Is the Bull Terrier the Right Breed of Dog for Me?

Last Updated on April 24, 2023

The Bull Terrier is a playful, mischievous breed. These comical dogs can have a stubborn side, but they are loyal, devoted dogs that make great companions. Are you looking for a Bull Terrier to call your own? 

Before you go out and get one of these puppies, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about this breed, from their history to their energy levels and maintenance needs.

Two white English Bull Terrier dogs
Two beautiful English Bull Terriers

Where Did the Bull Terrier Originate? 

The Bull Terrier, unfortunately, has a turbulent history of being used in blood sports. The ancestor of the Bull Terrier, Bulldogs were bred for the abhorrent practice of bull-baiting in the early 1800s. 

This practice included unleashing the dogs on a staked bull in a fight to the death, with spectators betting on the outcome. While this was a popular pastime in the UK in the 13th century, it was fortunately deemed illegal in the 1830s.

The practice did continue underground for several years, transforming into the sport of dogfighting in which a dog was pitted against another dog.

Bulldogs proved too slow for these fights and were so crossbred with Old English Terriers to create dogs that had the power of the Bulldog but the animated, feisty personality of the Terrier. 

This is how the Bull and Terrier came to be in the 19th century. These dogs were known as the gladiators of the dogfighting world.

When dogfighting too was outlawed, Bull Terriers became fashionable companions to gentlemen. They became known as the “White Cavaliers” because of their courage but also their courtliness.

Breeders then started to refine the look of these dogs while putting effort into creating a dog with a sweet, loving temperament.

These dogs were frequently crossed with Spanish Pointers, Dalmatians, Borzois, Rough Collies, and Whippets to increase their size, agility, and elegance.

Englishman James Hinks is credited for creating the Bull Terrier breed we know today in the early 1860s. He used the original Bulldog Terrier crosses, his own white Bulldog named Madman, and the now-extinct White English Terrier to create his breed.

While Hink’s dogs were originally pure white, by the end of the 20th-century, various color options for the breed could be seen. Brindle varieties also became available as Bull Terriers were crossed with Staffordshires in the 1900s.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1885, and they have been a popular breed in the USA ever since.

Today, these dogs are frequently used in bomb detection, search and rescue, and health-care work. They sometimes also occasionally serve as therapy dogs.

Some famous Bull Terriers include General George Patton’s dog Willy, the Target mascot Bullseye, Spuds Mackenzie, a Bull Terrier that featured in several Budweiser adverts, and Rufus, the 2006 Westminster-winning show dog.

What Does an English Bull Terrier Look Like?

An English Bull Terrier standing sideways
Source: @the_adventures.of_luna / IG

Bull Terriers are bog-boned robust dogs. Their body shape is built for agility and power with rounded, muscular shoulders. The tail is long and carried horizontally. 

Their egg-shaped head characterizes these muscular dogs. The top of the skull looks flat when viewed from the front, with a gentle curve towards the nose.

The nose should be black, bent towards the floor, and feature wide, well-developed nostrils. The lower jaw is solid and deep.

The dolichocephalic elongated head features naturally upright, pointed ears and small, triangular-shaped eyes, which are dark and deep-set.

What breed size is a Bull Terrier?

Bull Terriers are medium to large-sized dogs, standing between 21 and 22 inches (53 and 56 cm) tall and weighing between 50 and 70 pounds (23 and 32 kg).

Generally, males of this breed are heavier, weighing more than 55 pounds (25 kg), while female Bull Terriers are slightly smaller, typically weighing between 45 and 55 pounds (20 and 25 kg)

Miniature Bull Terrier vs. Standard Bull Terrier

You do get a smaller version of the Bull Terrier known as the Miniature Bull Terrier. These dogs stand between 10 and 14 inches (25 and 36 cm) tall and weigh between 25 and 33 pounds (11 and 15 kg).

These small dogs are very similar to the Bull Terrier in appearance, personality, and health concerns. Miniature Bull Terriers were accepted as their own breed by the American Kennel Club in 1991.

Meet Sherlock and Wendy, two adorable Miniature Bull Terriers, in this video: 

Coat of the Bull Terrier

Bull Terries have a short, flat, harsh coat that should be shiny and glossy. The dog’s skin should fit tightly and shouldn’t be loose on the body.

The coat of the Bull Terrier comes in two variants, namely white and any other color, which can be solid, with white markings, or even brindle. Some of the common colored Bull Terrier varieties include:

  • Black & Tan
  • Black Brindle
  • Black Brindle & White
  • Black Tan & White
  • Brindle
  • Brindle & White
  • Red
  • Red & White
  • White
  • White & Black Brindle
  • White & Brindle
  • White & Red
  • White Black & Tan
  • Fawn
  • Fawn & White
  • Fawn Smut
  • Fawn Smut & White
  • Red Smut
  • Red Smut & White
  • White & Fawn
  • White & Fawn Smut
  • White & Red Smut

Temperament: Is a Bull Terrier a Good Family Dog?

A Bull Terrier sitting on a dog bed
Source: @maverick_thebullterrier / IG

Despite their history in the fighting ring, Bull Terriers are lovers, not fighters. They are known to be super affectionate to all members of the family, including children. 

However, these dogs have larger-than-life, clown-like personalities. This wild nature can cause them to inadvertently knock over small children but for older kids, they will be the perfect playmate.

They don’t like to be left alone though for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety.

Bull Terriers have the tenacity and courage of the Bulldog breed with the feisty, fun-loving side of the Terrier group.

These dogs are independent free-thinkers that combine a strong work ethic with a love for play. They can be easily trained if the method of training is deemed fun by these stubborn dogs. 

As a result, you want to use plenty of positive reinforcement techniques when training Bull Terriers, with rewards in the form of food and toys. 

If you’re not firm in your training, the Bull Terrier will make up his own rules. They can also be challenging to housetrain.

These dogs are thus not recommended for timid, first-time pet owners. These are not yappy dogs; they will generally only bark with good reason. 

Is a Bull Terrier considered an aggressive breed?

Like most Terriers and Bulldog breeds, Bull Terriers can have an aggressive streak if not well trained and socialized. This aggressive streak is mainly focused on other dogs.

As a result, your Bull Terrier puppy will need plenty of socialization from a young age, and this training should continue throughout your dog’s whole life.

These dogs will also likely go after cats and other small furry animals like squirrels and bunnies that enter your property. These dogs can also get quite possessive and jealous if not appropriately trained.

They can also chew and get quite destructive if not given adequate attention.

How to Take Care of Your English Bull Terrier Dog?

Owning a dog is a big responsibility, and along with the obvious requirements of food and shelter, you will need to provide your dog with love, exercise, and more.

These dogs need to live indoors with their family and aren’t well suited for cold and damp climates. In fact, because of their short coats, Bull Terriers may need to wear sweaters in winter.

An English Bull Terrier standing in a yard

Exercising your Bull Terrier

Your high-energy Bull Terrier will need daily exercise and playtime of between 30 and 60 minutes. A moderate exercise regime that includes both physical and mental stimulation is necessary for these active dogs.

These dogs will love playing outdoors with a ball. They will also want to be part of all your daily activities.

As this breed was developed for sport, they are great at strength and agility challenges. They will excel at obedience training, weight pulling, carting, dog sports like flyball, tracking, and canine agility tests.

If they do not get sufficient exercise, these dogs can become destructive. Your dog can die from a gastrointestinal blockage if he eats something he isn’t supposed to, so try not to leave these dogs alone for the whole day.

Grooming: Do Bull Terriers shed?

The Bull Terriers coat requires minimal maintenance, and they are not heavy shedders. Brushing your pet weekly with a soft-bristle brush or a hound glove should be sufficient to remove any loose hair and dirt in the coat.

If your dog is filthy, you can also get away with just wiping him down with a damp cloth rather than a full-on bath.

These dogs may need to be brushed more frequently during shedding season, which happens twice a year with the changing of the seasons.

Your Bull Terrier’s ears will need to be inspected regularly and cleaned, while your dog’s nails will need to be trimmed as long nails can cause pain when running and have the danger of being torn off.

Bull Terrier food consumption

Bull Terriers need high-quality dog food. When they are puppies, their food should contain good natural calcium levels, which is necessary for building strong bones and teeth.

Some breeders even give their dogs yogurt or whole milk to boost their calcium levels. You can also try adding calcium-rich foods like broccoli to your dog’s diet.

You do need to watch the calorie consumption of this breed as they are prone to putting on weight and developing obesity.

The recommended amount of food this breed will need to consume daily is between 2 and 4 and a quarter cups of food, divided between two meals. 

Do Bull Terriers Have Health Problems?

A senior Bull Terrier
Source: @maritime.bullterriers / IG

Bull Terriers have a life expectancy of between 12 and 13 years with proper diet, care, and exercise.

A breeder should show proof of health testing for the Bull Terrier parent dogs to clear them of any kidney and heart issues.

In addition, Bull Terrier puppies should be tested for hearing before leaving the breeder, especially in the case of pure white puppies. 

The exact recommended health tests from the national breed club include a cardiac exam, UP: UC kidney-urine analysis, patella evaluation tests, and BAER testing

Some common illnesses that can affect the Bull Terrier’s life span include the following:

1. Hereditary Nephritis: This severe kidney disease is caused by a malfunction of the kidney’s filters or underdeveloped kidneys.

This results in high protein levels in your dog’s urine, and Bull Terriers with this disease typically don’t live longer than three years old due to kidney failure.

Because of this, Bull Terriers should have a UP: UC test every year from when they’re around 18 months old. Bull Terriers with too much protein in the urine should not be bred.

Also, Bull Terriers can suffer from renal dysplasia, another kidney disease in which the kidneys fail to ever mature.

2. Deafness: White Bull Terriers are often deaf in one or both of their ears. The BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test will ensure that a puppy’s hearing is normal.

Puppies that are deaf in both ears will require specialized training and very patient owners.

3. Heart Disease: Bull Terriers can develop heart murmurs which are indicators of heart disease. Some Bull Terriers outgrow these conditions or live happily with them, while others can be more serious. 

4. Skin Problems: Skin issues and allergies are common in Bull Terriers, particularly those dogs with a white coat. Rashes, sores, and irritations are common amongst these dogs.

Insect bites, such as those from fleas and sometimes mosquitoes and mites, can produce a generalized allergic response of hives, rash, and itching.

Allergic reactions can also be caused by chemical cleaners, pollen, dust, mildew, or certain foods. 

5. Spinning: Bull Terriers have an obsession with chasing their tail. In some dogs, this is so severe that they do it for hours on end and refuse to eat or drink.

This habit begins to form at around six months old and is not just boredom but a type of seizure.

6. Lens Luxation: This happens due to the deterioration of ligaments in the eye and results in the lens becoming dislodged. Other eye issues common in Bull Terriers include Ectropion and Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or Dry Eye.

How Much Does an English Bull Terrier Puppy Cost?

A white English Bull Terrier puppy
Source: @barkleyboy32 / IG

A Bull Terrier puppy will set you back between $1,200 and $2,000 from a reputable breeder. However top quality show dogs of this breed can cost as much as $4,500. 

Be sure never to buy a Bull Terrier from a puppy mill or a backyard breeder who can’t provide you with health clearances for your dog. You could end up with a dog with health issues or a bad temperament.

Bull Terrier breeders

It’s essential to research a breeder thoroughly before buying a puppy from them. Try to visit their facilities, meet the parent dogs, and see the environment they’re raised in.

Also, be sure to look for reviews on your chosen breeder to see what other dog owners have to say about them.

Many health problems only present themselves after a dog reaches two years old, so dogs cannot be health tested before this age. As a result, you should look for breeders with parent dogs older than two or three years old.

The Bull Terrier Club of America has a list of breeders to help you find a reputable breeder in your area. Here are a few to get you started in your search for the perfect Bull Terrier puppy:

  • Jarrogue Bull Terriers, CA
  • Glentom Bull Terriers, AR
  • Zoozoos Bull Terriers, AZ

Bull Terrier rescues or for adoption

Even though Bull Terriers are purebred dogs, you might still be lucky enough to find one at a shelter. This is because people buy these dogs without understanding what goes into owning one.

If you’re looking for a dog to adopt, you can start by looking at breed-specific rescue organizations, such as the following:

  • Bull Terrier Rescue, Countrywide
  • Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Rescue, Virginia
  • Rescue Me!, Countrywide

Pit Bull Terrier vs. Bull Terrier

A close-up image of a smiling Pit Bull dog
A joyful Pit Bull dog

Bull Terriers are often confused with Pit Bull Terriers, but these are two separate breeds. The American Kennel Club does not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed but does acknowledge the similar Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

As a result, there are no standards for the Pit Bull like there are for the Bull Terrier. 

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog barking in the field
The excellent Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Both dogs are similar in that they were bred as fighting dogs and have strong, powerful muscular bodies and jaws. They both are built for endurance and have a sharp intelligence.

They both also have a reputation for being aggressive, dangerous dogs and are thus outlawed in several cities and states.

Both breeds also have a short coat and small ears, but the Pit Bull does not have the egg-shaped head characteristic of the Bull Terrier breed. Bull Terriers usually are also a bit smaller and more compact than the Pit Bull breed.

Both Pit Bulls and Bull Terriers have a stubborn, courageous temperament that they inherited from the Bulldog.

While both breeds need strong, confident owners, the Bull Terrier does tend to have a more loving, affectionate side, making them a better choice for a family pet.

Curious about Bull Terrier Mixes? 

The people-orientated Bull Terrier is often mixed with other breeds to create some super cute hybrid dogs. Here are a few of our favorite Bull Terrier mixes:

French Bull Terrier

A French Bulldog Bull Terrier mix
Source: @mr.moose_the_bullterrier / IG

The French Bull Terrier is a French Bulldog and Bull Terrier mix. This crossbreed can also be created using the Miniature Bull Terrier to make a tiny pup with tons of attitude. 

These feisty designer dogs have minimal grooming and maintenance needs and tend to adapt well to various environments. If you live in an apartment, this mix may better suit you than a purebred Bull Terrier.

Pit Bull Bull Terrier Mix

A Pit Bull Bull Terrier mix
Source: @x_the_pitbullterrier / IG

As the Pit Bull and the Bull Terrier are very similar dogs, it should be no surprise that these dogs are often mixed.

This crossbreed with a robust, energetic, and determined dog requires plenty of training and socialization to bring out his best qualities.

German Shepherd Bull Terrier Mix

A German Shepherd Bull Terrier mix

The German Shepherd Bull Terrier Mix is medium to large in size. These dogs have the boundless energy of both parent breeds and so need homes with extensive gardens where they can run and play, as well as plenty of daily exercises.

This crossbreed will also have the devoted, loyal temperament that both of the breeds are famous for. 

Labrador Bull Terrier Mix

A Labrador Bull Terrier Mix
Source: @bellabulltrador / IG

As the most popular dog breed in the United States, Labrador Retrievers are frequently bred with other dogs to create popular crosses. The Labrador Bull Terrier Mix is a medium-sized dog with a friendly, loving personality.

These dogs love to be the center of attention and make great playmates for families with children.

Who Should Get a Bull Terrier?

A Bull Terrier playing with a stick
Source: @klyueva.e.s / IG

These robust dogs thrive on exercise and affection. Still, they need early socialization with dogs and other people, firm but loving training, plenty of outlets for their boundless energy, and plenty of quality time.

These aren’t dogs that are content to spend hours at home alone all day; they want to by their people, included in every activity. 

If you can give your dog these essential things, you will be rewarded with a loyal, loveable, and endlessly entertaining pet.

However, before getting one of these puppies, be sure to check the legislation in your areas, as some cities and states do have a ban on the Bull Terrier breed. 

Do you have a Bull Terrier dog at home? We’d love to hear all about your beloved family member. Please do share some stories of your furry friend with us in the comments below.

Further reading: Similar Breeds to the Bull Terrier

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