The Bull Terrier is a brave, strong, and intelligent breed. Though gentle with their families, Bull Terriers can be too rambunctious around younger children. They’re incredibly active and loving dogs. And thanks to their undying devotion, affection, and protective character, they make excellent pets.
Bull Terrier History
In the 1830s, bullfighting enthusiasts wanted dogs with greater agility. To meet this demand, breeders began developing the Bull Terrier. They crossed Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier and threw Spanish Pointer into the mix, too. But the resulting breed didn’t perform as well as bullfighting enthusiasts had hoped, and the Bull Terrier’s popularity as a bullfighter decreased.
Fortunately, their popularity as a pet increased. When breeders produced an all-white Bull Terrier in the 1850s, people immediately adored the breed. And over the years, people have tried adding Dalmatian, Greyhound, Foxhound, and Whippet into the Bull Terrier bloodline.
Still extremely popular in both the United States and Europe, Bull Terriers have proven to be excellent guard dogs. The Bull Terrier Club started in 1887 in England. And eight years later, the breed received American Kennel Club recognition.
Bull Terrier Traits
Bull Terriers are hearty and big-boned—yet agile and powerful—dogs that move about in a carefree manner. They have full, round bodies with muscular shoulders.
Coat and Coloring
Bull Terrier coats are short and stiff. They may be all-white or a myriad of colors, including black, tan, and brindle.
Distinctive Physical Traits
A long, oval-shaped head, upright and pointed ears, and small, triangular eyes are signature characteristics of the Bull Terrier.
Bull Terrier Temperament
Bull Terriers typically have playful personalities. They’re charming and can be mischievous—in an almost clownish or comical way. Though they can be headstrong at times, Bull Terriers make loyal, lifelong companions.
These dogs are usually good with other pets. But they may be unpredictable or unfriendly toward unfamiliar animals. Interaction with strangers, however, shouldn’t be a problem. Bull Terriers are very sociable dogs, and they quickly accept others if introduced appropriately.
Bull Terriers can become destructive if left home alone for long periods. They may also develop food aggression in multi-pet households. But with proper supervision and training, they usually get along well with other animals in the home. Because of their stubborn and independent nature, Bull Terriers require patient, reward-based training methods.
Bull Terrier Care
Bull Terriers need a high-quality diet that is age-appropriate. As puppies, their food should include a natural source of calcium. During periods of rapid growth and bone development, you can also meet this need with high-calcium treats (e.g., yogurt, whole milk, broccoli).
This breed is prone to weight problems. So, take care with the amount of food you give your Bull Terrier, and reduce portions if your pup gains weight. Also, remember that too many treats, in addition to regular meals, can cause obesity.
The Bull Terrier’s coat requires little maintenance to stay in tip-top shape. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush, hound glove, or rubber grooming mitt/tool will help remove loose hair.
As with all breeds, regular nail trimming is a must for Bull Terriers. Overly long nails can cause the dog pain, and may even contribute to walking and running problems.
Bull Terriers like to play and require moderate amounts of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Long walks around the neighborhood with the family or active games should do the trick. Bull Terriers make good jogging partners, too.
Because of their great strength and ability, Bull Terriers also tend to enjoy canine sports that involve obedience, tracking, agility, and coursing ability tests.
Both early socialization and gentle (but firm) training are essential for bringing out the Bull Terrier’s best qualities. This breed often prefers frivolous and fun activities over working dog jobs. That said, Bull Terriers do well as bomb detection dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, service dogs, assistance dogs, health-alert dogs, and therapy dogs.
A great way to start a training routine with your pup is to use positive reinforcement along with patience and humor.
Bull Terrier Genetic Health Conditions
Lethal Acrodermatitis (Discovered in the Bull Terrier)
Lethal acrodermatitis (LAD) is a disease characterized by poor growth, immune system deficiency, skin problems and infections.
Primary Lens Luxation
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) is a condition that can cause the lens of the eye to become loose and eventually displace. The disorder is caused by degeneration of the fibers that hold the lens in place.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a condition causing formation of cysts in the kidneys which leads to chronic kidney failure.
Knowing if your Bull Terrier is a carrier or at-risk for these conditions can help you and your veterinarian plan for your pup’s lifelong care. With Wisdom Panel™ Premium, you can get results for over 200 genetic health tests.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Annette Louviere, DVM