Bull Terriers are almost universally believed to be the result of crossing a Bulldog to the now-extinct White English Terrier, which produced a type of dog known as the Bull-and-Terrier. Some authors suggest that the cross may have been between a Bulldog and a large, smooth Black-and-Tan Terrier. Either way, the resulting Bull-and-Terrier was later mated with the Spanish Pointer to add size to the breed, which is evident in today’s Bull Terriers. The Bull Terrier was developed by sportsmen for sportsmen, as well as to be a gentleman’s trusted companion. They were bred to be tough, courageous, athletic and powerful and to have a sense of fair play – never initiating controversy, but not backing down once provoked. Hence, the white variety soon earned the nickname “The White Cavalier.”
Some sources suggest that the breed was developed specifically to be set against other dogs in illegal pit contests, for purposes of “gentlemen’s sport” after the blood-sport of bull-baiting was outlawed in England in or around 1835. Once bull-baiting was outlawed, the enthusiasts went underground, fighting bulldogs against bulldogs in “pits.” Apparently, the bulldogs were too slow to please the crowds, so people began crossing bulldogs with terriers to create a better fighting breed, called “the most determined and savage race known.” The popularity of these vicious dog fights soared, especially in London and Birmingham, England, with the dogs being described as having the stamina, power and solidity of the Bulldog and the intelligence, tenacity and speed of the Terrier.
In the 1850s and 1860s, fanciers of these dogs thought that an all white Bull Terrier would be fashionable. This led to the two modern varieties of Bull Terriers: colored, and white, with additional crosses with the White English Terrier. In 1936, the colored Bull Terrier became recognized as a separate Variety of the Bull Terrier breed. By 1880, the Bull Terrier had become a breed noted for its beauty, balance and power. Its egg-shaped head and Roman nose distinguished it from other breeds. Dog fighting was eventually banned, and the Bull Terrier survived as a successful purebred show dog and family companion. Since 1897, the Bull Terrier Club of America has been the National Club recognized by the American Kennel Club as the parent club for the Bull Terrier. President Teddy Roosevelt shared the White House with a Bull Terrier.
Bull Terriers have an average life expectancy between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, congenital deafness, familial nephropathy, mitral dysplasia, patellar luxation, hip and elbow dysplasia and zinc deficiency. They also are prone to eye problems such as entropion and ectropion, as well as enlarged hearts and bone cancer.