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Bull Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021

bullterrier-outdoor on beach

The Bull Terrier is a large purebred though it does come in Miniature form, called a Miniature Bull Terrier. It was bred to be a fighting dog in the 1800s and then came to be a gentleman’s dog later on when those days were over. It is now a show dog and companion with talents in obedience and agility.

Here is the Bull Terrier at a Glance
Name Bull Terrier
Other Names English Bull Terrier, Standard Bull Terrier
Nicknames Bully and Gladiator
Origin UK
Average size Large
Average weight 50 to 70 pounds
Average height 20 to 24 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Fine, harsh, short
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, brown, tricolor, brindle and white
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 55th by the AKC
Intelligence Moderate to average
Tolerance to heat Very good – able to handle warm and hot climates but not extremes
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in even just moderately cold climates!
Shedding Average – will be loose hair in the home to clean up
Drooling Low – not known for lots of slobber
Obesity High – prone to gaining weight so needs to have regular exercise and food should be measured
Grooming/brushing Easy – brush at least a couple of times a week
Barking Rare to occasional
Exercise needs Fairly active
Trainability Difficult – can be very stubborn
Friendliness Excellent – very social
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owners just because of training
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization – can have high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent – very approachable
Good apartment dog Good – can adapt but with its size it is best with a home that has some space
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Good but prone to some issues including eye problems, heart problems, skin problems, deafness and kidney problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic medical care
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, training, toys and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1000
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3 Maimings: 1 Child Victims: 1 Deaths: 0

The Bull Terrier’s Beginnings

The Bull Terrier was created in the early 1800s when the Bulldog was crossed with the Old English Terrier with a dash of Spanish Pointer. It was bred to be a more agile fighter in the ring against bulls. This was a time when the sport of bull baiting was vary popular. However Bull Terriers turned out not to be the best at that. And then the blood sport was banned anyway. It was used for herding, as watch and guard dogs and as ratters. There were eventually two types of bull and terrier, the Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

In 1860 the white Bull Terriers called White Cavaliers were bred by a breeder called James Hinks who bred English White Terriers (a now extinct breed) with bull and terriers. These are the ones that became fashionable to have amongst noble gentlemen. Breeding was done to reduce the stop and to improve the temperament to be more of a companion. In 1917 the first modern Bull Terrier came about. However at this time breeders that included Ted Lyon began to introduce color to the breed with Staffordshire Bull Terriers because of the many medical issues all white breeding created.

New Lease on Life

In 1885 the first Bull Terrier was registered in America and 12 years later the Bull Terrier Club of America was started. In the US the colored Bull Terrier was recognized separately in 1936. In 1992 the Miniature Bull Terrier was recognized. The Miniature was bred to have all the temperament and looks of the Bull Terrier but to be smaller and therefore easier to manage. In most other clubs they are seen as different varieties of the same breed. It is ranked 55th most popular registered dog by the AKC today.

The Dog You See Today

The Bull Terrier is a large dog weighing 50 to 70 pounds and standing 20 to 24 inches tall. It has a short dense coat that is rough to touch. Common colors are white, tricolor, brindle, brown and black. Its body is rounded and muscular and its tail is short and set low. At the neck and shoulders it is very muscular and strong.

It has an oval shaped head, long, almost flat and sloping. The head is the most recognizable feature of the Bull Terrier and is often referred to as egg shaped. The nose is black and its eyes are almond shaped or triangular and dark. The ears on the Bully are thin, small and set close together

The Inner Bull Terrier


Bull Terriers are one of those misunderstood breeds of dog that people view with concern as being violent and aggressive when in actual fact, when raised well, socialized and trained it is a very sweet and affectionate dog and can be a great family pet. It has a playful side to it too sometimes acting the clown to make you laugh. It does have a protective side and it can be aggressive when there is a threat, but it is also friendly, extroverted, loyal and courageous. However because of that perception there are some places that have bans on them or restrict ownership so check your local laws about them before you get one and be ready to deal with negative reactions.

This is a good dog if you want one who will not only be a good watchdog but will also act to defend you and the home if needed. It is fearless and will protect its family. A new owner could choose a Bull Terrier as their first dog but ideally it should be with those with experience just because it does have a strong stubborn side sometimes. It can also be possessive and then jealous if it is not getting all the attention.

It has a lot of energy and will need an active owner or family otherwise if it becomes bored it can act up and be destructive, especially younger Bullys. You can expect some barking from it, and also some other noises as this is a dog who likes to talk to you or itself with grunting and mumbling noises. It loves people coming over, including strangers. It does not like to be left alone for long periods though and can suffer from separation anxiety.

Living with a Bull Terrier

What will training look like?

Training a Bull Terrier is a difficult process so it will need a lot of perseverance and patience and a firm owner. It is essential it is clear you are the pack leader and that you stay in charge at all times. If needed there are professional schools or trainers you can use but you will need a certain level of experience yourself to get through this! It is stubborn and strong-willed and will challenge you sometimes. This needs to be dealt with but in a fair and calm manner while still being assertive.

Early socialization is essential for the Bully too. Otherwise they may be aggressive at times and it could lead to serious behavioral problems. With socialization you are more able to trust how it will respond to different situations, places, people and animals. Unfortunately it is also difficult when it comes to house training. Keep using positive reinforcement, by consistent and consider using the crate method. It is important that the Bull Terrier has a lot of strict structure and firm leadership, a meek owner can lead to an even harder dog to deal with.

How active is the Bull Terrier?

This is a fairly active dog so it needs owners happy and able to be this active, or ones who already are! While it can adapt to apartment living it is best in a home with space for a large dog and one with a yard or land to play and explore in. Take it in a couple of brisk fairly long walks a day or let it join you for hikes, runs and so on. It would also love to have regular trips to a dog park where it can play with you, run free safely and socialize. As this breed is prone to obesity it is even more important it gets enough physical exercise each day.

Caring for the Bull Terrier

Grooming needs

A Bull Terrier is not a high maintenance dog but it does shed an average amount so there will be some loose hair around the home to clean up, and it will need brushing at least a couple of times a week. During its seasonal blow outs when shedding is a lot heavier daily brushing is a good idea. Use a curry brush or rubber mitt. Only give it a bath when it needs one as bathing too often will dry out the natural oils in its skin. In between baths you can do dry shampoos or wash it down with a damp cloth.

It will also need its teeth cleaned two to three times a week, its ears wiped clean once a week and checked for infection and its nails clipped if they get too long. Some may wear the nails down naturally with their activity but some may not. Take care if you opt to cut them yourselves as there are blood vessels and nerves to avoid in the lower parts. Have a professional groomer do it for you if you are not sure about it.

Feeding Time

A Bully needs 2 to 4 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. How much exactly your dog will need is going to depend on its level of activity, how old it is, its rate of metabolism and what size it is. As mentioned the Bull Terrier love to eat and will eat anything. Watch your counters and bins, there are Bullys each year who die from gastrointestinal blockages from eating things they should not have.

Bull Terrier with children and other animals

This is a breed of dog that is great as a family pet, it is good with children, playful, bouncy, making mischief together and affectionate towards them. It is also protective of them. Early socialization is important and being raised with them does deepen that bond. Do not let the children mess with its food or tease it when it is eating though and make sure they are taught how to touch and play with them nicely.

Because of their rowdiness it may be best to have it homed with older children as younger ones can get knocked over, or always supervise younger children. When it is a child that is strange to them they can misjudge rough play and may feel the need to protect ‘their’ child, and they do not like being teased and can react aggressively.

With other animals if the dog has not been fixed it can be more aggressive towards them. If raised with it, ie a cat it can be more accepting but strange cats in its yard or other strange small critter are prey for it to chase. It is best not to have small pets like hamsters or rabbits just in case.

With other dogs it can have dominance issues especially with dogs of the same sex. Socialization is important as is supervision when out in places like dog parks. However opposite sex dogs tend to get along better.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

A Bull Terrier’s life span is about 11 to 14 years. It is a healthy breed in general, not prone to a lot of health issues but there are some to watch out for and they include Slipped patella, heart and kidney problems, allergies, deafness, spinning and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people that did bodily harm over the last 34 years in Canada and the US, the Bully is named in 3 incidents. 1 of those was a maiming, the victim was left with a permanent maiming, disfigurement or loss of limb. 1 of the 3 victims was a child but there were no deaths. This averages to 1 attack every 11 years which means despite its appearance and stereotyped views of it this is not a dog likely to attack people.

Any dog can attack given certain situations. It is important as a dog owner that you recognize what kind of dog is more suited to you and your lifestyle. It needs the right level of physical and mental stimulation, sufficient attention and food and training and socialization. When dogs get these things they are for less likely to become aggressive.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The average cost for a Bully puppy of good pet quality from a decent breeder is about $1000. $1500 or more are the prices for show quality dogs, up to several thousand from a top breeder. A Bully from a shelter or rescue is less but is likely to be an adult. Using backyard breeders, local ads or ones online is tempting but beware there are a lot of bad breeders and puppy mills to be avoided.

There will be some initial costs when you get the dog, it will need a crate, bowls, leash and collar, bedding and so on. It also needs to visit a vet who can exam it, and do things like deworming, shots, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and blood tests. These costs come to about $500.

Food each year will be about $270 for a good quality dry dog food and treats. Medical essentials like check ups, shots, pet insurance and tick and flea prevention come to about $485 a year. Other costs like toys, training, license and miscellaneous needs come to about $245 a year.

This is a total estimated annual cost of $1000.


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The Bull Terrier is not a simple dog to own by any means. It requires owners willing to deal with difficult training and socialization, it does not like to be left alone for long periods, it can be jealous and it will need owners who can be strong and set the rules. In the right home it is funny, affectionate, gentle, protective and loyal. With owners who are too timid, do not give it what it needs though it can be difficult, destructive and aggressive.

Featured Image Credit- TC-TORRES, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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