What Is the Purpose of a Bull Terrier?

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In the 1800s, crosses of Bull Terrier in various colors and sizes were popular sporting dogs in England. Bull Terriers are a crossbreed of Bulldogs and different terrier breeds as they want to incorporate the aggressiveness of bulldogs and the agility of a terrier. You might ask, what is the purpose of a Bull Terrier?

What Is the Purpose of a Bull Terrier?

In the 19th century, breeders in England created Bull terriers to catch vermin and for bull-baiting. Bull-baiting was a popular sport in the 1800s that involved setting up a dog to provoke a chained bull. However, bull baiting was banned.

Bull Terrier

What Is a Bull-Baiting Sport?

Bull baiting was a popular sport from the 12th century until its decline in the 19th century. In a bull baiting scene, a chain holds the bull by the leg or neck to a stake in the arena popularly known as bear gardens.

They would unleash the dogs per batch to attack the bull. The goal is to seize the bull by the nose until it’s pinned on the ground. 

The gruesome sport would leave all participating animals injured. While the dogs attack the bull, it would toss the dogs up in the air using its horns. 

Bulls are actually a substitute for bears. Bear baiting has a similar concept to bull baiting. The bloody game would only stop when the bear either kills the dog or when the dog bites the bear into submission. However, due to the cost and scarcity of bears, bulls were made as an alternative. 

The sport wasn’t confined to only two kinds of animals and dogs. It also involves other animals like chimpanzees.

Bulldogs were often picked for this bull baiting practice because of their aggressive nature and their body structure that are both perfect for the blood sport. However, breeders weren’t content with the bulldog’s agility that led to them crossbreed with terrier breeds.

The mentioned crossbreeding created the Bull Terrier dogs. Bull Terriers were created for the purpose of bull baiting.

Criminalizing the Bull Baiting Practice

The bull baiting or bear baiting practice was first denounced by the Puritan ministers and called that the activity as the den of vice and idleness for encouraging gambling, prostitution and drunkenness.

Other people were disturbed by the cruelty of the said sports and led to more criticisms and protests. However, this bloody sport still continued until the 16th century.

In 1835, a parliament act officially sealed the halt of the gruesome practice through the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835. The mentioned Act is all about protecting animals from mistreatment, especially in cattle. Later on, amendments prohibiting animal baitings are implemented like:

  • bull baiting
  • bear baiting
Bull Terrier puppy

It also prohibited dogfighting and cockfighting. Since then, the crossbreed dogs such as the Bull Terriers were kept as human companions.

Bull Terriers as White Cavaliers

Prohibiting bull baiting paved the way for James Hinks to enter the business of dog breeding. He is an Irish-born man and began his career in raising poultry and rabbits. He wants to redesign his dogs but retain their original form. Although the dogs lose their bulldog’s resemblance, the Bull Terriers looked more refined

In 1862, James Hinks introduced the new Bull Terrier with a milky-white coat and the chivalric temperament – something that doesn’t initiate a fight but was capable of finishing it off. These characteristics earned the Bull Terrier a “White Cavalier” alias. The new Bull Terrier breed reaped popularity as people got attracted to its color.

Aside from that, the temperament as a fighter dog shifted into something playful and lively.

However, the all-white breeding was associated with medical problems such as deafness and albinism. Experts led by Ted Lyon recommended the creation of colored Bull Terriers. He was responsible for the development and acceptance of colored Bull Terriers in the show ring.

Bull Terrier Then Versus Now

Present day Bull Terriers look different than the previous ones. In 1915, Bull Terriers had well-proportioned heads and slim torsos. This breed of dog was fit in the past and was dubbed as the “gladiator of the canine race.” Today’s Bull Terriers have a distinct head shape that makes them unique.

They got an egg-shaped head that was compared to a football. Its body was thicker and squat. The appearance had shifted from the 1915 version.

The breeding of Bull Terriers mainly focused on the breed’s unique head. The football-shaped head became the dog’s trademark. After the breed’s head was standardized, breeders started to introduce colors into the breed.

Originally, Bull Terriers were all white why they were also known as the White Cavaliers. Today, Bull Terriers come in a wide range of colors as they start to crossbreed with Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Bull Terrier standing on the grass

The table below shows you the difference between the past version of Bull Terriers and the present-day appearance and temperament.

ColorHead StructureBody StructureTemperament
Past BTWhiteWell-proportionedFit with slim torsosAggressive, courageous
Present BTVarietyEgg-shapedThick and squatPlayful, lively, aggressive

Related Questions

Will a Bull Terrier Protect Me?

A Bull Terrier is protective of its owner, family members and its territory. This breed of dog is territorial and that makes it a very good guard dog. A Bull Terrier turns aggressive if it feels threatened for itself and its family members.

What Is Special About Bull Terrier?

Aside from their unique facial structure, Bull Terriers are generally affectionate, playful, and gentle with their family members. If not socialized and trained Bull terrier puppy well, aggressiveness is highly possible so make sure to be cautious.

Are Bull Terriers on the Dangerous Dogs List?

Bull Terriers have bad reputations along with them as they can become aggressive. In some countries, Bull Terriers are banned. If not, you’re required to get a special permit to own one.


Bull Terriers were originally made for vermin control and bull baiting. However, they have become human companions in the present day.

Since they changed their role from a fighting dog to one of the family members, Bull Terriers have also changed physically and how they behave towards people, especially their owner.

With proper care, attention, and training, Bull Terriers make one great family pet.