Pug mixes vs. pit bulls in thin disguise
SELMA, California––Much of the public did a double-take on July 31, 2022 as word spread that five “English bulldogs” belonging to breeder Victor Carranza, of 4 Brothers Bulldogs, killed neighbor Richard “Hutch” Barry, 59, as he walked home from his brother’s house around the corner.
Fatal pit bull attacks are frequent in the area, just south of Fresno, California. At least five people have been killed by pit bulls within 20 miles of Barry’s death since 2016, and at least three others have been critically injured.
“English bulldogs,” however, until recently have rarely been mentioned in connection with fatal and disfiguring dog attacks.
The five “English bulldogs” who fatally mauled “Hutch” Barry escaped from Carranza’s house, ran across the street, and surrounded “Hutch” Barry three houses away from their home.
“No match for five angry dogs”
Barry’s brother, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, witnessed the attack from a car, but was unable to help. His wife, Teresa Barry, driving, stopped the car and ran to try to rescue “Hutch” Barry.
“It was a real nightmare,” Teresa Barry told Rich Rodriguez of Fox 26 News, “and the look on his face when I was trying to help––you could just see the terror in his face. And I tried. I tried to help him.”
“Teresa and Hutch were no match for five angry dogs,” Rodriguez recounted. “She was fortunate to escape with bruises and a bite to her hand.”
Reported a Selma Police Department media release, “Officers used bean bags and tasers to subdue the dogs,” who were also tranquilized before taken to a local animal shelter.
What is an “English bulldog”?
Some neighbors described the “English bulldogs” who killed “Hutch” Barry as mixes of “English bulldog” and pit bull. Video showed barrel-shaped, brindle-colored dogs being impounded––but were they all really “English bulldogs” as people tend to think of them?
When people visualize an “English bulldog,” they tend to think of them as the American Kennel Club defines them: “A thick-set, low-slung, well-muscled bruiser.”
“You can’t mistake [an English] bulldog for any other breed,” the American Kennel Club claims. “The loose skin of the head, furrowed brow, pushed-in nose, small ears, undershot jaw with hanging chops on either side, and the distinctive rolling gait all practically scream ‘I’m a bulldog!’
“The coat, seen in a variety of colors and patterns, is short, smooth, and glossy. Bulldogs can weigh up to 50 pounds,” the American Kennel Club continues.
“Summer afternoons are best spent in an air-conditioned room,” the American Kennel Club advises, “as a bulldog’s short snout can cause labored breathing in hot and humid weather.”
AKC acknowledges fighting history
The American Kennel Club breed history acknowledges the fighting ancestry of “English bulldogs”:
“Historical evidence suggests that bulldogs were created in 13th century England, during the reign of King John, for the ‘sport’ of bull-baiting.”
The American Kennel Club purports that “A turning point in bulldog history came in 1835, when England banned blood sports with animals. Blood sports went underground, literally, as bull-baiting gave way to pit-dog fighting in cellars.
“This illicit activity required quicker, more animated dogs than the plodding bulldog of the early 19th century,” the American Kennel Club says.
“Gamblers created fiery, four-legged gladiators by crossing various terriers with bulldogs, and in so doing put forth early prototypes of the bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and other bull-type terrier breeds still popular today.”
Omitted from this account is that war dogs equally ancestral to the pit bulls of today had already come to the Americas centuries early, including with the 1493 second voyage to the New World by Christopher Columbus, the 1519 invasion of Mexico led by Hernando Cortez, and the 1529 invasion of Peru led by Francisco Pizarro.
Descendants of the Spanish war dogs, called “Cuban bloodhounds,” indistinguishable in old illustrations from today’s Presa Canarios and Dogo Argentinos, became the preferred dogs of slave traders and slave masters, and were broadly distributed throughout the U.S., commonly used for dogfighting, by the mid-19th century.
Also omitted from the American Kennel Club account is that there seems to be no written reference to any dog called a “Staffordshire” before the U.S. dogfighter John P. Colby began his breeding his pit bulls in 1889, calling them “Staffordshires” to distinguish his line from other lines.
None of that, though, while integral to pit bull history, has much directly to do with history of the “English bulldog” paraded at American kennel club exhibitions.
“With bullbaiting obsolete,” the American Kennel Club alleges, “the bulldog faced extinction. In response, bulldog admirers began the long process of transforming the breed from brawler to companion. They refined the physical contours to make the dog more attractive, and they also tamped down the bulldog’s ferociousness. By 1886, bulldog fanciers on both sides of the Atlantic had done their work well enough to see the breed recognized by the AKC.”
Pugs in the mix
The International Olde English Bulldogge Association offers a similar history to that of the American Kennel Club, but adds to it that the fanciers who “refined the physical contours to make the dog more attractive, and tamped down the bulldog’s ferociousness,” in the AKC version, “crossed the remnants of the existing stock with the pug and over the years that followed they developed the modern English Bulldog.
“Unfortunately though,” the International Olde English Bulldogge Association adds, “this modern dog is wrought with all kinds of genetic health problems.”
Specifically, three traits of pedigreed “English bulldogs” render them unfit for fighting, none of them behavioral.
The “loose skin of the head” of a pedigreed “English bulldog” is easily seized and torn by a fighting pit bull, the “undershot jaw with hanging chops on either side” is not well-configured for biting, and “the short snout that can cause labored breathing in hot and humid weather” is not suited to fighting to the death by Cajun rules in the rural South, where dogfighting has for more than 150 years been most prevalent.
“Olde English Bulldogge”
Behaviorally speaking, and American Kennel Club sales hype set aside, “English bulldogs” are known to be snappish and temperamental, and are usually not a safe dog with children or other pets, albeit relatively unlikely to inflict severe injuries in sustained attacks.
“The modern Olde English Bulldogge,” says the International Olde English Bulldogge Association “is a reconstruction of the original Olde Bulldogge. The foundation of most of today’s Olde English Bulldogges can be traced to English bulldog, American bulldog, American pit bull terrier, and mastiff.”
The Olde English Bulldogge, in short, is just an oversized pit bull.
Breeder John D. Johnson testifies
This is confirmed by an affidavit easily accessible online, dated October 17, 2005, from longtime “American bulldog” breeder John D. Johnson.
Testified Johnson, “The American bulldog is the same dog that was developed in England in the 12th century, by the meat packers, to catch large bulls.
“Later, they were registered as ‘English Bulldogs,’” Johnson averred. “They also were ‘pit’ fought over there [England], against each other, badgers, lions, and anything that would fight. They were brought over here in the 17th century.
After “England outlawed all types of [animal] fighting,” Johnson said, breeders “bred them down in size to the present ‘English bulldog.’
Johnson, however, “kept our bulldogs in the large state, and I have developed them even larger than the original,” he stated.
“The ‘bull terrier’ is a cross between the ‘English terrier’ and ‘English bulldog’ (60% ‘terrier’ and 40% ‘bulldog’),” Johnson specified.
“The Staffordshire terrier’ is 50% English bulldog’ and 50% ‘English Terrier,’” Johnson said. “The ‘American bull terrier’ is a cross between the two types,” Johnson continued.
“David Leavitt’s ‘Olde Bulldogge’ that he is breeding up,” Johnson finished, “is crossed between English bulldogs, American bulldogs, American pit bull terriers, and bullmastiffs.”
Elaborates Wikipedia, “In 1971 dog breeder David Leavitt of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, wanted to “recreate a Bulldog with the looks, health and athleticism of the 18th century bulldog which was originally created for the English sport of bull baiting between the years 1100 to 1835.
“The foundation crosses consisted of one-half bulldog, one-sixth American bulldog, one-sixth bullmastiff and one-sixth of other breeds.”
Pit bulls & pickup trucks
Distilling all the above into simplest form, the American Kennel Club version of an “English bulldog” is ancestrally a pit bull crossed with a pug, of pit bull temperament but not armament, often not a “nice dog,” but rarely capable of killing humans and other animals.
There are, however, “English bulldogs” who lack pug ancestry, are still wholly pit bull or pit bull mixed with mastiff, have pit bull armament, and are both as capable of killing other animals and humans, and as likely to do it, as any other pit bull.
Bear in mind here that “pit bull” is not a breed but a description of function, and that almost every “name” fighting dog breeder, both now and in the past, mixes his or her own “secret” combination of dogs to produce his or her own line-bred pit bull brand.
The resemblance of one pit bull to another, in short, is the resemblance of one pickup truck to another. Irrespective of whether the pickup truck is a Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, or Toyota, it is defined by function, not by the make, and certainly not by the chrome trim, the equivalent of which is what is judged at pedigreed dog shows.
The Canton Bulldogs
Meanwhile, contrary to the creation myth invented to sell the “Olde English Bulldogge,” the “English Bulldog” pit bull variant never actually disappeared, and was already widely distributed throughout the British Empire and beyond long before Britain outlawed animal fighting.
The “Fighting Bulldogs,” of Canton, Ohio, the first pro football team, debuted in 1903. They eventually became the most prominent charter member of the National Football League, formed in 1920.
Most people today might describe the Bulldogs’ emblem dog as an “English bulldog,” but there was no pretense then that he was anything but a fighting pit bull.
Sportswriters filled accounts of their games with dogfighting metaphors.
Led by Native American Jim Thorpe, the first pro football superstar, who was also a multi-event Olympic medalist in track-and-field and a major league baseball player, the Bulldogs won the NFL championship in 1922 and 1923, with a cumulative record of 25 wins, no defeats, and three ties.
The original Bulldogs were sold to Cleveland in 1924, and the Bulldogs name and logo were dropped after 1926, but their influence led to the location of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and their fighting reputation drove the popularity of “English bulldogs” in their time.
Jiggs of the U.S. Marine Corps
The U.S. Marines during World War I adopted the “English bulldog” as their mascot, explained Marion F. Sturkey in her 2001 book Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, precisely because of the reputation of “English bulldogs” for tenacity in the fighting pit.
The second U.S. Marine Corps mascot dog, Jiggs II, donated in 1927 by former heavyweight boxing champion and World War I Marine Corps veteran Gene Tunney, was a small “English bulldog” of the pug mix variety, but possessed pit bull temperament.
Jiggs II “chased people, he bit people,” wrote Sturkey. “ After one of his many rampages, he died of heat exhaustion in 1928.”
First “English bulldog” fatality
A trio of one-year-old “English bulldogs” of some sort on April 13, 1928 killed breeder John Suess’ five-year-old son Bruce in Mankato, Minnesota.
Many fatalities attributed only to “bulldogs” had been documented in the U.S. during the preceding hundred years, but Bruce Suess appears to have been the first fatality in an attack expressly attributed to “English bulldogs.”
Associated Press reported that Bruce Suess entered a garage in which the “English bulldogs” were kept, closed the door behind himself to keep his German shepherd out, and “apparently fell to the floor from a step. This, it is believed, caused the animals to attack him. The boy’s body was badly torn.”
A child of that age, who had already fallen, could have been killed by three of the “English bulldog” variant cross-bred with pugs. But the “English bulldog” pit bull variant would have been a more likely suspect.
Pit bulls in thin disguise
The version of “English bulldog” involved in most recent fatal and disfiguring attacks by alleged “English bulldogs” is more easily identified.
Among 29 “English bulldogs” known to have been impounded since 2005 for killing or severely disfiguring humans, or for killing horses or multiple other dogs, or for having been used in dogfighting, 12 were explicitly identified by animal control officers, police, or owners as “Old English Bulldogs,” i.e. pit bulls in thin disguise.
These dogs included the 76-pounder in Delmar, Delaware who left a six-year-old boy in critical condition on February 18, 2005, and the eight “Olde English Bulldogges” who on December 7, 2012 killed housecleaner Remedios Romero-Solares, 30, of Fallbrook, California, at the home of an individual identified by the San Diego County Department of Animal Services and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Homicide Unit as both a dog breeder and a marijuana grower.
“English bulldogs” tear faces.
“Old English” bulldogs” kill.
From the available information, 10 of the 16 other “English bulldogs” involved in similar incidents were also of the “Old English” variety. Most were significantly bigger than the 50-pound upper end of the “English bulldog” size range defined by the American Kennel Club.
Among these 10 dogs were the two six-month-old “puppies” who killed seven-year-old Malaki Mildward in College Springs, Iowa, on January 22, 2015.
“Six months ago,” the Daily Mail reported, “Malaki’s mother posted on Facebook: ‘Have Pitbull English bulldog pups got shots and ready to go message me for details and pics.’”
Only six of the “English bulldogs” who were impounded after violent incidents appear to have been the flat-faced, wrinkly-jowled, short-winded ancestral bulldog/pug mixes whom the public tends to think of as “English bulldogs.”
Two of those six “English bulldogs” inflicted very severe facial injuries upon young women who tried to pick up and hug them. Two others amputated the fingers of people who tried to pet them. One participated in a multi-dog attack led by a pit bull, and one participated in a multi-dog attack led by a Rottweiler.