The Bulldog Standard



What is a Breed Standard ?

A Breed Standard is a specification document, detailing how the dog should appear and behave. Each country’s governing kennel association has its own standard for the Bulldog, however they are essentially the same. So a bulldog in the UK will conform to the breed standard in any other country. Consult the kennel association in your country for your specific standard. Links to some are given at the bottom of this page.


The Bulldog Standard Discussed

In this section we will summarise the Bulldog standard, discussing how the ideal Bulldog should look, and give reasons for these breed characteristics. Well let’s begin shall we, taking the bull by the horns so to speak, or in the fashion of the Bulldog, by the nose!

To look at the modern Bulldog is to behold a dramatic creature. Ungainly in proportions but tremendously powerful and precision engineered. Maximum power in a minimal volume, that’s the Bulldog! The focal point of this concentrated energy is the Bulldog head, surely one of the most complex mechanisms of the animal kingdom. In the pit, the head of the Bulldog was his primary asset, for he had only his jaws with which to grasp an opponent and the whole head is designed to perform this function very well.

A Champion Bulldog

CH. Robocky Rambo - A successful Australian Champion of the 1980's


In the American point scale standard the head is awarded 39 points of the total 100 points for the complete dog or 39%. This is a significant amount, and is why the British Bulldog is referred to as a “head breed”. The standard says that the skull of the Bulldog must be very large, the larger the better in fact, and gives the minimum circumference (measured in front of the ears) as equal to the height of the dog at the shoulder. Remember though that no single feature should be so overwhelming as to unbalance the dog and make it appear out of proportion. A dog with a huge head dragging along the ground is unlikely to win any prizes.

Why must the head be so large? The largeness of the head comes not only from the skeletal size of the skull but also from the thickness of the cheeks which must be prominent and extend outwards beyond the eyes. It is from here that the jaws get their power to grip as they should. The skull itself must be heavy duty to withstand the knocks associated with the Bulldog’s past profession. The forehead is a great, flat, hunk of bone which should not be rounded or domed nor should it stick forward, overhanging the face. The reasons for this are not given, but presumably, being flat it is more likely to deflect a blow from a hoof than a rounded head and would present a lower profile when the dog is crouched to strike. A big heavy head would be a greater weight for a Bull to carry and could tire it sooner. It would also help concentrate the dog’s weight closer to the Bull reducing the chance of the Bull whipping the dog in the air and snapping its spine.

Ideal Bulldog Head

The ideal Bulldog head

Head Shape

The Bulldog head is referred to as a “brick” head. I have two illustrations which show what this term means. It is described this way because the correct shape of the head when viewed from the front resembles a rectangle with the breadth of the head being the greatest dimension. From the side, the line of slope of the flat forehead continues on to the nose and to the lips (layback) forming a straight line.  At right angles to this, a line is created by the jaws turnup and hence another rectangle. It is probably easier to understand by looking at the following pictures.

Brick head side onBrick head front on


The jaw of the Bulldog has undergone some major redesigning from the average mutt. (Anything other than a Bulldog is a mutt to me!!) It was recognised by the early breeders that scissor bites were really only any good for slashing and tearing at an adversary. In order to obtain a better grip they devised a curving, undershot jaw. This design allowed the dog to bite and grip to a fold of flesh. With the under jaw turning up and back, the rearward facing bottom teeth effectively prevent the loss of the grip in much the same way as some sharks teeth do. It is from this curvature that the term “turn-up” is derived. To facilitate this curvature, the muzzle is very short and broad, maintaining the desired layback of the face. The jaw as well as turning up should be massive and very broad. Here are some examples showing correct and incorrect jaw types.


Scissor Jaw Wry Jaw Correct Jaw Correct Jaw side view
This dog has a scissor bite and is lacking in "turn-up".
This dog has a wry or twisted jaw which is a bad fault
This is the correct jaw for a Bulldog showing pronounced upsweep of the lower jaw or "turn-up".
A side profile cutaway of the correctly conforming head


Correct undershot jaw Undershot jaw side view Straight jaw with some turnup
This dog has the correct curvature of the jaw with the turn-up being evident. This is an undershot jaw which is correct.
This dog has a straight jaw. The lack of curvature results in the lower jaw protruding which is termed excessively undershot.
This dog has a straight jaw but has some curvature at the front of the mouth giving the illusion of being correct

The nose should be large, broad and black, being set well back between the eyes. The distance from the stop (the large groove between the eyes) and the tip of the nose should not exceed the distance from the tip of the nose to the edge of under lip. Having the nose set well back enabled the Bulldog to hold its grip and still be able to breathe through its nose. The nostril’s should neither be pinched or overly flared. Brown or liver noses are a disqualification in the ring.

The Stop

The stop runs from the top of the muzzle, between the eyes, up the middle of the forehead, dividing the head vertically. This enabled the opponents blood to drain away from the eyes and the heavy wrinkles on the muzzle diverted it away from the eyes and nose. These wrinkles should not be ropey. The whole head should be covered in wrinkles and at the throat, from jaw to chest there should be two loose pendulous folds forming the dewlap.


The eyes should be set low down in the skull, about level with the top of the muzzle. Their corners should be level and at right angles to the stop. The eyes should be as far apart as possible, provided their outer corners are within the outline of the cheeks when viewed from the front. The eyes should be round in form, of moderate size, and very dark in colour. They should neither be sunken or bulging and when the dog is looking straight ahead no haw should be visible. There is not any given description of why the eyes should be this way, but presumably the eyes are set low in the head to avoid being damaged easily. The rest seems to be aesthetic only.


The flews should be thick, broad, pendant, and very deep, completely overhanging the lower jaw on either side. They join the under lip and almost or quite cover the teeth, which should be scarcely noticeable when the mouth is closed. Visually, the flews help give width to the muzzle and probably needed to be thick to keep out of the Bulldogs mouth when biting etc.


Really, now all we are left with are enemy no. 1, the ears. It is common practice in the US & Australia to glue the ears of puppies into the correct set at an early age. Obviously this is not the cure for the problem but can correct poor ears. Following are pictures with the same correct head but with different ear sets. The changes are quite dramatic, totally altering the expression of the Bulldog. The correct ear is termed the “rose” ear. The rose ear folds inward at its back lower edge, the upper front edge curving over, outward and backward, showing part of the inside of the burr. This ear is desirable not only because it sets the head of to its best advantage but they are relatively small and unobtrusive, therefore unlikely to be damaged.

Observe the following diagrams showing the same Bulldog with different ear sets. As you will see the ears contribute a great deal to the appearance of the dog.

Erect ears Button ears Tulip ears Oversize ears Correct rose ear
This dog has "pricked" or erect ears
This dog has "button" ears
This dog has "tulip" ears
This dog has large ears that are carried poorly
This dog shows correct ear placement and the correct "rose" ear shape

The Bulldog Body

Although the head of the Bulldog is the breeds focal point, the dogs body is obviously equally as important, after all now we have designed the ultimate gripping mechanism we now need a means with which to deliver it. As previously mentioned the Bulldog was designed to have a low centre of gravity, situated well to the front of the beastie. The reason for this being that the dog is much more difficult to flip over onto it's back and when shaken by the bull is less likely to snap it's spine. Thus the resultant squat, short in back and generally stocky appearance of the Bulldog. (Bear in mind though that the fighting ancestors of the modern Bulldog were somewhat longer in leg than today's more exaggerated specimens)


The Bulldog's neck should be short, very thick, deep and strong and well arched at the back. This was necessary so that the integrity of the neck could be maintained under the heavy lateral forces exerted upon it whilst the dog was being swung about by the bull. It also had that heavy head to lug around hence the arch in the back of the neck.


The shoulders should be muscular, very heavy, wide-spread and slanting outward, giving stability and great power. Again the lateral forces thing. The wide front gives the Bulldog the aspect of a three legged stool which is very stable, in fact more stable than a four legged object. Just try to push your Bullie over. Easier said than done eh! The correct shoulder conformation is described as being "tacked on" which means that the shoulders and thence forelegs appear to have been tacked on to the side of the dog.

Bulldogs Tacke on shoulders

Chest and front legs

The chest should be very broad, deep and full to obtain the low centre of gravity. The forelegs shout be short, very stout, straight and muscular, set wide apart, with well developed calves, presenting a bowed outline, but the bones of the legs should not be curved or bandy, nor the feet brought too close together. The feet should be moderate in size, compact and firmly set. Toes should be compact, well split up, with high knuckles and short stubby nails. The front feet may be straight or slightly out-turned. The elbows should be low and stand well out and loose from the body.

Turned out with hare feet  
This dog is lightly boned, has narrow shoulders and no breadth of chest giving rise to the "terrier" front. There is no "tack-on" of shoulder. This example also has long narrow feet termed "Hare feet".
This dog has tight, narrow shoulders. It is lacking depth of chest and the legs are crooked. The feet while of the general size and length required are badly splayed.
Something   Correct chest, legs and feet
This dog has loose shoulders with weak pasterns giving rise to the "fiddle" or "Chippendale" front (that's the furniture not the male strippers!!). This dogs feet turn out badly and the legs are lightly boned.
This is a good example of a Bulldog front. Note the breadth of shoulder and the chest is broad yet well let-down The boning is heavy and the legs are straight and well muscled. The feet are compact and well knit.

The brisket should be very capacious, with full sides, well-rounded ribs and should be very deep from the shoulders down to its lowest part, where it joins the chest. The dog should be well let down between the shoulders and forelegs giving it a broad, low, short-legged appearance. The body should be well ribbed up behind with the belly tucked up and not rotund. This "tuck-up" helped prevent the dog from exposing vital organs in combat The desirable spring of rib is termed "barrel ribbed" as it gives the torso of the dog the rounded appearance of a barrel. A flat sided or "slab sided" dog as I call them , loses it's desirable "pear' shape and makes the dog appear long and out of proportion.


The back as mentioned earlier should be short and strong, being very wide at the shoulders and then tapering off to the loins giving rise to the characteristic "pear" shape. There should be a slight fall in the back close behind the shoulders (the lowest part) , from where the spine should rise to the loins ( the top of which should be higher than the top of the shoulders), and from there start curving downwards more suddenly to the tail forming an arch. This is a very specific characteristic of the breed and is termed "roach back" or "wheel back".


Camel back   Sway back

This dog has what is known as a "Camel" back where there is no fall from the shoulder and the arch peaks too early. The tail is a "screw" tail which is not the desired set but is the most prevalent.

  This dog has a sway back or "ski-jump" as it is sometimes referred to. The tail is "gay" which means it is carried high and is another bad fault.
Straight back
Roach Back
Here is an example of a straight back which is a bad fault. The tail although the correct type is set too high on the rear. This seems to be a common fault at the present time..   Here we have the correct specimen with nice roach, good tuck-up at the loin with correct tail and placement.

The hind legs should be strong and muscular and longer than the forelegs, so as to elevate the loins above the shoulders. Hocks should be slightly bent and well let down, so as to give length and strength from loins to hock. The lower leg should be short, straight and strong and well angulated, with the stifles turned slightly outward and away from the body. The hocks are thereby made to approach each other, and the hind feet to turn outward. Having the rear feet turning out assisted the dog to gain leverage when being dragged by his adversary.

Pigeon toed
Cow hocked



The tail may be either straight or "screwed" (but never curved or curly), and in any case must be short, hung low, with decided downward carriage, thick root and fine tip. If straight, the tail should be cylindrical and of uniform taper. If "screwed" the bends or kinks should be well defined, and they may be abrupt and even knotty, but no portion of the tail should be elevated above the base or root.

Well, speaking of tails, this is the tail end of the description of the standard Bulldog.


Links to Kennel Associations

To locate the exact standard for your country, check with your country's Kennel Club or Association. Some links below are included for your information;

United States of America
New Zealand
United Kingdom



Advertise At Bulldogz.Com

Bulldog of the Month

Bulldog News Wanted

Free Dreamweaver Templates | Cheap Web Hosting | Car Insurance Quotes