Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
With their muscular bodies and oblong head (that some say resembles a shark!), at first glance, the Bull Terrier can seem kind of weird. But when you get to know them, these dogs are some of the most playful, rambunctious, and loyal in the animal kingdom.
Want to know more about this beloved breed? Let’s take a deep dive into some interesting facts about the Bull Terrier.
Also Known As...
English Bull Terrier. Bully. Wedgehead. Sharkhead. Egghead. Varkhond. "That's the weirdest galdarn dog I've ever seen!" "I know! Isn't he adorable?"
In England in the early 19th century, breeders started developing “Bull and Terrier” breeds (breeding the Old English Bulldog, Old English Terriers, and a variety of other terriers) for vermin control and, sadly, dogfighting, despite the fact that dogfighting was outlawed there in 1835. Without firm breed standards, Bull and Terrier breeds eventually split into several categories—Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and on. English White Terriers were entered into the breeding process, eventually leading to the first recognized modern Bull Terrier, Lord Gladiator, in 1917.
Fun History Fact: In the late 1980s, American beer brand Bud Light chose a Bull Terrier as their mascot—Spud McKenzie. Starring in ad campaigns and commercials, Spud McKenzie became a cultural phenomenon—and thrust the Bull Terrier into the national limelight, endearing the breed to people across the country.
Bull Terriers are medium-sized dogs. On average, they grow to a height of between 21 and 22 inches.
The ideal weight range for a fully grown Bull Terrier is somewhere between 50 and 70 lbs. That’s a fairly wide range, but ideal weight for each individual Bull Terrier is determined by a number of factors (including overall size, height, and gender).
Bull Terriers have an interesting, multi-layered personality. On the one hand, you’d be hard pressed to find a breed more playful funny than the Bull Terrier. These dogs can be real jokesters, making them a go-to for pet parents who love to have a good laugh with their pup. But that playfulness also has a mischievous side to it, so don’t leave your Bull Terrier to his own devices for too long; chances are, you’ll come back to some sort of mischief!
Bull Terriers are also affectionate, loving, and loyal to their family. With their muscular appearance and large heads (sometimes referred to as an “egghead”), Bull Terriers might look intimidating—but when it comes to their families, they’re just big softies!
In a nutshell, Bull Terriers are hilarious, affectionate, and loyal dogs that pack a major personality punch!
Intelligence / Trainability
In order to grow into the best dogs they can be, Bull Terriers need firm and consistent training. But they can be a tricky breed to train! Bull Terriers aren’t much for work ethic; they’re much more about having fun with their humans! If you can make the training process fun and engaging, the Bull Terrier will be on board.
Here are some of the best training techniques for Bull Terriers.
- Make training a game. As mentioned, Bull Terriers are all about having a good time. And if you want them to excel in training, you need to make it as fun as possible! If training feels like a game, your Bull Terrier will be much more engaged with the training process. Things like dog sports are a great way to work off the Bull Terrier’s energy, make the training process fun, and teach them the skills they need to thrive.
- Use positive reinforcement. Bull Terriers are loving, affectionate dogs. They want to know they’re making their humans happy—so positive reinforcement is a great training tool. Giving the Bull Terrier toys, treats, and praise when they excel is a great way to reinforce what they’re learning in training—and to encourage those positive behaviors to continue.
- Be firm and consistent. Because Bull Terriers can be playful, mischievous, and stubborn, they need a firm and consistent approach to training. Don’t let the Bull Terrier take over the training session; be firm (but loving!), stay consistent in your training, and your Bull Terrier will follow suit.
Bull Terriers have a lot of energy—so for them, an ideal environment would be one where they have the space to work off that energy. A fenced-in yard would be a great fit for the Bull Terrier; that way, if they’re feeling restless, they can run and play outside (and not get into mischief elsewhere in the home!).
Bull Terriers also thrive when they have a high level of interaction with their humans. Ideally, a Bull Terrier will have a human home with them most of the time—so if you’re at work 12 hours a day or have some sort of commitment that keeps you out of the home most days of the week, this breed probably isn’t the best fit for your lifestyle.
Good For Families And Kids?
Because Bull Terriers are active, high-energy dogs—and can have a tendency to play rough—so they may not be the best fit for households with babies, toddlers, or young children. But as with all dogs,
On average, Bull Terriers live between 10 and 13 years.
Overall, Bull Terriers are a fairly healthy breed (they wouldn’t have such a long life expectancy if they weren’t!). But just because they’re an overall healthy dog doesn’t mean they’re not without health issues—and before adding a Bull Terrier to your family, you’ll definitely want to be aware of those issues.
The biggest health issue facing Bull Terriers is deafness. Deafness occurs in over 20 percent of pure white Bull Terrier puppies and 1.3 percent of colored Bull Terrier puppies. It can be hard to detect in young puppies, so frequent hearing tests from the vet in a Bull Terrier’s early years are a must. Bull Terriers also have sensitive skin and tend to have adverse reactions to things like bug bites or harsh shampoos.
Bottom line: Bull Terriers are healthy dogs with a long life expectancy, but keeping an eye on their hearing and skin is an important part of keeping them happy and healthy.
There’s no way around it—Bull Terriers are highly energetic, playful, and boisterous dogs! They love to run around and play—and if they don’t have a productive way to work off that energy, chances are the Bull Terrier is going to find some mischief to get in!
Bull Terriers do well when they get plenty of activity. At the minimum, Bull Terriers need long daily walks—but they do even better if they have the opportunity for more intense exercise (like running or agility training) a few times a week.
Mental stimulation is also important for channeling the Bull Terrier’s energy; things like thinker toys are a great way to keep their brain occupied and keep boredom (and mischief!) at bay.
Friendly With…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
While Bull Terriers are a friendly breed, it's not uncommon for them to be reactive toward other dogs—which is definitely something you’ll want to keep in mind if you decide to take them to the dog park.
Because they can sometimes be reactive, Bull Terriers also might not be the best fit for households with small pets (like rabbits and cats).
If you have another dog, make sure to introduce them to the Bull Terrier in a safe environment to see how they both react. If you have a cat (or other small animal), it’s best to avoid the Bull Terrier all together. And if you have children, wait until they’re older to introduce a Bull Terrier into the family.
As always, training, early socialization, and consistency can go a long ways toward mitigating any issues!
Coat & Grooming
If you’re looking for a low maintenance dog with minimal grooming requirements, look no further than the Bull Terrier. All you have to do to keep their short, flat coat looking its best is a weekly brushing and an occasional bath.
Toys Bull Terriers Would Like Best
As we’ve mentioned, Bull Terriers are playful, energetic dogs. And if you want to engage their playful, energetic nature, a great way to do it? Plenty of toys, of course!
Some of the best toys for Bull Terriers include:
- Thinker Toys. Because Bull Terriers are so high energy, you need to keep their brain engaged (otherwise, they’ll find their own trouble to get into!). Thinker toys are a great way to provide mental stimulation (and a delicious treat!) to your Bull Terrier—plus, they’ll keep him occupied for hours.
- Plush Toys. Bull Terriers may look tough, but at the core, they’re sweet, loving, affectionate pups. And while they’d prefer to give all that love to their family (including you!), when you’re not around, they’ll be happy to snuggle up to a soft plush toy.
- Tug Toys. Bull Terriers love playing with their humans—and what better way to play than a good, old-fashioned game of tug-of-war? Tug toys are a fun way to engage with your Bull Terrier—and help him work off some energy at the same time. It’s a win-win!
- Super Chewer Toys. If your Bull Terrier shreds his other toys, it might be time to upgrade to something a bit more durable. That's where Super Chewer Toys come in!
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Like all dog breeds, Bull Terriers feel their happiest and healthiest on a diet of high-quality dog food free from any fillers or preservatives. It’s also important to incorporate natural calcium into a Bull Terrier’s diet, particularly during their early years when their bones are developing. Incorporating small portions of calcium-rich foods like whole milk, yogurt, or broccoli is ideal.
As the Bull Terrier ages, supplementing their diet can also help support the aging process; for example, if your Bull Terrier struggles with mobility issues later in life, a joint health supplement might be helpful. Or, if your Bull Terrier’s energetic nature ever crosses the line into anxiety-driven behaviors, you might consider trying a CBD supplement.
Of course, consult a vet before administering any supplements.
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Bull Terrier with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
A dog as cuddly and affectionate as a Bull Terrier deserves a comfy place to sleep after a day of playing. An orthopedic dog bed can ensure that your pup has a comfortable place to relax.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your buddy. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Bull Terrier Of Your Dreams
Are you ready to add a Bull Terrier to your family? Don’t go to a breeder—go to a rescue! (Or, in other words, adopt—don’t shop!) Here are a few notable Bull Terrier rescues in the US and Canada where you can find the perfect Bull Terrier and give them their forever home:
- Bull Terrier Rescue, Inc, Serving Canada and the Western United States (including California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New Mexico, and Nevada)
- Recycla-Bull Terrier Rescue, Serving the East Coast and Midwest
- Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Rescue, Serving the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada
- Colorado Bull Terriers, Serving Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas
- Adoptable Bull Terriers on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Bull Terriers
Want your Instagram feed to be full of as many pups as possible? (And let’s be real—who doesn’t?) Then you’re definitely going to want to go and follow these @instafamous Bull Terriers:
***Looking for a gift to blow your Bull Terrier's mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <-- This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! :)
Featured image via Maverick_TheBullTerrier/Instagram