The Australian Bulldog is a newly developed breed hailing from Australia. The Australian Bulldog was initially created by two families that were interested in creating an improved version of the English Bulldog that was healthier and possessed increased working abilities. In order to achieve their goal, English Bulldogs were crossed with Boxers, Bullmastiffs, mixed-breed dogs, and American Bulldogs. The breed was greatly popularized by a television program in the late 1990’s called ABC’s Pet show, and as a result the breed attracted a large number of breeders and fanciers. Although the Australian Bulldog has not been formally recognized by any major canine organizations, breed organizations are working towards recognition with the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). The Australian Bulldog is also known as the Aussie Bulldog, Australian Bosdog, and Australasian Bosdog.
Although the modern Australian Bulldog was only developed in the early 1990’s, the breed can trace its history to the Old English Bulldog, a breed with a very long history in England. The Old English Bulldog was a very different animal than its modern descendant the English Bulldog. Developed from ancient bull-catching Mastiffs, the Old English Bulldog was bred to participate in a sport known as bull-baiting. Bull-baiting involved a bull being tied to a stake in the middle of a ring or pit. The bull would be provoked and enraged and then a Bulldog was sent in to fight it. The Bulldog would grab a hold of the bull’s nose and hold on until the beast was immobilized; a battle that sometimes lasted over an hour and often resulted in the deaths of one or both animals. In order to serve this purpose, the Old English Bulldog was an incredibly powerful and athletic animal, and also extraordinarily fierce and aggressive. Its jaws became incredibly wide, giving it the maximum bite area to hold on with. Bull-baiting was among the most popular sports in England for several centuries until 1835, when it was banned by Parliament. For several decades, Old English Bulldogs continued to be bred to participate in illegal bull-baiting matches and so that they might be crossed with Terriers to produce Bull and Terriers, the prime combatants in the newly popular sport of dog fighting.
It became clear to a number of Bulldog fanciers that their breed was on the decline, and they decided to save it by transforming it from a working breed to a companion animal and show dog. They wrote up several written standards in the mid-1800’s and began to breed their dogs to match it as closely as possible. By the end of the century, the Old English Bulldog was so different that modern experts consider it to be a different breed altogether. It was several inches shorter, but weighed approximately the same. The dog was much more muscular and bulky, but was considerably less athletic. The tail became a stump. The always wide jaws became absurdly large. The face became even more pushed in and the muzzle shorter and more upturned. The dog’s aggression and ferocity were almost eliminated, replaced with a gentle and sweet nature. At the same time, the Bulldog’s working drive and energy were almost eliminated. Before the Old English Bulldog went extinct, it was used to develop a number of new breeds, most of which continued to be used primarily as working dogs, including the Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England, the American Pit Bull Terrier American Bulldog in the United States, and the Boxer in Germany. This information on the Old English Bulldog and English Bulldog is only that which most pertains to the Australian Bulldog. For more information on these breeds please see the Old English Bulldog and English Bulldog articles.
The English Bulldog proved to be extraordinarily and enduringly popular both in the home and the show ring, especially in English speaking countries. The breed has continued to be among the most popular in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. However, in recent years the English Bulldog has faced an increasing level of criticism. Once perhaps the most skilled and capable working dog in the world, the modern English Bulldog is capable of little other than companionship. Of greater concern in recent years is the dog’s health. The heads of English Bulldogs have become so wide that more than 90% of females are incapable of giving birth naturally. Instead, caesarian sections must be performed. The breed also suffers from a massive array of health problems, possibly more than any other breed. Bulldogs suffer from the highest rates of hip dysplasia found in any dog, along with numerous other skeletal abnormalities, especially arthritis and growth deformities. Possessing an extremely unnatural head and face, Bulldogs have a very difficult time breathing properly resulting in shortness of breath, heat intolerance, snoring, snorting, flatulence, and other problems. Bulldogs also suffer from high rates of skin problems, jaw and palette deformities, eye disease and deformities, cancer, heart failure, and other medical conditions.
When Australia was first settled by European settlers, they brought their domestic pigs with them. Many of these pigs escaped and went feral. One of the few domestic animals that thrives in the wild, pigs have become a major agricultural pest in Australia, along with causing severe injuries and massive property damage. Feral pigs are unlike their domestic counterparts, fast, highly intelligent, extraordinarily fierce, and possessing long and incredibly sharp tusks. One of the only ways to hunt wild pigs, often called razorbacks, is with the use of specially bred dogs. In order to hunt pigs, a dog must be highly aggressive, very determined, tough enough to withstand severe injuries, strong enough to hold on, and in possession of very powerful jaws. Australians have not developed a unique breed to catch hogs as is the case in the United States and Argentina, but instead prefer to use mixed-breed dogs. Most of the breeds used to breed pig-hunting dogs in Australia are descendants of the Old English Bulldog, including the Boxer, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier, although that breed is now banned in Australia. Due to restrictions on American Pit Bull Terriers in Australia, many dogs which are actually breed members are called Staffordshire Terriers by their owners making it very difficult to distinguish the two breeds.
In the early 1990’s, Queensland resident Pip Nobes owned a male English Bulldog. As an experiment, she crossed it with her husband’s dog, a female bred for pig hunting. The initial crossing was made out of curiosity, more to see what would happen than anything else. Nobes was an English Bulldog lover who had already owned two of these dogs. However, both were in extremely poor health, as was common in the breed at the time. As pig-hunting dogs are usually in extremely good health (otherwise they are completely useless as working dogs), she realized that the resulting offspring of such animals and English Bulldogs would likely be in considerably better health than other English Bulldogs. After reading an article about how the American Dave Leavitt had developed the Olde Englishe Bulldogge, a recreation of the Old English Bulldog, she became determined to develop a new breed of Bulldog. Initially, Nobes decided to exclude female English Bulldogs because of their whelping problems, only using males of that breed. Initially, mixed-breed pig-hunting dogs were primarily used as dams. Nobes wanted to focus on developing a companion breed, so she only selected those dogs with the friendliest temperaments towards both adults and children. Three females in particular played a major role in Nobes’s breeding program, each of which would eventually be the ancestor of a different line: Lady Chipolata and the Wingara line, Penny and the Hammersley Line, and Soda and the Ducat line. As time went on, Nobes largely abandoned the use of mixed-breed dogs in the development of her Bulldogs, and began to use pure-bred English Bulldogs and Bullmastiffs almost exclusively.
At about the same time as Pip Nobes was beginning to develop her Bulldog lines, another Queensland couple embarked on the same process. In 1988, Noel and Tina Green acquired a male Boxer/Staffordshire Terrier Mix named Banjo and a female Boxer/Bullmastiff/Staffordshire Terrier Mix named Brindle. Both Banjo and Brindle were working pig catching dogs, and they would form the foundation of the Jag Kennel. Also in 1988, the Greens began breeding pure-bred Bullmastiffs. In 1993, the Nobes decided to begin breeding their pig-catching dogs for conformation and use as companion animals rather than working dogs. In order to do so they crossed Sally, one of Banjo and Brindle’s offspring, with a male English Bulldog/Boxer mix named Agro. Much like Pip Nobes’s first cross between a pig-catching dog and an English Bulldog, this cross was done as an experiment to see what would happen. Although the resulting puppies did not possess enough working ability to be useful in the field, they did prove to be extremely suited for life as companion dogs, and from that generation on Jag line dogs were exclusively bred as companion animals. One of Agro and Sally’s offspring was a female named Jag’s Dishlax or Dish. Dish is often considered the foundation of the Jag line Australian Bulldogs and also heavily figured into Nobes’s breeding efforts.
Initially, Nobes and the Green’s worked together and occasionally crossed their dogs. They shared the same goal: to develop a unique breed of Australian Bulldog which exhibited the same excellent temperament, conformation, and suitability as a companion dog as the English Bulldog, but with considerably better health and greater physical and athletic abilities. The Green’s had begun calling their dogs Aussie Bulldogs to distinguish them from other Bulldog breeds, and Pip Nobes also adopted that name over the name Hammersley, her maiden name. Nobes and the Greens bred the first litter of Aussie Bulldogs to be officially advertised as such in a newspaper. Because both Nobes and the Greens kept meticulous breeding records, we know exactly what dogs they used and have photos of many of them. Other breeders became interested in the Aussie Bulldog, of which the most prominent was the Cauchi line developed by Joe and Louise Cauchi. The Cauchi line was the first to introduce American Bulldog blood, although other breeders soon followed this example. Johnson Line American Bulldogs were almost exclusively used, as they are more similar to modern English Bulldogs and Bullmastiffs than the Scott Line, which are more similar to the Old English Bulldog and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
In 1998, the history of the Australian Bulldog was dramatically changed. In that year, the developing breed was featured on Burke’s Backyard a national television and radio program focused on lifestyle. The idea of a uniquely Australian Bulldog struck a chord with the Australian people, especially if it was in better health than the English Bulldog. There was massive national interest and a wide range of breeders began to develop their own lines, based heavily on the Wingara, Hammersley, Ducat, Jag, and Cauchi lines. Although many breeders followed the record-keeping and reputable practices of the original breeders, some developed less healthy and unpedigreed animals to fuel market demand. In 2003, a number of breeders, led by Pip Nobes and Noel and Tina Green founded the United Aussie Bulldog Association (UABA). For a number of reasons which have not been described in great detail, Pip Nobes left that group in 2004 and founded the Australian Bulldog Society (ABS). The ultimate goal of the ABS was to have the Australian Bulldog eventually gain full recognition with the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). Both Pip Nobes and the Greens maintain separate registries for the Australian Bulldog, as does Louise Cauchi. A number of other Australian Bulldog clubs have also been founded in recent years, including the Aussie Bulldog Club of Australia (ABCA).
Before the ANKC would recognize the Australian Bulldog, it had to become a pure bred animal. After years of experimentation, an ideal ratio was decided upon. It was decided that the ideal Australian Bulldog was between ¾ and 13/16 (75 to 81.25%) English Bulldog and between ¼ and 3/16 (25 – 18.75%) other breeds. This ratio was decided upon because dogs that had more English Bulldog blood suffered from similarly high rates of health problems and dogs with less English Bulldog blood lacked proper conformation. Although followed as closely as possible by most breeders, these ratios are only ideals and many individual Australian Bulldogs vary substantially from them. Because the Australian Bulldog was developed so recently and is the result of crosses between several different breeds, it still lacks perfect conformation. However, conformation rates have increased dramatically and the breed now exhibits greater conformation than many much older pure-bred dogs. There is now such a large number of conforming and healthy Australian Bulldogs that lines are beginning to close and any further crosses to English Bulldogs or other breeds are highly discouraged. In fact, the ABS now only recognizes purebred Australian Bulldogs. In order to preserve the breed’s health, the ABS has placed very stringent health and ethical guidelines on its breeders.
The ANKC has not granted full recognition to the Australian Bulldog. However, the Australian people widely recognize it as a unique and purebred dog. The breed is continuing to gain fanciers and breeders across Australia, and its numbers are rising dramatically. In order to comply with ANKC rules, the ABS officially voted in 2011 to change the breed’s name to the Australasian Bosdog. However, the ABS anticipates using both names interchangeably for the foreseeable future. Although it is unclear exactly when it will occur, it is widely believed that the Australian Bulldog/Australasian Bosdog will achieve full recognition with the ANKC in the near future and the ABS continues to work towards that goal. It remains to be seen what will happen to the UABA, ABCA, and other breed clubs. These clubs may continue to operate independently or may eventually join together. Only a very small number of Australian Bulldogs have been exported to other countries, and the breed has not yet established itself outside of that country. It is unclear whether the Australian Bulldog has made its way to the United States yet, but it is not recognized by any major canine organization in that country. The breed may find it difficult establishing itself in the United States, where a number of very similar breeds including the American Bulldog, Olde Englishe Bulldogge, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Bullmastiff, Mastiff, American Bully, and American Pit Bull Terrier are already well-established and quite popular. Such is not a concern in Australia where the Australian Bulldog is currently among the trendiest and most desirable breeds. If interest and populations of Australian Bulldogs continue to grow at the current rate, the breed may eventually become one of the most popular breeds in its homeland. Although considerably more physically capable and active than the English Bulldog, the Australian Bulldog has been bred exclusively as a companion animal, which is where its future lies.
The Australian Bulldog is very similar in appearance to the English Bulldog from which it is primarily descended, but is still a distinct breed. In general, the Australian Bulldog is larger than its English ancestor, especially in terms of height. Male Australian Bulldogs ideally stand between 17 and 21 inches at the shoulder, while females ideally stand between 17 and 20 inches. The legs of the Australian Bulldog are generally longer and straighter than those of the English Bulldog. The Australian Bulldog is a very stocky breed, although it is not quite as thickly built as the English Bulldog. The average male Australian Bulldog weighs between 60 and 85 pounds, and the average female weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. The Australian Bulldog is generally longer than it is tall, up to 10% longer for males and between 10 and 15% longer for females. Although the breed has a relatively short back, it should not be so short as to impede movement. The Australian Bulldog should ideally have a brick-shaped body that is only slightly wider at the shoulders than the hips. The tail of the Australian Bulldog is one of the few breed features that remains quite variable. Some breed members have the stumpy tail of the English Bulldog, while others have a long, straight tail or a curled or kinked tail.
The head and face of the Australian Bulldog are very similar to those of the English Bulldog, but with considerably less exaggerated features. The Australian Bulldog is a brachycephalic breed, meaning that its face is pushed in and its muzzle shortened. This breed has a very short muzzle that pushes upwards, but one that is considerably longer and straighter than the English Bulldog. The jaws of this breed are extremely wide, almost as wide as the skull. Most Australian Bulldogs have a slight under bite, but their teeth should never be visible when the dog’s mouth is closed. The faces of Australian Bulldogs have a substantial amount of extra skin, but the breed should not be heavily wrinkled after puppyhood. Breeders deliberately sought to reduce eye problems in the Australian Bulldog and as a result the eyes of this dog are neither sunken nor protruding. The ears of the Australian Bulldog are small for the size of the dog and fold down either to the front or the sides of the head.
The coat of the Australian Bulldog is virtually identical to that of the English Bulldog, short, smooth, and tightly-fitting. Australian Bulldogs may come in any color found on any dog other than black, pied-black, and blue. Australian Bulldogs found in those colors may not be entered in the show ring and should not be bred, but make just as good of a pet as other breed members. In practice, most Australian Bulldogs are white and brown or brindle and brown, although white is considerably less prominent in this breed than the English or American Bulldogs.
The Australian Bulldog has been bred exclusively as a family companion animal. Breed developers exclusively chose only those dogs with the best temperaments around both adults and children to breed. The Australian Bulldog wants nothing more than to be with its family, with whom it forms very close bonds. Not a one person dog, the Australian Bulldog forms equally strong attachments to all family members. Australian Bulldogs which have been properly socialized with children are usually very good with them. This breed is not only extremely tolerant of roughhousing and the loud noises and jerky movements of children, but also very playful and affectionate with them.
When properly socialized, Australian Bulldogs are generally very tolerant of strangers. In fact, most breed members are very friendly with new people, and consider each acquaintance a potential playmate/source of treats and affection. This breed is quite alert and somewhat territorial, and many breed members make capable, if not excellent, watch dogs. Although its appearance may be enough to deter intruders, an Australian Bulldog would make a very poor guard dog as they are more likely to follow a robber home than attack one.
Australian Bulldogs are considerably better than most similar breeds with other dogs. This breed generally shows low levels of dog aggression, and many of these dogs greatly enjoy sharing their lives with multiple other dogs of both sexes. However, Australian Bulldogs are not a breed that will tolerate aggression from other dogs and will not back down from a confrontation if one comes their way. Additionally, some breed members develop territorial issues with strange dogs, especially unneutered males. Australian Bulldogs tend to have low prey drives and an accepting attitude towards non-canine animals. As is the case with any breed, Australian Bulldogs which have not been exposed to other animals will probably chase them, but once socialization is complete most will leave other pets in peace.
Australian Bulldogs are generally eager to please and are considerably less stubborn than many related breeds. As a result, this breed does not offer too many training difficulties, especially when the process is started from a young age. However, an Australian Bulldog is probably not going to immediately obey every command, and many of these dogs are somewhat stubborn. Additionally, while this breed is intelligent, most breed members do not have the ability or the desire to reach the top end training of a breed such as a German Shepherd or a Standard Poodle. Those looking for a dog that will learn manners, basic obedience, and possibly a few tricks will probably be very satisfied with an Australian Bulldog, but those looking for an obedience champion would probably be advised to find a different breed.
Surprisingly athletic and physically capable, most Australian Bulldogs are very fond of activity. This breed greatly enjoys taking a long walk, spending an afternoon playing catch, or going for a romp off-leash in an enclosed area. As is the case with all breeds, owners must provide their Australian Bulldogs with exercise and stimulation to prevent them from developing behavioral problems such as destructiveness. The Australian Bulldog certainly does not need an excessive amount of exercise, and the average committed family will be able to meet its needs with little difficulty. The Australian Bulldog is a breed whose activity level can adapt to that of its family, and this dog is ideally suited to those who want a dog that is willing and able to engage in vigorous activity on the weekend but only has the time or ability to provide a daily walk the rest of the week.
The physical differences between the Australian and English Bulldogs mean that the Australian Bulldog has a more normally functioning respiratory system and is generally less messy. This means that the Australian Bulldog is a considerably less messy eater and drinker, as well as being less prone to drooling, snorting, snoring, and flatulence. This does not mean that the Australian Bulldog is the ideal breed for the extremely fastidious or easily embarrassed, as this dog will trail food and water from its bowls, drool, make many unusual sounds, snore loudly for hours, and pass gas with great frequency and potency.
The Australian Bulldog is a comparatively low-maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. Australian Bulldogs do shed, although generally not excessively. Owners do have to wipe off the folds of skin on the dogs face at least once a day and preferably after every meal. Otherwise, food, water, dirt, and grime will become lodged in between the skin folds which can lead to skin irritations and infections. This breed should also have its ears cleaned on a regular basis for the same reasons.
The major reason that the Australian Bulldog was developed was to create an animal with considerably better health than the English Bulldog. The physical changes and addition of non-Bulldog blood were made to achieve this goal. To this day, the ABS has some of the strictest health guidelines for its breeders to follow of any breed club. The ABS has banned the breeding of any dog with a number of different conditions, placed restrictions on dogs with several others, and also limited the breeding of dogs which have produced dogs with those conditions. All Australian Bulldog organizations highly recommend that their breeders screen for potential genetic defects, and most (but not all) do. As a result, the Australian Bulldog is in considerably better health than the English Bulldog and its health continues to improve with each generation.
However, despite the continuing best efforts of Australian Bulldog breeders, health problems have not been eliminated from the breed. This dog suffers from essentially all of those problems found in the English Bulldog although usually at significantly lower rates. Additionally some disreputable breeders have not followed the procedures set forth by the ABS and other breed organizations, meaning that carefully selecting a breeder is of the utmost importance. It does not appear that any breed wide health surveys have been conducted for the Australian Bulldog, and in any case it may be too early in the breed’s development to make any generalizations yet. The lifespan of previous generations of Australian Bulldogs was approximately 10 years, but newer and hopefully healthier generations may live longer.
Even the healthiest Australian Bulldogs are sensitive to the heat. Although his dog is much better suited to the extreme temperatures found in Australia than its ancestors, it should still be carefully protected when the thermostat rises. The pushed-in face means that this dog cannot breathe quite as easily as many other breeds, and therefore cannot use the air to cool itself off as quickly. As a result, Australian Bulldogs develop heat stroke and die from it at both lower temperatures and more quickly than many breeds.
A full list of health problems which have been identified in the Australian Bulldog would have to include: