I remember the first time I ever saw a Bull Terrier, I was about 12 years old and to this day I still remember everything about it. I was crossing a busy pedestrian road when my attention was drawn to a beautiful brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch that was standing by its owners feet on the other side of road. I purposely directed my crossing in her direction to take a closer look, once across, I made the obligatory intros with the owner and started to pat her. She was a really nice and docile bitch and looked nothing like the many barrel shaped staffs we see today.
As I was patting her and out of no where, a walking rugby ball on four legs came charging towards me like a raging bull from in between the passing pedestrians. I was shocked and remember standing up and taking a step back from being down on one knee. It was a big and strong tri colour male from show lines, he was very square in shape and moved around like a bull in a china shop trying to grab my attention and looking for a pat.
I remember the owner turning to me and saying “don’t be scared, he’s alright, he just wants your attention, push him down if he tries to jump up” as he turned away and carried on talking to his mate. I remember nervously patting this Bull Terrier and just being in awe of how physically strong and eye catching he was. My soft spot for the breed began in that split second, a soft spot that still very much lives on to this day.
Long before seeing this dog my interest for the breed had already began at an even younger age after watching the well known Disney film “Toy Story” where the naughty kid from next door mistreats his toys with the help of his white Bull Terrier. There is no denying that the physical appearance of the breed is unforgettable and unmistakable. It’s one of the most recognised breeds in the world weather people like the egg shaped head or not.
Later, in my 20’s when I decided to get my first dog after leaving home and having an array of different breeds over the years as family dogs it was of course the Bull Terrier that was top of my list. I looked at KC lines and working lines and after much deliberation and going against my better judgment I decided on a male pup from KC lines from a small breeder in Suffolk, England. The dam was a really nice athletic type that went to work with her owner on a farm on a daily basis, this was her first and only litter. The sire was a big brindle and white male that had been imported from Holland that came from KC lines that had proved popular with people that were looking to work their Bull Terriers. This was what grabbed my attention and after speaking with the owner of the dam and seeing some pictures of the pups I decided to go and see them.
The pups were all in great condition and well looked after. Most of the litter had been spoken for except 3 pups including the pick of the litter which was meant to have been going back to the owner of the sire however they were having some issues and could no longer take their chosen pup. This pup was a tri colour male and he was easily the most confident, the most drivey and the biggest of the litter. I have to say looking back now he was a really special pup that grew on me the longer I was there. He followed me everywhere and took a liking to me from the offset, fearing he would soon be gone or that the owner of the sire would change his mind I bought that male pup there and then and took him home with me that day.
My love and appreciation for the breed grew and grew with this highly active but stubborn pup that at the best of times was great to have and at the worse times was a complete and utter pain in the backside. He was a crazy and erratic pup that needed firm handling from the get go, there were certain triggers that would set him off but for the most part he was dog friendly and very trustworthy around everyone and anyone. As he grew out of his teenage years and became an adult he really came into his own, he was a big imposing male and anywhere I went with him people stood in awe of him. He was a very good looking boy but had plenty of drive and interest in working which he proved back home.
At this point I was already looking to buy a female to breed to him, something smaller, lighter and more terrier like so that the pups would be a nice balance of the two. However, out of the blue at the age of 4 he had 6 epileptic fits in the space of 24 hours. Anyone that knew me, knew that I loved that dog and was absolutely devastated to be told by the vet that my pride and joy was epileptic and had about 18 months to live. I knew that I could never breed him or go ahead with my plans but I was not willing to give up on him. I contacted a variety of experts all over the world from vets to scientists and changed everything about his daily life in an attempt to stop the fits and give him the best possible life I could. I changed his diet, exercise routine and even his sleeping arrangements, everything became very regimental but it worked and I could easily count on one hand the amount of fits he has had since. He is now almost 9 years of age…
I have to admit I was disappointed that despite my best efforts to research and pick and choose a good healthy Bull Terrier I had ended up with one that had major health issues. My interest in the breed dwindled and despite there being some very nice healthy working Bull Terriers about in the UK, France, Indonesia, Germany, Australia and the USA I was quite happy admiring them from a distance and refusing to take the plunge in getting another one and ending up being heart broken again, wether it was from KC lines or working lines. I always said to myself that it wouldn’t be a breed I would bring home again…
In the mean time I bought other bull and terrier breeds that ticked all my boxes without any of the health issues that the Bull Terrier is unfortunately well known to suffer from. However the Bull Terrier continued to always be a guilty pleasure of mine somewhere very deep in the back of my mind.
Fast forward a few years…
On a recent trip to London I had the opportunity to go and visit a well known dog woman in the UK who I have now known for about 6-7 years and she owns two German bred working Bull Terriers from Friar Tuck and Charim lines. As I enjoy going to catch up and meet the many people I’ve met over the years through the dogs, it’s always an opportunity to talk dogs and also see their old dogs again or see their new dogs. This was a good opportunity to see these German bred Bull Terriers which despite having read and heard a lot about I had never seen one in person.
I’m not really sure what I expected as a Bull Terrier is a Bull Terrier… I was aware that these German bred dogs had been infused with some working American Staffordshire Terrier blood and the owner kept them in tip top condition through out the whole year around. Unlike many who claim to work their dogs in the UK, the owner of these two does actually work them and does man work with them. Upon seeing them both I was ready to grab the female and run away with her… she was small, compact, well built and drivey and that is in my opinion what every Bull Terrier bitch should be. She was in great shape as I expected her to be and she moved gracefully without very little effort. I was impressed with her and I could count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve been really impressed when I’ve seen many of these dogs in real life, that look great in pictures but in reality are nothing special. Photo shop has a lot to answer for in today’s social media.
The male was a much larger animal and an all together very different beast. He was about 21 inches to the shoulder, he was long in the back and had the old school floppy ears like the breed did before ear cropping was banned and the show breeders began breeding for the modern day style erect ear. He had an air of confidence about him, nothing seemed to worry or concern him as we walked around the local area. This dog had his poker face on 24/7 and you could tell that one wrong move towards the owner he would wake up from his relaxed confident mood into a rugby headed hyena. I have to admit that I never felt 100% relaxed around him, but that is his job and he does it well. Credit to him and his owner for that! He is the kind of dog that wouldn’t be for everyone, personally I preferred the females temperament. A more of an every day drivey, obedient and very switched on dog. She was a lot easier to read and I like that in a dog. However, the male was the kind of dog you would want around when all hell broke loose or you were in a life or death situation. Both of them have their own positive attributes and would have brought a lot to any man’s kennel.
It’s been a long time since any Bull Terrier has made me re ignite that old soft spot of mine for them. I’m surprised it’s taken all of these years given the amount of quality working Bull Terriers out there at the moment , as I feel like the breed is at an all time high with an extremely dedicated following all over the world. They are becoming more and more popular which I hope can only be a good thing in the long run, even if there is always the odd idiot who gets involved in any breed for all the wrong reasons.
It was one of the most sentimental trips I’ve done in recent years from the many Dogman/dogwoman I’ve visited as It brought back many old feelings I had for the Bull Terrier which in my mind is more of a Bully Hound than a Bull Terrier. Who knows what may happen… but maybe one day, when the right pup is available, from the right parents at the right time I may just bring one of these lunatics home again and take another chance on this old English favourite of mine.