Breed Profile: Bull Terrier

Bull terriers are fun, energetic dogs with goofy personalities and an unmistakable appearance. Find out more about this unique breed in our profile.

bull-terrier-breed-profile
Bull terriers are unique in appearance and energetic. By: Robert Tadlock

Breed

Bull terrier

Group

Terrier

Physical Description

A bull terrier’s appearance is hardly mistakable. The egg-shaped head, small almond-shaped eyes and elongated muzzle are immediately noticeable on this medium-sized and muscular breed.

The short, flat coat can be white or vary from colors and markings that include white, black, tan, brindle, red, fawn or a combination of some of these colors.

Bull terriers have an average lifespan of 11 to 12 years. They vary in height between 21 and 22 pounds and weigh 50 to 70 pounds. Miniature bull terriers are smaller versions of this breed. This breed is referred to as one of the funny-looking dogs and has appeared in commercials, movies and various advertisements (you may remember Spuds MacKenzie or Bullseye from television commercials).

Origin

Bulldogs were crossed with terriers in the 1800s to combine determination, courage, agility and intensity. James Hinks of Birmingham, England, chose to refine the breed in the early 1860s to be consistent in type and color. The dogs sported white coats and were often referred to as white cavaliers. The refined dogs became popular as pets and competitive show dogs, and their exportation led to the Bull Terrier Club of America being formed in 1897. The American Kennel Club included the breed in 1885.

The colored bull terriers were created in the early 1900s as a result of being crossed with colored Staffordshire bull terriers. A bull terrier is considered colored as long as any white coloring or marking is not dominant over another color.

Purpose

Bull terriers are companion pets and participate in obedience, agility and conformation, and they work as therapy pets.

Temperament

Bull terrier at Crufts 2013. By: Kristine Lacoste/Pets Adviser
Bull terrier at Crufts 2013. By: Kristine Lacoste/Petful

Socialization and exercise are necessary to expel energy and allow your dog to safely interact with other dogs. Unaltered males are not recommended to share a home because of the eventual need to dominate the other dog.

Bull terriers can be energetic and difficult to train, so they may not be ideal for homes with young children. They are not recommended for households with non-canine pets, but there are homes that do so without issue.

A bull terrier temperament is friendly, affectionate, sweet and loyal, and these dogs can become quite attached to their owners. They’re also considered clowns, known to act goofy and be entertaining at times. They are not considered guard dogs but can be watchful. Bull terriers should not be left alone for long periods of time, so this is not typically a dog that can stay home all day while you’re at work or away from home.

Exercise Needs

Exercise is needed daily for this breed. Bull terriers are energetic and need to be able to expel energy. Without regular exercise, they can become overweight, lazy, destructive or stubborn.

This bull terrier shows how fun it is to dig and play:

Grooming Requirements

The short coat does not need much grooming; a weekly brush is sufficient, and bathing can be done as needed. Bull terriers shed an average amount, and they will shed their coat twice a year on average. Additional grooming for the nails, teeth and ears should be done regularly.

Common Health Problems

Although generally a healthy breed, the bull terrier sees certain common conditions:

  • Deafness: Deafness occurs occasionally and may not be immediately obvious in puppies.
  • Skin allergies: These can be aggravated by insect bites and may cause hives, rashes and itching.
  • Lameness: This may occur in dogs under 1 year old because of over-activity during the rapid growth period this breed experiences.
  • Overweight: Bull terriers gain weight easily, so their food intake should be monitored.

Other conditions that may arise include heart defects, acne, kidney failure and a zinc deficiency.

Is the Bull Terrier the Right Dog for You?

Bull terriers aren’t for everyone. While their distinctive look will turn some heads, these dogs have needs that must be met in order for them to be happy and healthy. Their energy level is high, so be prepared for daily walks and play to keep them moving.

They can be a little too energetic for young children and typically don’t do well in homes that pair two unaltered males, so consider these facts when choosing this breed.

Grooming is minimal and health concerns are not too excessive. The dogs can become attached to their owners and are usually very affectionate. While the breed is watchful, this is not a breed normally used as a guard dog.

If you can commit the time and energy needed for proper exercise and socialization while taking into consideration the recommendations for this breed, a bull terrier might be a great choice.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

If you are considering getting a bull terrier, start with adoption and rescue resources. Many breeds can and have ended up in shelters. Check out our adoptable pet search to see which dogs are currently available.

If you decide to go to a breeder, make sure the breeder is reputable and responsible so you don’t end up supporting a puppy mill without realizing it.

Additional Resources

  • American Kennel Club’s Bull Terrier Page
  • The Bull Terrier Club of America’s Bull Terrier Rescue Page
  • The Bull Terrier Club of Great Britain’s Rescue Page
  • BTCA: Famous Bull Terriers Throughout History

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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