Last Updated on February 2, 2023
Loyal, self-confident, and rugged, the American Bulldog is an icon of the United States.
These robust, athletic dogs make great working dogs and excellent, loyal companions and competent watchdogs.
However, with high energy levels and intensive training needs, the American Bulldog may not be the best choice for just anyone.
Are you thinking of getting an American Bulldog? Discover all you need to know about this dog breed here.
Where did the American Bulldog originate?
Bulldogs were introduced in America around the 17th century. They traveled here with immigrants from the United Kingdom, who brought their working dogs with them.
Once used for the abhorrent practice of bull-baiting, American Bulldogs became popular as utility dogs on farms where they were used for chasing stray cattle, helping with tasks, and for protection.
These breeds were prevalent in America’s Southern reaches, where they were used to control wild pigs, an invasive species with no natural predators.
Their muscular build and strong jaws were perfect for the hunting of these pigs.
The strength, endurance, and agility of this athletic breed have made them such efficient working dogs.
However, the breed wasn’t always so popular, and they almost went extinct towards the end of World War II.
The remaining populations were confined to the south until John D. Johnson and Alan Scott brought the breed back.
Today, while still sometimes used as working dogs on farms and as catch dogs, they are primarily kept as family companions.
The United Kennel Club recognized the American Bulldog in 1999, while the American Bulldog was added to the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service (FSS) in November of 2019.
These dogs can be shown in conformation rings with the UKC, NKC, ABA, ABRA, EKC, and the SACBR.
What does an American Bulldog look like?
American Bulldogs can vary slightly in appearance, as there are multiple types of this breed. Generally, the American Bulldog is a stocky, muscular dog with an athletic physique.
Their robust build is characterized by their large head, and broad shoulders, and chest. Their ears are small and semi-pricked or dropped. The ears can also be cropped.
American Bulldogs will have a black nose, and black eye rims, although slight shades of pink are also possible. Their eyes are usually brown.
Meet some mighty American Bulldogs in this video:
English Bulldog VS American Bulldog
American Bulldogs all have ancestry that links back to the Old English Bulldog brought to the United States by working-class immigrants.
These early farmers bred these dogs with others to develop a robust and agile dog that could perform various farm activities.
Originally these dogs were known as the White English Southern Bulldog in the South of America, or simply just as the Bulldog.
The name didn’t mainly refer to the dog having a specific look but more the type of hard work for which they were used.
How many types of American Bulldogs are there?
Over the years, several separate strains of Bulldogs developed as the dogs were manipulated for different tasks, be that cattle-droving, guarding, or bull-baiting.
These include the Bully or Classic type, also known as the Johnson type, and the Standard or Performance type, also known as the Scott type.
You can also find hybrids of these two types, and most modern American Bulldogs are a combination of these different types of Bulldog.
1. Johnson American Bulldog (Bully)
John D. Johnson created the Bully or Classic type by crossing old English bulldog lines with some American Bulldogs that had survived after the war.
These lines had good genetic athletic vigor, resulting in a larger, heavier dog, albeit with the English Bulldog’s shorter muzzle characteristic.
2. Scott American Bulldog (Standard)
After World War II, Alan Scott met with John D. Johnson as the two sought out specimens to revive the American Bulldog breed.
Scott began to breed some of Johnson’s line with non-Johnson catch Bulldogs from the South to create what is now known as the Scott, Standard, or Performance type American Bulldog.
These athletic dogs typically have a square head and a longer muzzle.
3. Painter American Bulldog (Margentina)
Developed in the 1970s by Joe Painter, the Painter, or Margentina, was bred specifically for fighting purposes. This line of American Bulldog was severely inbred, leading to several complications.
It is thought that American Pit Bull Terriers were crossbred with these dogs to develop healthier lineages.
These dogs are very stocky and slightly smaller in stature than other American Bulldogs.
4. Old Southern White American Bulldog (White English)
This is the oldest lineage of American Bulldogs, laying a foundation for all other types of this breed.
These white dogs are still sometimes seen in the South, but their ancient lineage has disappeared over time.
5. Hybrid American Bulldog (Multi-line)
Most American Bulldogs are considered hybrid or multi-line dogs. This is why the American Bulldog can vary so greatly in size, color, and temperament.
Breeders typically manipulate the different lines to perform specific roles or bring out certain characteristics in the puppies.
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Size: Is American Bulldog a medium or large breed?
Due to the different types of American Bulldogs, these dogs can vary significantly in size.
This breed will typically weigh between 60 and 120 pounds (27 and 54 kg) and stand between 20 and 28 inches (51 and 71 cm) tall.
Males of this breed are typically slightly bigger than females, weighing between 15 and 20 pounds (7 and 9 kg) more and standing around 2 inches (5 cm) taller.
Due to their large size and energetic natures, these dogs do best in a home where there is space to roam. A large, fenced-in yard is a necessity for the American Bulldog.
The coat of the American Bulldog
American Bulldogs have short, smooth fur that used to be mainly white. However, today, you can find these dogs in several patterns and coat colors.
Standard AKC coat colors include white and black, white and brindle, white and brown, and white and tan. Also, these dogs can have markings or patches in tan, brindle, black, red, and brown.
Although possible, blue color is considered a disqualification by the National Kennel Club Breed Standard, while merle or solid black is regarded as a cosmetic fault.
Temperament: Is an American Bulldog a good family dog?
American Bulldogs are known as being a friendly, intelligent, and happy breed. These family-loving dogs are very loyal and protective of their people.
They tend to form strong bonds with their owners and are most comfortable when performing tasks for their owners, during which they receive plenty of time and attention.
This loyal nature also makes them good guard dogs. They’re naturally suspicious and territorial when it comes to strangers.
However, American Bulldogs require experienced owners who can dedicate training and socialization time to them due to these natural protective instincts.
They need to be taught how to behave around guests and strangers from a young age to determine what is considered a real threat and what is not.
Puppies can be particularly aloof around newcomers, developing confidence as they mature.
Thus, rules and routines need to be established early and enforced as the dog grows up to retain firm boundaries.
American Bulldogs do not take well to being cooped up in a small space, such as apartments, or being left alone for too long.
They can become bored and even destructive if they’re not entertained, both mentally and physically.
Without boundaries and stimulation, they can also become chronically aggressive and fearful, which can cause them to become triggered by children or strangers.
The good news is that these dogs are very intelligent, which makes them amenable to training and highly adaptable.
Actual aggression to children and babies is not characteristic of the breed, and in fact, these dogs will love to play with kids and other pets if they are well trained and socialized.
When training an American Bulldog, it’s best to stay away from harsh, violent training methods as this can cause the breed to become stubborn and aggressive.
It’s also advisable to avoid particularly chaotic environments, such as the dog park, where the American Bulldog is introduced to multiple strangers simultaneously.
How to take care of your American Bulldog
Even if this breed is low maintenance, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for and raising an American Bulldog.
When exercising your American Bulldog, try and avoid hot weather. They’re somewhat brachycephalic due to their short snouts, making breathing a challenge in warm weather.
Exercising your American Bulldog
This highly active breed requires active families that can provide them with plenty of walks, lots of playtime, and 1 to 2 hours of daily exercise.
They make fantastic running and jogging partners and love to participate in tug-of-war games, training exercises, frisbee, football, and rough and tumble games.
Due to their dense muscular build, they love to romp, roughhouse, and wrestle, and their good agility means they make a great sporting companion.
They’re also known to jump more than three feet vertically into the air!
Unlike other Bulldogs, these dogs are also good swimmers, although they do not have a particular affinity for the water. They will swim if they have to, not because they particularly want to.
Fences at home and leads when out on a walk are necessary to keep American Bulldogs from wandering off.
Grooming: Do American Bulldog dogs shed?
The American Bulldog is a minimal to moderate shedder but has a coat that’s easy to maintain.
Regular weekly brushing is sufficient for keeping their short coat under control, especially during shedding season. Baths are only necessary when your dog is particularly dirty.
Their ears should be checked weekly, their nails trimmed monthly, and their teeth brushed regularly.
These dogs also tend to drool more than other breeds, so they will need to be wiped down regularly to prevent excessive slobber.
American Bulldog’s food consumption
American Bulldogs should be fed a diet that is formulated for large dogs with a high energy level.
These dogs mature much later than other breeds, not reaching full adulthood until around two.
Until at least 14 months old, your American Bulldog puppy should be fed a large-breed puppy food specifically designed for slow growth.
Puppies should not have any added calcium in their diet to ensure their bones and joints do not develop too rapidly.
While adult dogs can be given additional supplements that support the joints, muscles, and coat.
Adult American Bulldogs typically eat about 4 cups of dry dog food each day.
What health problems do American Bulldogs have?
American Bulldogs are a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of between 10 and 16 years.
Some common health problems that plague this breed and can impact their life expectancy include:
- Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL)
- Kidney disorders
- ACL tears
- Cherry eye
- Bone cancer
Some American Bulldogs also develop allergies. Also, American Bulldogs can suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia, mainly if they develop obesity early in life.
To decrease your dog’s chances of developing bone or joint problems, such as hip dysplasia, in their older years, it is best to avoid non-impact exercises when your American Bulldog is still a puppy.
Specific DNA tests can help breeders screen American Bulldogs to test for health issues such as NCL and Ichthyosis.
Health tests for Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 1, Degenerative Myelopathy, Hyperuricosuria, and Deafness are recommended for this breed.
The Penn Hip (Pennsylvania Hip Improvement project) or OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) also offer hip and elbow evaluations for potential breeding animals.
How much does an American Bulldog puppy cost?
While once confined to the South, American Bulldogs are now freely available around most of America.
American Bulldog puppies can vary significantly in price according to their breeding stock, but on average, they sell for between $1200 and $1500.
American Bulldog breeders
If you plan to buy an American Bulldog puppy from a breeder, be sure to ask for a health guarantee and medical history that should show you if your puppy is predisposed to any genetic diseases.
Here are some American Bulldog breeders to get you started as you look for a new puppy:
- Grand Future American Bulldog Kennel (Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California)
- Bull Pull American Bulldogs (Baltimore, Maryland)
- Blasco Family Bulldogs (Colorado)
American Bulldog rescue / for adoption
Due to this breed’s demanding requirements, it is not uncommon to find adult American Bulldogs at rescue or adoption centers looking for a home.
The non-profit American Bulldog Rescue is a countrywide organization specializing in finding homes for dogs of this breed.
This is the best place to start your search if you are looking for an American Bulldog in need of a new home.
What are American Bulldog mixes?
American Bulldogs are often intentionally or unintentionally crossed with other breeds to create some exciting mixes. Here are some of the most commonly seen American Bulldog mixes:
Pitbull American Bulldog mix (Bullypit)
The Bullypit is an American Bulldog Pitbull mix. While they may look intimidating, these crosses make fantastic guard dogs. While highly protective, they are also cheerful and friendly with the right owner.
Boxer American Bulldog mix (Bulloxer)
The Bulloxer is a Boxer Bulldog mix that combines the best characteristics of both breeds.
He has a muscular look but an affectionate, curious, and lovely entertaining personality, thanks mainly to the Boxer parent.
Labrador Retriever American Bulldog mix (American Bullador)
The American Bullador can resemble either parent when it comes to appearance, but either way, they are bound to have a loyal, dutiful personality.
The Labrador Retriever adds an even-tempered, calmer nature to the American Bulldog.
American Staffordshire Terrier Bulldog mix (American Bull Staffy)
A stocky, muscular dog, this crossbreed is an agile working-class dog. With the proper training, this medium-sized dog can also be a devoted companion.
Rottie American Bulldog Mix (American Bullweiler)
An intelligent and observant hybrid, the American Bullweiler is robust, muscular, and athletic.
These dogs make excellent watchdogs as well as fantastic companions provided they get the physical exercise they require.
Other American Bulldog Mixes
- Pointer American Bulldog Mix
- Mastiff American Bulldog Mix (American Masti-Bull)
- German Shepherd American Bulldog Mix (American Bulldog Shepherd)
- Dalmatian American Bulldog Mix (Bullmatian)
American Bulldog vs. Other Breeds
The American Bulldog’s appearance means these dogs are often confused with other bully breeds such as the Dogo Argentino or American Pit Bull Terrier.
These dogs also share similar temperaments with other utility, guarding, and bully type breeds, such as the Rottweiler, a German type of Bulldog.
Dogo Argentino vs. American Bulldog
As their name suggests, the Dogo Argentino has a history that links the breed back to Argentina.
Although similar in looks to the American Bulldog, the Dogo Argentino is not as affectionate as the American Bulldog.
These dogs are some of the best watchdogs but not such an excellent choice for families with children and other pets.
American Pit Bull Terrier vs. American Bulldog
While both highly muscular breeds, the American Bulldog tends to be larger than the American Pit Bull Terrier.
The Pit Bull is a slightly more defined breed with a tapered head, while the American Bulldog has a broader chest and square, flat chest.
Both breeds are energetic and wary of strangers. However, the American Bulldog is not known to be the aggressive attack dog for which the American Pit Bull Terrier has a reputation.
American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff) vs. American Bulldog
Both of these breeds are characterized by their athletic, powerful physiques.
The Staffordshire Terrier is, however, considerably smaller than the American Bulldog. Both love to be around people and are very confident dogs.
American Bully vs. American Bulldog
American Bullies and American Bulldogs are not the same breeds. Although large, powerful dogs, the American Bulldog is slightly bigger with loose, wrinkly skin and not quite as many muscles.
The American Bulldog also tends to be more fun-loving and friendly than the American Bully.
Who should get an American Bulldog?
American Bulldogs are not well suited for first-time pet owners.
These dogs require a firm, fair owner who knows how to handle their powerful, headstrong personality and provide them with patient training and plenty of care.
With proper limitations, rules, and obedience training, these high-octane dogs can make loving family members.
Do you have an American Bulldog at home? Let us know all about them in the comments below.
Further reading: Similar breeds to the American Bulldog
Janine is an experienced content writer and travel journalist based in Cape, Town, South Africa.
Raised by a bundle of botanists, researchers, and biologists, she is passionate about things related to the animal kingdom, including, our furry friends. However, as a terrible allergy sufferer, she is limited in her pet selection and so has grown up surrounded by curly-haired Poodles.