In the late 80’s, Jeanne and I went to a flee market and happened upon a pet store that was going out of business. On a half empty shelf, I saw a book called, The World of Fighting Dogs by Dr. Carl Semencic. It was being sold at clearance price so I picked it up to thumb through it. After seeing dogs in it like nothing I have ever heard of, I purchased the book. I couldn’t put this book down. The dog that impressed me the most was the American (Pit) Bulldog. Not knowing its name had been changed to American Bulldog. I knew some day I had to own one. Also, not knowing dogs like Dick the Bruiser, Dixie Man and Sandman the Great were more of what the AB breed started out as then what it would become.
Years later when I went to visit my Cousin in Delaware, I had learned he was breeding American Bulldogs. I asked him, “Are they like American (Pit) Bulldogs?” He asked me what a American (Pit) Bulldog was. I showed him the book by Dr Carl Semencic and he told me they were American Bulldogs. Its funny, I had not heard of American Bulldogs and neither he nor I knew that the name American (Pit) Bulldog had been changed to American Bulldog after the book was published. The word (Pit) was dropped because they were being confused with the American Pit Bull Terrier.
My Cousin had bought his foundation dogs from some of the most well know breeders at that time. Back then, there were said to be three styles of AB’s and they were Johnson, Scott and Painter. He had dogs from each style. Crosses of these strains were referred to as hybrids. Later I would get my first AB from him in 1993 . That Bulldog was a hybrid AB (one quarter Johnson ,three quarters Painter/performance type). He was 125 lbs., had a 27 inch neck and a 38 inch chest.
I began to learn these (what we called hybrid AB’s) dogs out of the same litter, took on many different shapes and sizes. Some were athletic and some were more like a Mastiff then a Bulldog. The dog I had was more like a Mastiff then a bulldog. He was very dominant and was better suited for an estate dog or guard dog then a hunting dog. His litter mate sister was the opposite. Off of him we produced some large protective dogs that were doing very well in Hardest Hitting competitions and personal protection for there owners. But these dogs in my opinion, were more of a Mastiff then a bulldog and didn’t have good enough over all health or temperament. I wanted to add a more athletic dog with better over health and prey drive to our dogs so I started looking for American Bulldog lines that were used as Catch dogs. If I was going to go smaller for better hips etc, I didn’t want to go smaller and weaker I wanted to go smaller and gamer.
I started calling all over the country to find such dogs. There was no Internet back then or was there unlimited long distance. So all I had to go with was from talking to breeders all over the country by phone and references through registry’s and other breeders . Four hundred dollar phone bills were very common back then. Everyone had Historical pictures of bulldogs from England and references of these dogs being catch dogs but only a few could provide any kind of proof that their dogs could actually do what they had claimed they could do. When I found dogs that could do the work they were suppose to do, I either bought them or if I couldn’t, I bought offspring directly off of them when they were bred to the same. Then I worked them and OFA’d them, certifying there hips free from hip dysplasia. I kept them for years before breeding them to also make sure no other genetic problems occurred.
By the time I had done all that I realized they (the White Bulldogs) were different from the American Bulldogs I was seeing, owned or produced. Both in temperament, size and over all health. At that point I fell in love with the Old Style dogs and decided to just continue those dogs as a pure line. Most breeders would have incorporated them into there hybrid AB line and continued on from there. I didn’t…I changed lines completely and Never looked back. Notice I said line.. That is because back then most of the foundation dogs of the AB were White English Bulldogs (aka Ol Southern White Bulldogs, White Bulldogs) so it was only natural to register your White English Bulldogs as American Bulldogs.
I watched many breeders cross there old style lines into hybrid dogs, bully dogs, performance dogs, as well as other contemporary lines. Some doing it to make better, more well rounded AB’s. Many still calling there dogs Ol Southern Whites (or White English). That’s when I decided that something had to be done about it before all of the old Style dogs became either hybrids or perished. I started calling breeders all over the country pleading with them to keep there dogs pure. They all agreed they would, but only a few really did . That’s when I knew a registry was the only answer.
The dogs I have today were all generally segregated, geographically because of the lack of computers and that making long distance phone calls was very expensive back then. That’s how the Old Style dogs stayed unchanged in those days. I was lucky to be able to have gotten dogs back then and glad I was around during that time period before it had ended. The world today is a much smaller place because of computers and unlimited long distance. All they had back then were local newspapers and flea markets. I’m glad the dogs I have today are the product of those times and those days only. Back then they were called White English Bulldogs, Ol Southern Whites, White Bulldogs, Ol Country Whites, as well as other names. The point is; they were just Farm Utility dogs that were unchanged in temperament, size, structure, over all appearance, over all health and working attributes, unlike today’s American Bulldogs which now come in all colors, shapes and sizes.
I have been raising my own line of Ol Southern Whites or White English Bulldogs since 1996-97 and had our first litter of them, out of two adult working, OFA’d dogs in 1999. Our goal is to preserve and refine these dogs through selective breeding and sorting. White Knight Bulldogs can be found in like minded breeders yards all over the USA, as well as in the UK.
This article was written by Mr Ralph Citarella.