Bull Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Fearless, fun loving and active

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
20-24 inches

Average Weight
45-80 pounds

Coat Color
Pure white, black, brindle, red, fawn or tri-color

Coat Length/Texture
Short and dense

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy, twice per year

Also known as English Bull Terrier, White Cavalier

General Temperament

The modern Bull Terrier retains little of it’s ferocious heritage as a fighting breed, although they remain a physically strong and courageous breed when the situation calls for it. They are extremely loyal, forming a strong bond with their owners. They are affectionate and active and enjoy spending lots of time with their families. Bull Terriers are friendly, energetic, and fun, and have a great sense of humor.

There seems to be some debate over whether Bull Terriers make good guard dogs. They are known to defend their family and territory with unending vigor when necessary. On the other hand, they have a strong affection for humans, especially when properly socialized, and are not generally aggressive towards visitors or strangers.

With proper socialization and training, a Bull Terrier makes an excellent family pet, but they are not recommended for every household. They are somewhat difficult to train and can be quite willful; it is important for the owner to maintain the “alpha dog” role for the whole of the dog’s life, otherwise they can become unruly and aggressive towards other dogs. They enjoy adults and children equally, but puppies can be a bit too energetic and rambunctious for small children, and adults can be snippy if overly pestered. The Bull Terrier will not do well in a household where they are left alone for extended periods, such as a regular work day. They also do not function well with other household pets, including dogs.

The Bull Terrier needs adequate stimulation, both physical and mental. They will be happy in an apartment setting as long as they are vigorously exercised and are given plenty of playtime. They generally prefer warmer climates and will need protection from the cold in cooler climates.

Breed History

The Bull Terrier was born out of the “bull-and-terrier” craze of the early 19th century, when sportsmen involved in the brutal wagering sport of bull baiting crossed various bulldog and terrier breeds to produce dogs with the bravery of a bulldog and the agility and intensity of a terrier. In the mid 1800’s, a breeder named James Hinks developed what is known as the “Bull Terrier” in response to the introduction of formal dog shows and sudden increased demand for companion dogs. These dogs were more refined and consistent than previous bull-and-terrier dogs, allowing for establishment of a breed standard which was characterized by it’s solid white coat and wedge-shaped head. The breed was often referred to as “White Cavaliers,” and their popularity soon spread to the United States by the end of the 19th century. Eventually, some of the White Cavaliers were bred with Staffordshire Bull Terriers to create a colored coat, which was recognized as a separate variety in 1936.

The Bull Terrier has found work as a ratter, herder, watchdog and guard dog, in addition to being a general companion.

Body Structure and Composition

The Bull Terrier’s most characteristic feature is it’s egg-shaped head and small, triangular or almond-shaped eyes that are sunken into the skull. The ears are placed close together and high on the head, and are usually carried erect. This breed has a muscular and proportionate body with a level topline, leading to a short and tapering tail. The shoulders and legs are strong and well-muscled.

Medical Information

Bull Terriers are generally healthy, although they do encounter some specific health issues. Solid-white Bull Terriers are prone to deafness, and this can be a difficult condition to assess during puppyhood. Skin allergies are also common in this breed; something as simple as a flea or mosquito bite could cause hives or a rash.

Some Bull Terrier lines are prone to Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle”), a condition that occurs when the kneecaps slips out of place, requiring surgery. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), Hip or Elbow Dysplasia also occurs in this breed, although with less incidence than other larger breeds. This situation occurs when the head of the bone no longer fits in the cup provided by the socket, causing arthritis-like symptoms and lameness. To help prevent the spread of these inheritable diseases, responsible breeders will obtain certification from the OFA on their breeding stock prior to producing a litter.

Some Bull Terriers can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders, such as tail chasing, excessive licking or chewing of their own skin.

Caring for a Bull Terrier’s coat is a simple process: simply brushing him occasionally will do the trick. Additional brushing may be necessary during heavy shedding periods to minimize loose shed hair around the house.

Anecdotal Information

Several large American companies have used Bull Terriers as mascots in advertising campaigns, such as Target (“Bullseye”) and Budweiser (“Spuds Mackenzie”).

The Bull Terrier has served as inspiration for many authors, including Gillian Rubenstein (Answers to Brut), Chris Van Allsberg, and Sheila Burnford (The Incredible Journey).

The Bull Terrier has been featured in American film and television. In the film Toy Story , the maladjusted boy next door has a Bull Terrier named “Scud.” The main character in the short-lived television show Keen Eddie owned a BT named “Pete.”

U.S. Army General George S. Patton owned a Bull Terrier named Willie (named after William the Conquerer).

Tim Burton’s film Frankenweenie stars a Bull Terrier named Sparky.

For Purebred Dogs

Search for DNA tests by your dog’s breed. In 3 simple steps you can find & order all of the tests available for your purebred dog.

For mixed breed dogs, you can identify the key breeds in your dog’s genetic background with a Dog DNA Breed Test. Over 220 popular breeds can be detected!

Learn more about Canine DNA Testing >