As British as tea and crumpets, the bull terrier is a dapper, distinguished doggo with an instantly recognizable silhouette. These mid-sized mutts are known for their distinctive head shape, but get to know them a little better, and your main takeaway will be, “Gee, what lovable little rascal.”
Far removed from their days in the ring, the typical bull terrier today is anything but ferocious. Instead, you’ll find a dog breed that is loyal, playful, and even a bit goofy. If you’re looking for a big personality, you’ve found your pooch.
Also Known As…
English Bull Terrier, Bully, BT. Bullseye. Egghead. “Why the long face, buddy?”
What Is The History Of The Bull Terrier?
Like the English bulldog and other breeds with “bull” in the name, the bull terrier has a bit of a brutal history that involves some… cruel encounters with bucking bulls. Viewer discretion is advised.
As far back as 800 years ago, the bull terrier’s ancestors were forced to fight bulls for human entertainment.1 When the British parliament banned bull-baiting in 1835,2 the bully found new employment in the dogfighting ring. Hardly an improvement, when you think about it… but at least a fairer fight.
The muscular dogs of the time weren’t particularly agile fighters. They were rugged and ready, but they were slow. So, throughout the 19th century, breeders crossed bulldogs and terriers to develop the “bull-and-terrier” mix.3 Strong and quick, this was a prizewinning heavyweight and a sight to behold.
The bull-and-terrier breeds of the 1800s may have been nimble in the ring, but they were still a far cry from today’s bull terrier. For the current specimen, we have Birmingham local James Hinks to thank.1 He selectively bred these spirited mutts to look and act more approachable.
What he landed on was the bull terrier of today: strong yet sweet, stoic yet silly. Beloved by paupers and Presidents alike—Teddy Roosevelt had a bull terrier—these unique mutts have traded their fighting days for family snuggles.
How Big Do Bull Terriers Get?
Height: 20–23 inches
Weight: 45–70 pounds
Note that the miniature bull terrier is considered a separate breed. They measure 9–14 inches and 17–29 pounds.
How Long Do Bull Terriers (Generally) Live?
Take good care of your bully, and your furry best friend could live for 11–13 years.
What Is A Bull Terrier’s Temperament & Personality Like?
Clownish. Mischievous. Playful. Endearing. These are some of the personality traits you’ll hear when discussing bull terriers—and they’re all true. With their goofy smiles and wiggly bodies, BTs are the breed for anyone wanting some comic relief.
It’s not all giggles and practical jokes, though. BTs have a (somewhat deserved) reputation for being stubborn. They’re decently smart mutts with a protective side, so they can take a teeny bit of convincing to come out of their shells.
Overall, if you’re worried about any of that aggression from the bull-baiting days bubbling up, don’t be. Bull terriers may look fierce, but they’re really kind-hearted creatures—especially when raised in a loving home.
Are Bull Terriers Good With Kids? Cats? Dogs?
Above all, bull terriers are fantastic with family members and close friends of all ages. As for newly introduced young’uns, BTs may be a little more hesitant, but they’re generally happy to hang with the kiddos. As long as you keep a close eye on interactions and ensure there’s no tail-yanking or eye-poking, you’ll have nothing but fond memories.
What about other animals? Well, it depends on the situation. Take cats, for instance. One minute, your bully might eye the neighbor’s cat as if it were a squeaky toy; the next, they’re cuddled up on the couch with your calico.
It all comes down to early socialization. If you introduce your BT to felines as an impressionable pup, you shouldn’t have any issues.
With other dogs like a Chow Chow, Maltipoo, or Golden Retriever, it’s more of a sex-dependent thing. Bull terriers may approach canines of the same sex with their teeth bared, but opposite-sex meetings generally go over well. Again, if you socialize them early with other dog breeds, keep a close watch, and hold tight to the leash in new situations, you should be fine and dandy.
Do Bull Terriers Need A Lot Of Exercise?
Despite their retirement from professional wrestling, bull terriers are still an active sort. To keep those rugged muscles a-rippling, try to pencil in an hour of exercise each day.
When choosing your activities for the afternoon, look for something both physically and mentally stimulating. BTs are more intelligent than they appear, and if they go too long without something to do, you can say goodbye to your slippers—as they say, idle paws are the devil’s playthings.
Are Bull Terriers Hard To Train?
Hard? No, not exactly. But “easy” isn’t the word that comes to mind either. If you want to train your bully, you’ll need to put in the work. You may even find it worthwhile to enroll your BT puppy in obedience school from the get-go.
Bull terriers can be stubborn, but they can also be taught. The secret is a fun environment full of positive affirmation. Reinforce the behavior you’re looking for with treats and tummy rubs, and you’ll have a well-trained pup in no time.
Do Bull Terriers Have Health Issues?
Like every dog breed, the bull terrier has its unique list of common illnesses and diseases. Here are some of the dog health problems to be mindful of:3
- Luxating patellas (kneecaps prone to shifting out of place)
- Heart valve issues
- Atopy (a skin condition that leads to infections)
- Kidney problems
What’s more, some colors of bull terriers are more susceptible to dog health conditions than others. Notably, white BTs are more likely to experience deafness and lethal acrodermatitis (a genetic disease that can cause developmental issues).
Do Bull Terriers Need To Be Groomed?
The bull terrier’s coat is short and glossy, so it rarely appears dirty. Still, to keep your BT feeling fresh, you should practice basic at-home grooming. Incorporate the following tasks into your routine:
- Brushing – Once a week, brush your BT with a soft-bristle brush to remove dead hair.
- Cleaning the ears – Inspect their ears every week and clean them as needed.
- Trimming the nails – Every few weeks, you’ll need to clip your bully’s nails. Long nails can make regular walks a painful proposition.
- Cleaning the teeth – Offer up dental chews or dive in with a toothbrush.
How Much Does It Cost To Care For A Bull Terrier?
Giving your bull terrier puppy a good life—complete with all the must-haves for good health and should-haves for good boys—will cost you around $1,500+ per year.
When your bull terrier puppy is growing, you may notice they go through enough food to feed an army. As they reach adult age, their appetites peak, and you can expect to dish out 2–4 cups of food in a day. All in all, your monthly food cost should hover around $45–65.
Do those bags of dog food in the garage seem to disappear overnight? Then BARK Eats was designed for you! Instead of trekking to the pet store month after month, you can sit back and relax—BARK Eats will deliver specially made food right to your door. With a veterinarian-vetted ingredient list and the option to add supplements, you can rest easy knowing your BT is eating well. Now, get 50% off your first month!
Routine Vet Care (Healthy Dog)
Health problems or not, every dog needs routine vet checkups every six months or so.
After each trip, your itemized receipt may look something like this:
- Appointment fee ($45–70)
- Shots ($20–30/dose)
- Heartworm medications ($45)
In any given year, you should budget at least $300 for vet visits.
Preventative Medications For Bull Terriers
It’s a fact: healthy animals have lower health bills. If you want to keep your costs down (not to mention ensure your BT is in tip-top shape), you can shell out some extra cash for preventative medicine.
The big one is flea and tick medication. Outdoor dogs are constantly exposed to these pests, so you’ll want to spend an extra ~$120 per year on ointments and special chews.
Bull Terrier Grooming
You can totally groom your BT at home—provided you have the right supplies (which should cost you ~$60). If you’d rather leave it to the pros, prepare to drop ~$70 per visit.
Toys, Treats, Beds, & Accessories
Is there anything as sweet as a toy or a treat? If you ask your standard bull terrier (or us), the answer is no. To sprinkle a little joy into your BT’s life, set aside around $70/year for treats and $50/year for toys.
Feeling fancy? Your standard bull terrier certainly is. Give in to those puppy dog eyes and splurge on a monthly BarkBox subscription. At $23/month, the 2 treat bags, 2 fun toys, and tasty meat chew are a steal. Throw in an extra $6/month for an even bigger Super Chewer box—that’s 2 bags of treats, 2 durable playthings, and 2 meat chews. GET YOUR FIRST BOX FREE.
Last but certainly not least, stock up on everything you need in your dog owner starter kit:
- Food and water bowls ($20)
- Leash ($15–30)
- Collar (~$20)
- Dog bed ($40–80)
- Nail clippers ($12)
- Bull Terrier HQ. Bull terrier history: looking back at bull terrier origins. https://www.bullterrierhq.com/bull-terrier-history/
- History. The Gruesome Blood Sports of Shakespearean England. https://www.history.com/news/the-gruesome-blood-sports-of-shakespearean-england
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. English Bull Terrier. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/medium-dogs/english-bull-terrier