Why Do Bulldogs Have Squished Faces? And Why it's not Always a Bad Thing - PawsGeek (2023)

We all love that squishy face. The drooping cheeks, that under bite. Its all pretty much irresistible. I know I am not alone in my thinking. Bulldog’s are one of the top 5 breeds in the United States. That squished face is pretty popular.

Why do bulldogs have squished faces? Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed, which is used to describe dogs with a flat face. Veterinarians and researchers believe this is due to a genetic mutation. Bulldog breeders used extreme breeding practices and only selected only dogs to breed with this particular mutation because the flat face was popular.

Advantages of a Bulldog’s Face

We all know that the short snouts can gives the bulldog and any short snout dogs a plethora of health problems. However, in the bulldogs bull-baiting days, this was quite the advantage for them.

We need a quick history here. In the 18th century, it was popular belief that baiting improved the flesh of the bull, but it was also done for sport as well.

And it was the bulldog’s job to bull-bait. The bull was tethered to a stake with about 30 feet to move, and pepper was placed up the bull’s nose to irritate and anger the bull. It was the the bulldog’s job to immobilize the bull. The bulldog would grab on to the bulls nose and pin him to the ground.

Sound cruel? It was, for both animals. In 1835 bull baiting in England was outlawed in 1835 when the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed.

So why was a short snout such an advantage? Imagine a pair of needle nose pliers. They are good for pulling things straight up. Especially long, skinny objects.

Now imagine, flat nose pliers. They are much stronger than needle nose pliers. Flat nose pliers can latch on to things, and with some muscle behind it, they can pull much harder than a needle nose pliers.

And so it is with the bulldog. Bulldogs have that flat nose, and short jaw to clamp down and the muscle in the jaw (and the rest of their body) to pull.

Can you imagine a 50-80 pound Bulldog taking down a bull? I have a hard time picturing how the bulldog did it, even with all its strength. Its just a testament to how strong the bulldog really is.

The bulldog was trained for proper clamping and bringing down the bull. Sometimes even bears.

But when bull-bating was outlawed, a lot of butchers took the dogs homes as pets. Soon it looked as though the bulldog breed was going to going to die out, but thanks to selective breeding, they were bred to be cute companion dogs.

Breeding History of Bulldog’s

Toy sized companion dogs with small faces (think Pekingese and Shih Tzu) were highly saught after in Asia since the 1st century. They were a status symbol.

Now that bulldogs were out of a job, breeders wanted to keep them around, but less aggressive and apparently they wanted to copy that cute squishy face.

They weren’t wrong! The breeders were highly successful. Bulldogs are perfect companion dogs and bulldogs have a squished face, and they are wanted by many families.

Scientists discovered a mutated gene that creates the flattened face and shortened nose. The gene for you scientists out there, is SMOC2. (Yes, there wil be a test.) This mutation is found in dot with flat faces and shorter noses. The condition is called brachycephaly.

Slowly over time, breeders kept selecting the dogs with flatter faces to reproduce and we have the popular English bulldog we have today.

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There are of course other bulldogs, such as the American bulldog that looks most like the original bull-bating dog from the 18th century.

There is a Johnson type American bulldog and a Scott type bulldog. The bulldog was popular in the south in the early 1900’s, but the breed was dying.

A breeder named Johnson bred the dog to have longer snouts and has the closets resemblance to the original bull-mastiff.

Another breeder named Scott bred dogs to have the cute under bite, but not as prominent as the English Bulldog. For this reason, the American Bulldog is often mistaken with the Pit Bull. The American Bulldog is much Healthier than the English and French Bulldogs.

Health Problems in Bulldogs with Short Noses

Despite how cute the bulldogs flat face is, it does cause many unfortunate health problems. The first and foremost beingbrachycephalic airway syndrome. A dog with brachycephalic airway syndrome can have one more of these problems.

  • Stenotic Nares – This is when the nostrils are small and narrow. Thus restricting the air flow.
  • Elongated Soft Palate – The soft palate is the the soft part of the roof of the mouth. Their palate is too long for their mouth. This blocks the trachea at the back of the mouth.
  • Hypoplastic Trachea – The windpipe has a smaller diamater than what would be normal because of that long soft palate pushing into the back of the throat.
  • Everted Laryngeal Saccules – These are small sacs that are placed in the voice box. They turn outwards and are sucked into the airway when the dog is breathing harder. The stenotic nares do no help this situation.
See also Can Dogs Get Pregnant When Not In Heat? [Beware Of Silent Heat!]

All of these things block a lot of airflow, and its all thanks to the flat face in bulldogs. I often wonder if the breeders knew what the health repercussions would be of their extreme selective breeding that caused the bulldog’s smashed face. Maybe they did, but their objective was to sell dogs.

Thankfully, the breeders are now trying to select the healthiest dogs to reproduce, and remove sever brachycephalic dogs from the breeding pool.

Be sure to talk to your breeder about this particular health problem, and the parents they’ve selected. Here is a full list of common health problems in bulldogs to be aware of.

Conclusion

Why do bulldogs have flat faces? Extreme selective breeding! At first their shorter face was all about function and work, but it wasn’t extreme and didn’t cause health problems.

They were strong working dogs who would be dropped out of the breeding pool if it had any respiratory issues at all. Now its all for looks, and breeders purposely selected bulldogs with short snouts.

Now breeders are trying to find that happy medium between the short face in bulldogs and improved respiratory health.

Related Questions

Why do Bulldogs look the way they do? Bulldogs strong, yet wrinkly body, and the bulldog’s flat faces are all thanks to extreme selective breeding in the 18th century. After bull-bating, breeders began turning the bulldog into a cute companion dog.

And I must admit, bulldogs are a lot cuter today than the original bull-mastiff, but that extreme breeding brought on a lot of health problems that breeders are trying to reverse today.

See also How Often Do Bulldogs Go In Heat? Plus the 4 Periods to Know
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Why do Bulldogs have wrinkles? Bulldog puppies will actually grow into their wrinkles, and the wrinkles will become less defined as the puppies grow. This is all excess skin the dog was born with.

Some bulldogs will always have excess skin, but hey, its cute, right? Just remember to clean those wrinkles as its a breeding ground for bacteria. You can read the nitty gritty on How to Treat Tear Stains in Bulldogs? 4 Must Know Tips! or just follow these simple steps by using a baby wipe to clean the wrinkles, and make sure they are dry by wiping with a clean dry washcloth after the baby wipes.

If those cute wrinkles aren’t properly taken care of and an the dog gets a bacterial infection, it’ll be a lot more work than cleaning the wrinkles was in the first place. So be vigilant and you’ll save yourself and your dog a lot of trouble later.

Why do Bulldogs have so many health problems? Extreme breeding practices are the reason for so many health problems in bulldogs. The original bull-mastiff was extremely healthy and strong.

The bull-mastiff was a work dog and worked all day long alongside butchers and helped to herd animals. Over the years the bull-mastiff was bred to be a cute companion dog, but this also came with a log of heart breaking health problems.

What are the signs of respiratory distress in dogs? Bulldogs are especially susceptible to respiratory distress because of their short faces and compromised respiratory system. If your dog shows any of the following signs of respiratory distress, help the dog to cool down.

The signs are flared nostrils, excessive panting, neck and head lowered and extended in front of the dog’s body. Loud and rapid breathing. The dog may also collapse if it is unable to get its breathing back under control.

It is recommended to avoid overly strenuous work with your bulldog (especially French and English Bulldogs) and be mindful of extreme outdoor temperatures as extreme heat or cold can be bad for them.

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