American Bulldog vs English Bulldog comparison

Nov 22, 2022 | Pet Ownership

Thinking about getting a dog and stuck between an American Bulldog vs English Bulldog? That’s not surprising. Despite their similar names, they’re actually quite different. To clarify things a little, let’s compare the two breeds based on history, appearance and temperament!

American Bulldog vs English Bulldog: History

American Bulldog history

The American Bulldog is a descendant of the Old English Bulldog. This now-extinct breed was first bred specifically for the traditional blood sport of bull-baiting (hence the name), which involved having dogs fight a bull.

The sport is long gone now, and as a result, so is the Old English Bulldog. However, immigrants did bring dogs of this type to the United States for work purposes. They were athletic, strong and fast, which came in very handy for things like warding off feral pigs around farms in the rural South.

The American Bulldog was never a “set” breed: all sorts of mixes existed in different areas, with no formal registration. This changed around World War II, when, like many other breeds, Bulldogs had become quite rare. Efforts to save and standardize the breed were made, which eventually resulted in the American Bulldog we know today. Despite this, the American Bulldog wasn’t recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club) until 2019. There is still no formalized breed standard.

Did you know? Don’t confuse the American Bulldog with the American Bully dog. This short, stout and wide-legged breed is the result of breeding American Bulldogs back to English ones, resulting in a completely different look.

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English Bulldog history

English Bulldogs have been a formal breed for much longer than their American counterparts. As mentioned, when the popularity of the Old English Bulldog declined, some were taken to the US and eventually resulted in the American Bulldog.

Those that remained in the UK, however, were selectively bred into a breed more suitable as companion animals: the English Bulldog. Some state that cross-breeding with pugs was involved to achieve the smaller size, while others note that this would have been almost impossible without artificial insemination.

However the current English Bulldog was achieved, it has long been a national favorite for the English. It was first formalized all the way back in 1874, just after the official English kennel club (KC) was formed.

Image comparison between American bulldog (top) and English bulldog (bottom)

American Bulldog vs English Bulldog: Appearance

Since it has been so long since the two breed lines separated, it’s not surprising that there are quite a few differences between the American Bulldog vs English Bulldog. This also has to do with the fact that there is no formalized breed standard for the American Bulldog. In fact, there are distinct breeding lines as a result of early clashes about what the dog should look like.

The classic (or Johnson) American Bulldog is the largest, but its face is more similar to its English counterpart. It sports the typical wide, flattened face with a short nose, referred to as brachycephaly. It has the slight underbite, plus the significant jowls and skin folds we associate with Bulldogs.

The standard (or Scott) Bulldog is a little bit smaller and can lean almost towards a pitbull in terms of appearance. Its nose tends to be longer and although it still has jowls, they are less pronounced. It tends to be somewhat leaner.

The English Bulldog is really quite easy to tell apart from both types of its American cousin. It’s much shorter and stockier with a very pronounced underbite, very short nose and thick facial skin folds. Due to frequent health issues as a result of this, efforts are being made nowadays to produce less brachycephalic English Bulldogs.

Classic American Bulldog Standard American Bulldog English Bulldog
Weight Up to 120 pounds (male) Up to 120 pounds (male) Up to 55 pounds (male)
Height Up to 27″ (shoulder) Up to 27″ (shoulder) Up to 15″ (shoulder)
Lifespan 10-16 years 10-16 years 8-10 years
Energy level High High Low
Grooming Low Low High
Health Normal Normal Poor
Price $1,500-3,500 $1,500-3,500 $1,500-$4,000

American bulldog vs English bulldog: Health

Yep, as we just mentioned, health may be a significant consideration in choosing between an American Bulldog vs English Bulldog. This is mainly because of the significant health issues that dogs of the latter breed can struggle with due to their appearance. You may have heard about rising controversy around short-nosed breeds, and along with dogs like pugs and French Bulldogs, the English Bulldog is among the worst affected.

English Bulldogs can be affected by health issues like:

  • Overheating due to being unable to pant properly
  • Infected skin folds
  • Hip dysplasia due to most of their weight being on their front legs
  • Protrusion of the inner eyelid (cherry eye)
  • Inability to give birth, leading to c-sections being necessary
  • Bad knees

As a result of all of this, the breed isn’t very long-lived. Most don’t make it past 8-10 years. If you’re interested in getting an English Bulldog, we’d say this is something to consider: do you want to support the breeding of unhealthy dogs? And even if you’re adopting rather than shopping, will you be able to deal with heartache and veterinary bills? Consider the fact that breeding extremely short-muzzled dogs is actually not allowed anymore in some countries, like The Netherlands.

American Bulldogs tend to live quite a bit longer, up to 16 years. They do have their health issues, like being prone to certain neurogenerative diseases, hip dysplasia and certain eye problems, but overall they’re a lot healthier than English Bulldogs. Because it’s less brachycephalic, we can expect the standard Bulldog to be less affected by breathing problems and skin fold infections than the classic type.

Image comparison between American bulldog (top) vs English bulldog (bottom)

Top: Classic American Bulldog. Bottom: English Bulldog.

American bulldog vs English bulldog: Temperament

Both American and English Bulldogs can make great pets, but their temperaments are not the same. Notably, English Bulldogs have been house pets for much longer and breeders have worked specifically to reduce aggression. As a result, their personalities are strongly geared toward family life.

English Bulldogs are known as child-proof and friendly, with a patient but dignified nature. They even tend to get along well with other pets. However, don’t think that this means an English Bulldog doesn’t need training! All dogs do.

American Bulldogs, on the other hand, still retain more of a working dog attitude. They’re social, fun, active and confident with the right training, and can make great family pets. However, improper training or past traumatic experiences can lead them to become fearful, destructive or even aggressive. They need a firm hand, someone who can shower them with attention daily but also maintains ground rules. Because of this, the American Bulldog may not make the best first dog.

Which dog is right for you?

American and English Bulldogs are both popular breeds that can integrate very well into a family. We’d say that the better choice for you would be an American Bulldog if you have experience training dogs and are looking for a high-energy breed to do all sorts of activities with.

English Bulldogs make good first dogs and are perfect for a more laid-back life, but you do need to keep their potential health problems in mind. If we wanted to add one to our family, we’d try to see if we can find breeders who have taken up the call for longer snouts and better weight distribution in their stock. That might help you find a more healthy pup, although there are no guarantees.

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