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The Working American Bulldogs by David Putnam Q.How can you possibly advocate two or three types within one breed?

A. The idea that all members of a breed must look exactly alike is a very new one, scarcely 100-years old. Uniform breed type is fostered for one reason, to make judging easier at dog shows. And to make matters worse the breed traits that modern standards promote are almost always non-functional. Dachshunds are bred for stumpy legs shorter than a man's thumb. German Shepherds are bred for sloping Hyena like hindquarters and huge bat like ears.

Before the era of dog shows there were always two types of Bulldog in Europe and England. Among the first written references to English Bulldogs in the 11th century there is an account of "butcher dogs both great and small" harrying mad bulls in Stamford, the supposed birthplace of formalized bull baiting. On the continent, in Medieval times, there were two related bull breeds: the bullenbiesser and bearenbiesser. Molossers that specialized in bull baiting and bear baiting respectively. The two types of Bulldog were naturally crossed periodically to refresh each other's gene pools and to correct each other's deficiencies. If a bullenbiesser strain became too small and light boned, an infusion of bearenbiesser would beef it up. The reverse was certainly true and the bear baiting dog that became too large and clumsy was crossed to a bull baiter to reduce size and increase agility.

In more recent times the Dogue de Bordeaux of France was bred next to and alongside the Doguin de Bordeaux. The Doguin weighed under 80-pounds and specialized in bull baiting and dog fighting. Its larger counterpart was fought against bears and other big predators. The Dogue and the Doguin were routinely crossed just as the bullenbiesser and bearenbiesser were. Of course the modern Dogue de Bordeaux is a show bred caricature of its working ancestors.

I believe that varied breed type in Mastiff/Bulldogs goes much further back then the Middle Ages. The precursor to all European Mastiffs is the Greek Molossus. Sculptures of this primordial Mastiff show that there were three types: 1) a lupine variety that looked like a heavy boned Malinois. 2) A strain that looked like a Pit Bull or standard AB. 3) A third type that resembled a Johnson AB or an athletic Bullmastiff. All three types were probably freely interbred as the need arose. Cross the Bullmastiff type to the lupine type and you got the Pit Bull type.

Modern dog experts ponder these ancient works of art and declare that the Molossus was never a pure breed. They assert that ancient armies most likely rounded up a ragtag collection of mongrels before a military campaign and these mongrels just happened to have the extraordinary gameness required to fight armed men, horses and other war dogs. Just scratch the surface of Mastiff history and this notion is immediately proven false.

These "experts" say the same thing about the pre-industrial English Bulldog. Random mongrels (without the uniform breed type so prized by show breeders) just happened to have the ability and gameness to fight lions, bears and bulls, with no selective breeding. Experts claim that only after the baiting sports were made illegal and dog showing arose did purebred English Bulldogs emerge.

I remember in geometry class that certain axioms are considered "true by definition" and require no proof. The notion that a breed of dog is only pure if all its members display uniform outward physical appearance is considered axiomatic by today's dog experts. In today's world that's what purebred means. It's true by definition. Since modern dog experts have redefined the word purebred, one hundred years ago there was no such thing as a purebred dog, except in rare cases where a breed's task was so one-dimensional that uniform breed type was inevitable. By this logic the only breed that is older than 100-years is the Greyhound.

The animosity and hatred between the breeders of the Performance strains of AB and the Johnson strain is a result of the AB community unthinkingly accepting this modern axiom. The Johnson verse Scott war started in a show ring and those that continue to wage the war are victims of conventional show dog thinking. We need to think outside the box. There are three types of AB: 1) Johnson. 2) Performance. 3) Hybrid. Guard dogs, catch dogs and everything in between. This fact makes our breed much closer to the original working Bulldog. It increases genetic diversity and makes our breed healthier and more useful. The original Bulldoggers loved all Bulldogs, great and small.


Dave Putnam, ®2000
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