History and Characteristics

Breed Characteristics

Personality: American Bulldogs are friendly, intelligent, affectionate, loyal, reliable, brave, determined, alert, and self-confident.  Their intelligence makes them highly adaptable and trainable.  They excel with a strong leader who teaches them manners and boundaries. The American Bulldog is an athlete that needs exercise.  My Bette sleeps in with me on Saturday morning and loves to run with me on Saturday afternoon.

With Children: The American Bulldog genuinely loves children.  The dog needs to be socialized and introduced in a calm and gentle manner.  The child needs to be taught the proper way to meet a canine.  American Bulldogs are gentle and loving family companions.  No dog should be unsupervised around infants and toddlers who poke and pull them.

Other Pet Compatibility: When socialized properly an American Bulldog can live with any other pet.  My Bette lives with a 13 pound Pomeranian, and goes with me on Game Time Dog Service’s dog walks.  She’s easily met over 100 dogs and has gotten along with every size and age she’s met.  

Trainability: The American Bulldog is a very intelligent breed and does well with training and excels in many different types of dog activities and canine sports. American Bulldogs should be socialized and trained at a young age.

Health + General Description: The American Bulldog is considered a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 9 to 12 years. The breed is somewhat brachycephalic, meaning they have short snouts.

Body: Muscular, sturdy and powerful.   The chest is wide and moderately deep, giving the sense of athletic ability and power.  The front legs are heavy-boned, strong and straight. The hindquarters should be very broad and thick with well-defined muscles.  Males are characteristically stockier and heavier boned than the more refined females.

Tail: Tail is usually set low and is generally thick at the base. It is strong at the root and tapering to the hocks (in rest position). The tail is carried over the back when excited or walking

Weight: American Bulldogs typically weigh between 80 to 120 pounds when fully grown.

Height: American Bulldogs are between 22 to 28 inches tall, females American Bulldogs are slightly smaller than males.

Coat: Short and smooth

Color: Any color, color pattern, or combination of colors is acceptable for the American Bulldog, except for merle, solid black, solid blue, and tricolor (white with patches of black and tan). Some dark brindle coats may appear black unless examined in very bright light. Disqualifying Fault: Solid black or blue with no white markings; tricolor (white with patches of black and tan)

Head: The face of the American Bulldog indicates intelligence, with discerning alertness. The head is usually broad, flat across the top giving a squared appearance, with an abrupt ‘stop’. It is also medium length, well muscled throughout, and pronounced muscular cheeks.
Classic: A square shape or a round melon look with a deep, abrupt stop
Standard: Generally a box or wedge shape

Eyes: Almond shape to round and are medium sized. Brown eye color is the most common, however, blue, grey and even green eyes can occur occasionally

Ears: Their ears are generally medium in size, set high, and are carried close to their head. However, sometimes the ears may be forward flap or rose

Neck: The neck must be long enough to exert leverage, but short enough to exert power.  It tapers from shoulders to head and is almost equal to the size of the head.

Gait: Generally balanced and smooth, showing great speed, agility, and power. All legs move parallel to the direction of travel, with front legs clearly reaching and the rear legs propelling the dog forward. The legs should not travel excessively wide.

Classic: Generally they have rolling gait

Standard: Tend to have a tighter, more athletic gait


Crib and Rosa, by Samuel Raven, 1817. These were bulldog types of the early 1800s

In 1732-1736 the original Bulldog arrived in the Georgia region of the United States.  The breed was a cattle drover and “catch dog” used to catch and hold cows or other livestock until they could be corralled. This Bulldog also was used as a property guardian and protector. The breed’s temperament and physical attributes made them great multipurpose dogs.  Through the years they were called by several names, but most commonly Bulldogs.  Over time they fell out of popularity and came close to extinction.  In the 1940’s, after World War II, two devoted breeders stepped in to save the breed: John D. Johnson and Allen Scott.  John D., a returning war veteran, began collecting the best representations of the Bulldogs he remembered from his youth.  Working together they began carefully breeding the American Bulldogs to the original Bulldog of 17th century.

They coined the name American Bulldog and registered with the NKC in the 1970’s.  I’m not sure when, but Johnson and Scott had a falling out.  Some say it was because they disagreed on what the American Bulldog should look like.  They went their separate ways, but almost every American Bulldog in existence today can trace their pedigree back to Johnson’s foundation stud dog “Dick the Bruiser” or Scott’s foundation stud dog “Mac the Masher”.

Johnson American Bulldogs

Johnson’s Dick the Bruiser

The Johnson American bulldog, also called the Classic American bulldog, is the larger of the two American bulldog types. They stand about 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 90 and 120 pounds. Johnson dogs have heavier bones, wider chests and boxier heads more closely resembling the English bulldog due to a cross with that breed. This American bulldog type must have a distinctly undershot bite, although the lower teeth must never show when the dog’s mouth is closed. Both types of American bulldog can have cropped or natural ears; however, natural ears are preferred for both.

Scott American Bulldogs

Mac the Masher

Allen Scott’s American bulldog, often called Standard American Bulldog, remained smaller and more athletic than those bred by Johnson. Despite being a taller dog, standing between 22 and 27 inches at the shoulder.  The Scott type has a narrower head and muzzle. This type has a slightly undershot jaw with the lower teeth at the front of the mouth touching the outside of the upper teeth in what is called a “reverse scissors bite.”

The controversy of which type is closest to the original continues today.  There is no formal documentation that outlines the exact measurements and temperament of the original Old Bulldog, but there are many songs, paintings, and pictures of them.  In the south there are 18th century ceramic plates with pictures of bulldogs on them that look identical to the American Bulldog of today.