangers. Early socializing with unknown people, children, other dogs, and small pets is critical.

Exercise Requirements

Bullies are active dogs that need a minimum of 45 minutes of physical activity each day. You can achieve this through leash walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, fetch, play sessions in a yard, or dog sports like flyball and lure coursing. If a Bull Terrier isn't given the opportunity to burn off energy in a productive, physical way, they can become destructive out of boredom.

Man with Bull Terrier in park, dog chasing ball

Training

Because these dogs can be headstrong, training may be a challenge for some owners. This breed is best suited for an experienced owner, and early training is a must. Aim to be as consistent and patient as possible when working with your Bull Terrier. These dogs are fairly sharp, so they will learn commands once you can work through their stubbornness. This breed is not an ideal choice for novice dog owners.

Begin socializing this breed at a young age to ensure they get along with everyone. These dogs are known to be very protective and aloof around strangers. Get them used to meeting new people, children, and other pets as early as possible. Some Bull Terriers become so attached to their owners that they may experience separation anxiety when left alone, which owners can address through training.

Health Concerns

This breed is prone to some health conditions that can affect their lifespan and quality of life. Some of these diseases include the following.

  • Allergies: Skin allergies are prevalent in this breed. This can lead to uncomfortable itching, irritated skin, and chronic ear infections.
  • Eye disorders: Bullies can develop eye problems like cataracts, ectropion, and dry eye.
  • Polycystic kidney disease: Bull Terrier polycystic kidney disease (BTPKD) reportedly affects 26 percent of members of this breed and often leads to irreversible kidney failure.
  • Heart disease: These dogs and predisposed to heart conditions, including mitral valve dysplasia.
  • Luxating patella: This genetic disorder is characterized by dislocation of the kneecap, which can cause limping and discomfort.
  • Deafness: This breed is genetically prone to deafness. This applies to both white Bull Terriers and those with any coat color. It's possible for a bully to have hearing in just one ear or neither. Testing is available to evaluate your dog's hearing ability.
  • Lethal acrodermatitis: White Bull Terriers are prone to this fatal skin disease.

Lifespan

The Bull Terrier's average lifespan is between 10 and 14 years. However, at least a few members of this breed have surpassed this range. Oscar, a Bull Terrier from the United Kingdom, died at the ripe age of 20 in 2015. A Bull Terrier and Staffordshire mix named Maximum Bodacious lived to be 24 years old and earned the title of one of the oldest dogs in the world.

Grooming

Bull Terriers have a short coat that does not require much grooming attention. Owners should aim to brush their Bull Terrier weekly and bathe them once every three months or as needed. Members of the breed with skin problems may need more frequent baths with a medicated or soothing shampoo.

Fun Facts About the Breed

  • Bullseye, the Target mascot, was a Bull Terrier.
  • Budweiser ads featured a Bull Terrier named Spuds MacKenzie in the 1980s.
  • The Incredible Journey, a novel and film of the same name, featured a character named Bodger, a white Bull Terrier.
  • Bullies are the only dog breed who have triangular eyes.

Where to Buy or Adopt a Bull Terrier

If you'd like to bring a Bull Terrier puppy into your home, you will pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 for a well-bred puppy. Only purchase a puppy from a responsible and ethical breeder. The Bull Terrier Club of America has a breeder directory where prospective owners can find the contact information of breeders around the United States. They also provide a list of questions to ask breeders when searching for a quality puppy.

Bull Terrier Puppy

You could also acquire a puppy or adult in need of a home through a Bull Terrier rescue. A few rescues include the following.

Is the Bull Terrier the Right Breed for You?

The Bull Terrier is a devoted and clown-life companion. These dogs need daily exercise and consistent, patient training. If you are a first-time dog owner or a pet parent looking for a lapdog, this breed may not be the right choice. However, if you commit the time needed for training and are ready to bring a silly, active dog into your life who will remain by your side through thick and thin, the Bull Terrier could be perfect for you.

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Most Common Traits of the Bull Terrier Breed (Is It Right for You?)