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An ancestor of the English Bulldog, American Bulldogs are the bigger versions of their cousins from across the pond. These tall, muscular dogs are often incredibly loyal to their pet parents, even more so when you give them their daily required exercise. Because of their intimidating size, many people think American Bulldogs are scary and aggressive when in reality, they are often very friendly and affectionate–with the proper training and socialization.
This article will review the characteristics of American Bulldogs so you can determine if they are the right breed for you and your family.
- History & Origin of American Bulldogs
- Physical Attributes of American Bulldogs
- Behavioral Characteristics of American Bulldogs
- American Bulldog Health Risks
- Caring for an American Bulldog
- Final Notes
History & Origin of American Bulldogs
The American Bulldog is a descendant of the English Bulldog. It’s believed that immigrants brought English Bulldogs to America in the 18th century to work on farms. Traditionally, Bulldogs were used as farm guardians (protecting livestock from prey), shepherds, and catch dogs.1-2
The American Bulldog we know today didn’t get its current name until the 1980s. Before settling on a standard name, this breed had different names in different regions of the United States. The breed was most commonly called White English since American Bulldogs have a primarily white coat. People also called them “Alabama” or “Southern Bulldog” in the South, or simply “Bulldog.”
Physical Attributes of American Bulldogs
American Bulldogs are a large, athletic breed. Since their ancestors worked on farms, the modern American Bulldogs embody strength and agility while having an oftentimes friendly disposition. Male American Bulldogs are usually bigger than females. Males typically weigh between 75-100 pounds, while females are generally between 60-80 pounds. American Bulldogs stand between 20-25 inches tall and have a life expectancy of 10-12 years.2
These gentle giants are known for their smooth, short coat that is primarily white. They do shed some, but usually not an overwhelming amount. The standard color for American Bulldogs, according to the American Kennel Club, is all white. However, other colors recognized by the AKC are:
- White and Black
- White and Brindle
- White and Brown
- White and Tan2
American Bulldogs mixed with other breeds can have varying marks and colors, depending on their DNA.
Behavioral Characteristics of American Bulldogs
American Bulldogs are known for their highly loyal personalities. They are often protective of their owners and may do some barking to defend the home. With consistent training, American Bulldogs often make great family pets and tend to do well in group settings with children and other dogs.3
This breed is also often very playful and athletic. It’s crucial to take your bulldog on daily walks and give them time to run around and play in an open space. Consider getting toys to bring to the park so your American Bulldog has some physical and mental enrichment. Even though American Bulldogs need a lot of exercise, many never turn down a chance for a good afternoon snooze3.
While American Bulldogs are known and beloved for many of these behavioral characteristics, pet parents should keep in mind that all dogs are different and possess their own unique personalities.
American Bulldog Health Risks
Unlike its English and French Bulldog cousins, the American Bulldog is not a flat-face breed and does not have the same breathing issues associated with brachycephalic dogs. American Bulldogs are a generally healthy breed; the main health issues with these dogs are joint and skin issues:3
- Dysplasia: Like other large-breed dogs, American Bulldogs are vulnerable to both elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia. Dysplasia is a genetic condition where the joints don’t fit together correctly. It is painful and uncomfortable and, if it is left untreated, causes arthritis. Responsible breeders will screen their puppies for dysplasia before they are adopted. If your dog has problems walking or swelling in their hips or elbows, bring your concerns to a vet. They can examine your dog and help you develop a treatment plan.
- Itchy Skin and Skin Allergies: American Bulldogs are prone to itchy skin due to genetics. The skin condition is called ichthyosis, and it causes the skin to flake and become very itchy. If your American Bulldog has ichthyosis, they may require frequent baths to keep their skin clean and happy. Like elbow and hip dysplasia, responsible American Bulldog breeders will do genetic tests to determine if their puppies have ichthyosis. American Bulldogs can also develop uncomfortable skin allergies. Fortunately, treating allergies is manageable when you have a good vet. Try Dutch and make a telehealth appointment with a licensed vet for a quick and easy visit.
Caring For an American Bulldog
American Bulldogs are very active dogs and need physical and mental daily exercise. They often love long walks, extended playtime, and a cozy afternoon nap. They do require dedicated training to develop good habits and social skills. Fortunately, American Bulldogs are intelligent dogs that are eager to please and want to do well for their humans. They will ace their training quickly with consistent and positive reinforcement.3
American Bulldogs require more maintenance than some breeds due to their sensitive skin and wrinkles. Like most dogs, they need baths when they get smelly or dirty. However, pay special attention to their wrinkles. During bathtime or even after some extended outside play, take an extra moment to wipe your bulldog’s face and clean out any dirt from the wrinkles so your dog doesn’t develop an infection.
An American Bulldog’s coat doesn’t require any special attention, but it’s a good idea to have a weekly brushing routine to catch loose hair and keep your dog’s coat looking healthy. Plus, they’ll love the extra attention and bonding time.
What is the difference between an American Bulldog vs. English Bulldog vs. French Bulldog?
American, English, and French Bulldogs: are they the same? What’s the difference? These three bulldog breeds share some similarities but are very different types of dogs. First, American Bulldogs do not have a flat face and don’t have the same breathing issues as English or French Bulldogs. They are also taller and larger than English and French Bulldogs and have a longer lifespan. Below are some additional characteristics of English and French Bulldogs:4
- English Bulldog: English Bulldogs are smaller than American Bulldogs but larger than French Bulldogs. On average, an English Bulldog is between 50-55 pounds. Like its American counterpart, English Bulldogs are loyal and affectionate to their owners but can have aggressive tendencies.
- French Bulldog: Sometimes called Frenchies, this bulldog is often confused with a Boston Terrier or Pugs. French Bulldogs are the smallest of the three bulldog breeds, weighing between 18-30 pounds. Like American Bulldogs, they have a good track record with training. French Bulldogs are typically friendly but often take a little while to warm up to new people. Frenchies don’t always love sharing a home with other pets or small kids. While French Bulldogs usually have a longer lifespan than English Bulldogs, they often have more health problems throughout their lives.
Do American Bulldogs bark a lot?
American Bulldogs are typically friendly and outgoing but are very loyal family dogs and were bred to be watchdogs. American Bulldogs may bark if they suspect a threat or something is awry. With proper socialization and training, your American Bulldog can only learn to bark when necessary and stop barking with the proper commands.3
Are American Bulldogs good pets?
American Bulldogs can make great family dogs if you dedicate time to proper training and socialization. Ensuring your dog is comfortable and patient with all the household members, humans, and animals alike, is vital. Due to their protective and loyal tendencies, American Bulldogs are generally good with children, though children should always be supervised with animals.
American Bulldogs may look intimidating but they are often big, affectionate teddy bears. This breed is considered to be a sweet, loyal pet that is often protective of their family. Like all breeds, American Bulldogs require training to ensure they are well-socialized and well-behaved. They are often intelligent, respond to positive reinforcements, and do very well with their coaching.After you bring your new bulldog to your home, make an appointment with Dutch and speak to a licensed vet to give your American Bulldog exceptional care from the comfort of home.
“American Bulldog History.” American Bulldog Association, www.ababulldogs.com/history.html. Accessed 14 Aug. 2023.
Weisse, Christine. “American Bulldog - Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 13 Jan. 2020, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/american-bulldog/#:~:text=The%20American%20Bulldog%20is%20a,their%20working%20bulldogs%20with%20them.
“American Bulldog.” PetMD, www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/american-bulldog. Accessed 14 Aug. 2023.
Gaeng, Jennifer. “French Bulldog vs English Bulldog: 8 Key Differences.” AZ Animals, 4 Mar. 2022, a-z-animals.com/blog/french-bulldog-vs-english-bulldog/.