By R. H. Voss

R.H. Voss suggests that the Breed go back to the War Dogs of the Ancient Britons


December 15, 1933. This article is reprinted for those who have a deep interest in the history of the Bulldog Breed. Courtesy of the A.R.F. Britain was made a Roman province in the year 50 A.D., when the British Chieftain Caractacus was defeated by Emperor Claudine. At that time there were ``pugnaces", or war dogs, in Britain, which were used in war, for the contests in the amphitheatre and in the chase. These fighting dogs of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain" during the Roman era, and there is very little doubt that they were the original and remote ancestors of our Mastiff and Bulldog. They Appealed immensely to the Romans, who sent considerable numbers of them from Britain to Rome to take part in the sports of the amphitheatre, and it has even been said that the Romans appointed an officer to select British dogs and export them to Rome. The ``pugnaces" of Britain were specifically alluded to by Arrain in the year 130, and somewhere about 390, when the Western Empire was beginning to decline, Claudian, the poet, mentioned them, and distinguished them from all other dogs as being able to pull down a bull. Twenty years later the Goths, under Alaric, sacked Rome, whose Western Empire fell after 437 years of power, and the same year (410) the Roman garrisons were withdrawn from Britain, which was left a prey to its Saxon invaders. There is evidence that from Italy the breed of British war dogs was disseminated over the Continent in the year's 50/410. The Saxon Kingdom of England was succeeded in 1066 by the Norman kings, and the training of bulls, bears, horses, and other animals for the purpose of baiting them with dogs was practiced by the jugglers who were introduced into England by her Norman conquerors. As early as Henry II's time (1154) the baiting of bulls and bears by dogs was a popular amusement. Henry II had gained Bordeaux on his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1151, and this important town remained in the hands of the English till about 1411, for approximately 260 years. From 1356 to 1367 the Court of King Edward III (father of Edward the Black Prince), with its attendant English sports of bull and bear baiting, was held at Bordeaux. It was in or about 1406 that Edmond de Langley, Duke of York, the Fourth of the seven sons of Edward III, wrote a treatise entitled the ``Mayster of Game". Edmond de Langley was master of the game and of the hawks to Henry IV, and in his treatise he described the Alaunt or Allen as a dog with a large, short, and thick head and short muzzle, which was remarkable for his courage, so that when he attacked an animal he hung on, and which was used in bull-baiting. But it is well known that Edmond de Langley's treatise was to all intents and purposes nothing but a translation of a work written a few years earlier by Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix, who described the great French Alant, drawing a distinction between the Alant Gentil and the Alant de Boucherie. Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry, wrote ``Knight's Tale" about the same time (1390), and extolled the Alaunt therein as a dog of great size, strength, and courage, used in the chase of the lion and the bear. There can be very little doubt that the French ``Alant" of Gaston de Foix were one and the same dog, the French Alant being the descendent of the English Alaunts exported to Bordeaux, and in turn the ancestor, without any doubt whatsoever, of the Dogue de Bordeaux, the huge fighting dog of the South of France. In 1556 it is known that Philip II introduced great numbers of English Alaunts into Spain and the island of Cuba for the purposes of the arena. IN 1576 Dr. Caius, of Cambridge, described the ``Mastvve" or ``Bandigge", which was undoubtedly the direct descendent of the Alaunt, as a vast, huge, stubborn, ugly and eager dog, of a heavy and burdenous body, serviceable to ``bait and take the bull by the ear", two dogs at most being sufficient for that purpose, however untamable the bull might be. In 1585 A. Hondius painted an oil painting on an oak panel (which came into the possession of Mr. Frank Adcock) which depicted two bandogges or Alaunts attacking a wild boar in the bed of a shallow stream. One was red, with a black muzzle and the other white, with brindle ear patches and they both had ``rose" ears, and long fine tails, and looked a s though they must have weighed 100lbs. To 120 lbs. The red dog had a firm grip on the left ear of the boar.


In 1900 Mr. John Proctor, and Englishman resident in Antwern, who was a well-known dog fancier, and who had judged the Dogues de Bordeaux at Paris in 1894, purchased an old bronze placque or medallion in Paris from Monsieur A. Provendier, a noted breeder of French Bulldogs. This antique bronze placque was dated 1625, and bore in bas-relief the head of a cropped Bulldog, and the inscription ``Dogue de Burgos Espna", the artist's name being Cazalla. From this bronze placque the late Mr. George R. Krehl, who was in 1900 the editor of ``The Stock Keeper", built up a theory as to the origin of the French Bulldog, after having in 1893 created somewhat of a sensation by benching at the Kennel Club Show St. Crispin, Lizette, Saida, Rayon d'Or, Riquette, and Jeanne la Folle, funny little creatures, freshly imported from Paris. He deduced from this placque, and from the fact that Burgos is the principle town of Old Castelle, and was formerly noted for the breeding of dogs for use in the arena, that the Bulldog originated in Spain, and migrated thence to Bordeaux, where services of the animals were in demand for fighting and for dog and donkey contests, and that finally the dogs traveled up to Paris where they bantamised the breed into the French Bulldog. In my option, Mr. Krehl's theory will not for one moment hold water. The fact that the ``pugnacious" of Britain were known as the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain" and that Claudian in 390 stated that they were able to pull down a bull, shows that these dogs were, of course, in a rough and typical manner only, the original stock from which the Bulldog and Mastiff sprang. That these dogs were in the years 50/410 exported to Rome by the Romans, and from Rome disseminated over the Continent, there is no doubt. Further, it has been shown that as early as 1154 the baiting of bulls and bears by dogs in England was a popular amusement, and it stands to reason that these dogs were the descendents of the ``broad-mouthed dogs of Britain". Also, it has been shown that from 1151 till 1411 Bordeaux belonged to England, and that the English Court was actually situated there from 1356 till 1367, with its accompaniment for bull and bear baiting. It was whilst the English still held Bordeaux that Comte Gaston de Foix described the great French Alant so fully, and it is clear from the words of Edmond de Langley and of the poet Chaucer that the French Alant of Comte Gaston de Foix and the English Alant of de Langley and Chaucer were one and the same animal. The Alant of England was undoubtedly exported to France from 1151 onwards for a period of 260 years, and he was almost certainly crossed there with some remote descendents of the British war-dogs which hundreds of years previously had traveled to France via Rome. The English Alaunt, when Chaucer wrote in 1390, was a dog of great size, as he would have to be if used against the lion and the bear. The words of Dr. Caius in 1576 (186 years later) and the painting of A. Hondius in 1585 shows that at that period he still remained in England. A huge and heavy dog and obviously none but a very large dog could ``take the bull by the ear," to use Dr. Caius' words. It is absolutely in keeping, therefore, imagining that the Dogue de Bordeaux, as imported into England in 1895 by Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and the late Mr. H.C. Brooke, was originally descended from the English Alaunts which were exported to Bordeaux from 1151 to 1411.


The Dogue de Bordeaux was in 1895, in the year that Mr. John Proctor judged the breed at Bordeaux Show, a dog of an average height of 25 inches and of an average weight of about 120 lbs. He had a very big wrinkled skull, a broad, deep, and powerful muzzle, very pendulous flews, and underjaw, which projected slightly, large nostrils. He also had small and deep-set eyes of a light color of a wicked expression, a deep furrow up the skull, a thick neck, muscular shoulders, a wide and deep chest and powerful limbs. The color, which was preferred, was a reddish-fawn, with light eye, a liver-colored nose, and a red mask without dark shadings. These dogs were for a great many years, from the English occupation of Bordeaux onwards, bred for encounters in the arena, being pitted against each other or against the bull, the bear, or the ass, and even as late as 1906 these encounters occasionally took place. Matador du Midi, a young fawn dog which Mr. H.C. Brooke imported in 1895, was of the old fighting strain, and amongst his ancestors were; Caporal (for seven years champion of the Pyrenees), Megre (a Bitch which had been pitted against bear, wolf, and Hyena) and Hercules (which was finally killed by a jaguar in a terrific battle in San Francisco). When it was 18 months old Mr. Brooke gave Matador du Midi a ``jump" against a big Russian bear, and the dog showed great science in keeping his body as much sideways as possible, to avoid the bear's hug, and threw the bear fairly and squarely on the grass times. The average skull circumference of Dogue De Bordeaux measured 26 inches, although his average height was only 25 inches, and from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose the average measurement was 3 inches. In 1896 a club was formed in England for the Dogue de Bordeaux, and Mr. H.C. Brooke, Monsieur Megnir,(of L'Eleveur), Dr. Wiart, and others drew up a standard, but the anti-cropping edict of the Kennel Club in 1898 killed the breed stone dead in England. In 1907 the dog's use in the arena in France began to be entirely discontinued, and at Paris show that year there were only 10 Dogues on view, and the winners had button ears and black masks, like English Mastiffs. When I stayed for three months in Bordeaux home with me, but in the home of the breed I only saw three or four Dogues, and only one good one. None of them was cropped, and they had either rose or button ears, and only one had the red mask, the light eyes, and the liver-colored nose.


During the reigns of Mary, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, which covered the years 1553 to 1649, the baiting of bulls and full-grown bears by dogs was a very popular sport. Hentzner, in his itinerary, printed in Latin in the region of Queen Elizabeth in 1598, stated that there was a place built in the form of a theatre which served for baiting of bulls and bears, which described as being fastened behind, and then worried by ``great English dogs", which shows that in 1598 the dogs were still very large. In 1556 Philip II became King of Spain and introduced great numbers of English Alaunts into Spain and the islands of Cuba and Majorca for purposes of the arena. In my own mind there is very little doubt that the dog from Burgos depicted upon the old bronze plaque, dated 1625, was a descendant of these English dogs, or wan an imported English dog himself. It was not until 1631, in the reign of Charles I, that the name ``Bulldog" was first mentioned in England. There is a letter in the Record Office, which was written in 1631 from St. Sabastian, in Spain, by an Englishman called Prestwich Eaton to his friend George Wellingham in St. Swithin's Lane, London, asking for a good ``Mastive" dog and two good ``Bulldoggs" to be sent out to him. This is definite proof that the Bulldog and the Mastiff were then becoming separate breeds. It is also definite proof that six years after the date of the Burgos plaque the export of Bulldogs (as they were just beginning to be called) from England to the sport-loving dons of Spain, which had been commenced by Philip II 75 years earlier, was still continuing. The cropped dog depicted on the old Spanish placque of 1625 was very noticeably a big dog and very noticeably a Bulldog, being much underhung, with a big skull and a well laid back nose. Many years later, in the year 1840, Bill George imported from Spain a Spanish Bulldog, which he called Big-headed Billy, whilst in 1868 Mr. Macquart brought over Bonhomme and Lisbon, and in 1873 Mr. Frank Adcock acquired Toro and Alphonse in Madrid. All these five were termed pure-bred Spanish Bulldogs, and they were all exactly of the type depicted on the 1625 placque. Big-headed Billy was brindle-pied, Bonhomme a brindle, Toro a red carroty brindle, and Alphonse a rich fawn with a black mask and slight white markings, and all these four dogs weighed exactly 90 lbs., whilst I heard it stated that Lisbon, a brindle bitch, weighed slightly more than 90 lbs. Lisbon and Alphonse were both noted dogs in the arena in Spain. Toro had a 22-inch skull, stood 22 inches at the shoulder, and measured 2 inches from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose. A very good red Spanish Bulldog, with a black mask, was exhibited at the Royal Aquarium in 1896, and mistakenly entered as a Dogue de Bordeaux. He had a good Bulldog head, with his nose well laid back, and was very much underhung, as was Monsieur Rieu's brindle dog of the fighting strain, whelped about 1900, and reputed to be a grand dog in the arena. This dog also weighed about 90 lbs., his height at the shoulder was 21 inches, and he only measured 2 inches from the corner of eye to the tip of the nose. Seeing that Mr. George Raper's Ch. Rabagae, whelped 1893, which weighed only 56 lbs., and had a 20 inch skull, also measured 2 inches from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose, it is clear that these big 90 lb. Spanish dogs were reasonably short in face, and they had proper Bulldog tails, with a downward crook at the root and another at the end. They were all cropped. It seems to me quite clear that the Dogue de Bordeaux, which averaged 120 lbs. in weight, 25 inches in height, 26 inches in skull circumference, and 3 inches in length of face, and which in many cases light eyes and ``dudley" noses, and in all cases only slight projection of underjaw and tails which reached to the hocks, represented the original English Alaunt as bred in England and Bordeaux in the years 1151/1411. Whilst the Spanish Bulldog, which only averaged 90 lbs. in weight and 2 inches in length of face, and which had dark eyes and a black nose and mask, and was well underhung, with a moderately short, crooked-down tail, and the Bulldog's rolling gait represented the English Bulldog as bred in the years 1556/1649, when the Bulldog was just beginning to be a different dog from the Mastiff. To modern eyes both the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Spanish Bulldog would appear of Mastiff type, but the latter definitely less so than the former. This seems clearly due to the fact that the English dogs which began to go out to Spain in 1556 were already much more of Bulldog type than the English dogs which went out to Bordeaux in the years 1151/1411. Before the Bulldog and the Mastiff had begun to emerge from the Alaunt and to take definite shapes of there own. The Spanish dogs which Messrs. George Macquart and Adcock imported in the year's 1840/1873 was very massive, though less so than the Dogue de Bordeaux, and exceedingly muscular and active and they had close-cropped ears. They all appeared to have black muzzles, very deep flews, and large nostrils a deep stop and furrow, and were moderately short in face and considerably underhung. They were well wrinkled, had a deep double dewlap, a very thick and muscular neck, very muscular shoulders, a thick and slightly bowed forearm, large feet, a broad and deep chest, round ribs and strong loins. There was a considerable fall at the shoulders, and from that point the loins began to rise. The hindquarters were small, compared with the forequarters, and considerably higher.


During the reigns of Mary, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I (1553/1649), and again during the reign of Charles II (1600/1635), bull baiting and bear-baiting was the sport of Kings, who used to regale ambassadors and other foreign personages with it. The place built in the shape of a theatre in which bulls and bears were baited, and which was mentioned by Hentzner in 1598, was the Bankside Bear Garden in Southpark, which during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I was kept by Edward Alleyn, the actor and founder of Dulwich School. As has already been shown, it was during the reign of Charles I (in 1631) that the Bulldog was first specifically mentioned by name, and the testimony of Hentzner shows that very large dogs were still used in 1598, and the probability is that exactly same type of dog was in use till the death of Charles II in 1685, because in that monarch's reign they often fought with bears and occasionally with lions at Bankside. So far as I have been able to ascertain the Alaunts of the years 1553/1630 were dogs of an average weight of at least 110 lbs., and the Bulldogs of the years 16311685 weighed on an average 90 lbs., and Mr. Frank Adcock's Toro brought over from Madrid in 1873, was probably a pretty exact counterpart of what the English Bulldog was in the years 1631/1685. At the end of 1685 James II came to the throne, and from that day onwards bull-baiting declined as a fashionable and courtly amusement, though it continued exceedingly popular with the lower classes for another 150 years. At Bankside special kennels were erected for the great dogs that used to bait the bulls and bears. Many of whose relations had been shipped to Spain from 1556 till probably 1650 or even later. But upon the accession of James II, the Bankside Bear Garden was finally disused as a royal appurtenance, and from that time onwards the Bear Garden at Hockey-in-the-Hole, near Clerkenwell Green, was the chief venue of London devotes of the sport, another favorite place being William Well's Bear Garden and Tuttle Fields, Westminster. At these places bull and bear baiting became a very barbarous recreation shunned by the better class of people and which went furthest and fairest in against the bull, or which jumped highest against the bear, the prizes being a guinea or ten shillings or a collar. The rules of bull baiting, as practiced from 1686 till 1835, presupposed a tethered bull or a tethered bear, and the dog was only required to ``pin" the bull, not to throw him, as was sometimes actually done in earlier years, when many of the bulls were unfettered.


The new system of bull-baiting, as practised from 1686 onwards, favoured an active dog of moderately low stature and of only moderate size, with his nose well-laid back and a protruding underjaw. The great dog of 90 lbs. in weight which had been in vogue when bull-baiting was the sport of Kings, was no longer wanted, whilst the common folk who now had the sport in hand could not afford to rear and keep such huge animals, which would have been a ``white elephant" to them. Much can happen to change any breed of dog in 50 years and by in breeding and breeding with a fixed purpose in view between the years 1686 and 1735, a dog of a definite type and of average weight of 50 lbs. was produced. The dog of 1735 was smaller in skull than the dog of the present day, longer in face, higher at the shoulder, not so wide in front, lighter in bone and body, and less exaggerated in every way, but he was the framework upon which the fin de siecle Bulldog of to-day was built up. And the dog that was gradually evolved in the years 1686/1735, though finally more than 40 per cent lighter than his ancestors of the years 1631/1686, had all the indominable pluck of his ancestors, and was not only the bravest dog but actually the bravest creature on earth, not even expecting the Old English Game Cock. This is an undisputable fact, which was proved time and time again. The dog which was produced in the years 1686/1735, was" the dog for the bull", and it was during those years, and not before then, that he was taught and trained to pin the bull by the nose, and never to attack him in any other place.

As early as 1710 this method of attack became inherited tendency, and even to-day, though bull-baiting was abolished 98 years ago, many Bulldogs still see in cattle their hereditary for, and if a young dog loses his head in a field of cattle he will nearly always try to pin the nearest beast by the nose.By 1735, then, a fixed and definite type of Bulldog had been attained, a courageous, powerful, active dog of an average weight of 50 lbs., very different from the exhibition dog to-day, but nevertheless the groundwork upon which the exhibition dog has been gradually built up.