BULL TERRIER HISTORY

The Gentleman’s Companion

 

 

It was mid 1800’s Victorian England, the end of the industrial revolution, that gave birth to the first ‘Bull and Terrier’ cross breeds. The strength and courage of the Bulldog, the intelligence and dexterity of the Terrier; while not inherently pleasing to the eye it was a union that saw fortune in the task of vermin control and, then legal (until 1835), gambling sports of badger baiting and pit fighting.

 

It was these rough and humble beginnings in which Birmingham breeder James Hinks saw greater potential. A well known dog dealer and repository owner, Hinks was a regular attendant in the relatively new world of dog shows. Exhibiting and breeding many different dogs, he attracted attention in 1860 with his prized Olde White Bulldog (notably more agile and less brachycephalic than the contemporary English Bulldog). It was undoubtedly with the help of this dog, his own examples of the White English Terrier (now extinct) and the Dalmation that he strove to refine the desirable strengths of character developed in the ‘Bull and Terrier’ into a dog with a balance of substance and a gracious appearance. It was May 1862 when Hinks appeared at the Cremorne Show in London with his white bitch named ‘Puss’, widely recognised today as the earliest example of the Bull Terrier.

Olde White Bulldog
White English Terrier
Early Bull Terrier – ‘Puss’

 

Hinks’ son, James Hinks Jr. writes of his father’s legacy…

 

“Around the end of the 1850’s a great change came about. My father, who had previously owned some of the gamest of the old stock which he had been experimenting with and crossing with the White English Terrier and Dalmatian, bred a strain of all-white dogs, which he called Bull Terriers, by which name they became duly recognized.  These dogs were refined and their Bulldog appearance being further bred out, they were longer and cleaner in head, longer in foreface, free from lippiness and throatiness and necks were longer; they became more active; in short, they became the old fighting dog civilized, with all of his rough edges smoothed down without being softened; alert, active, plucky, muscular, and a real gentleman.  Naturally, this change brought the Bull Terrier many admirers, and the milk-white dog became the fashion.”

 

In the years to follow, Hinks and his peers continued to refine their Bull Terrier using crosses of Greyhound, Spanish Pointer and Fox Hound, among suspected others, to straighten the legs, strengthen the jaw structure and deepen the chest. As the breed continued to develop, there is suggestion that perhaps the Borzoi or Smooth Coated Collie was used to encourage a length of head and smoothness of profile, the precursors to the unique convex profile that would be coined in the early 1900s as ‘down-face’. The phenomenon of down-face is accepted to have begun with a Bull Terrier named Lord Gladiator, bred in 1918 by W. J. Tuck. Lord Gladiator‘s distinguished, gently downward-sweeping profile was almost completely without brow ‘stop’, an aesthetic trend that captivated breeders of the era and would be described in 2006, by author Tony Read, as the “greatest individual stylistic landmark in Bull Terrier history”.

Image Source: Page 146 of Ernest Eberhard’s ‘The New Complete Bull Terrier’, 1971

Unlike the old ‘Bull and Terrier’ crosses which continued to champion the pit, (forming the basis of breeds we know today as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier) the English Bull Terrier, while still retaining the strength and courage of its forbears, displayed the nature of Hinks’ aesthetic refinements and continues to this day to be bred for show and companionship. Soon turning heads and capturing hearts the English Bull Terrier’s unique disposition saw it quickly bestowed the titles Gentleman’s Companion and White Cavalier.

 

An excerpt from ‘Not Bred Into The Business’ by Kevin Kane (author of ‘James Hinks: Master Craftsman’ 2001). . .

 

“James Hinks was an entrepreneur who developed the Bull Terrier as a fashion accessory for the new middle classes, who frequented prestigious dog shows and wanted a dog with a hint of a past, but not tainted by the dog pit itself.” 

1934 – Mrs. Montague Sturridge And Her Bull Terrier  ‘…today the bull terrier is a member of leading households.’

Records of the English Bull Terrier at show date back to the very foundation of The Kennel Club (UK), the worlds first governing body for the exhibition and breeding of purebred dogs, established in 1873. 14 years later The Bull Terrier Club (UK) was formed, providing a guiding hand and a solid base from which the breed could grow. With colour and markings initially regarded as undesirable and consciously bred out of the original Bull Terrier, the early 20th century saw the re-introduction of colour, namely brindle, through a selective breeding process enlisting the help of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Coloured Bull Terriers 1936
Mrs Boldero, President of the Bull Terrier Club (UK), 1919

To compare the form of the present day Bull Terrier with that of the late 19th and early 20th century is to notice a marked development in the appearance of sturdiness, muscle substance and more distinct shape of head, reflected in the progression of the modern breed standard (viewed HERE). The earlier specimen were generally finer, higher in the leg than we would consider desirable today with rounder, larger eyes and a degree of ‘stop’ to the brow which has now been bred out to accomodate the unique ‘egg-shaped’ head, a defining characteristic of the modern dog.

Eng. Ch. Num Skull, 1930
Modern Breed Standard (courtesy of the BTC)

While it may be hard for those who have never known a Bull Terrier to understand how such a sweet, clownish companion and loveable family pet can have risen from from the ashes of a such tumultuous era in animal welfare, it’s important to remember that the history of this modern breed’s forbears is an indictment of the will of Man, and far removed from the probity of the contemporary Bull Terrier.

 

 

“Hinks found the bull terrier a tattered old bum and made him a right ‘un, made him a white ‘un, a fine dog for a gentleman’s chum”.

– Ferguson M. Jewett, terrier aficionado, late 1800s (source)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Lix North | Artist, Illustrator, Photographer, Designer. Owned by The Lulu Bully.

 

I grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand. Forever fond of my gumboots and jumping in muddy puddles, my childhood best friends were the farm working dogs (huntaways, bearded and border collies) and the family spaniels. Animals have always been an intrinsic part of my life, I spent a lot of my youth caring for farm and domestic animals, hand rearing orphaned animals and watching and assisting farm hands and vets. One of my earliest memories is the magic and awe I felt as a toddler watching my grandmother help a litter of puppies into the world. As legend has it, my first word was ‘woof’.

 

As an artist and photographer I seek the imperfections that make each of us, each fleeting moment, and the world around us, utterly unique. I strive to capture our points of difference, our foibles and eccentricities, our daydreams and delusions, our innate temporality – I believe that in the juxtaposition of wonderful strangeness lies an exquisite, honest beauty far greater than that built on pure symmetry, calculable balance or flawlessness. Who better as my muse than a Bull Terrier – the very embodiment of wonderful strangeness.
Disclaimer: The content on lulubully.com is a fluid, living collection of notes, personal thoughts and experiences. I regularly edit tweak and updated these blog pages as my ideas evolve. All opinions are my own and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, nor prevent any disease. Thoughts expressed, information provided and products mentioned are not necessarily approved by any governing body or health professional. I am not a qualified medical, veterinarian or naturopathic practitioner, my thoughts and experiences are offered purely as a layperson. Discretion, common sense and personal responsibility should be employed when applying any of the ideas expressed here to your own personal situation.