Why The AKC Must Change to Save the Bulldog Breed


Why the AKC must change to save the bulldog breedEver feel like the rules are stacked against you?  Like you literally cannot win no matter how hard you try?  Recently, I took a trip to beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada – the land of fun and fantasy.  The buildings, food, and even the shows are dripping with luxurious entertainment.  It’s easy to forget that Las Vegas is simply a business model with rules designed to take money out of your wallet.  We are drawn to the allure of winning big, but casinos are simply another algorithm for making money.  The rules mean that there are many losers and just enough winners to keep everyone playing.  Its science really, human emotion and probability.  Casino owners are always going to be the big winner because that is what the rules dictate.

So what does a bulldog puppy have to do with Las Vegas?  Ever consider who creates the rules for bulldog breeding?  Who dictates what the bulldog breed should look like?  What would a poorly bred bulldog look like?  Even a better question, what should an ethically bred English bulldog look like?  It’s a complex question. However, we can make a good argument that the breed standards of the American Kennel Club shape the bulldog breed.  

The AKC is many things: gatekeeper of the purebred dog, generator of canine show culture, and registrar of canine genealogy.  The club has been instrumental in the formation of modern purebred breeds.  Largely this has been a good thing.  Breed standards are important as are a culture that reinforces them.  Most modern dog breeds have benefited greatly from the guidance that the American Kennel Club provides.  Unfortunately, the bulldog breed has not been one of those breeds. 

Historically, the English bulldog breed was a symbol of not only toughness but also agility and vigor. From the ’40s, through the ’60s the breed was athletic and didn’t suffer from the health problems we see today.  Unfortunately, breed standards created by the AKC in the ’70s and ’80s and enforced by English bulldog show clubs around the country gradually evolved the breed. They made rules to sink the snout into the forehead and shorten legs and back quarters while compacting the skeletal structure to create the cartoonish look we know today.  Unfortunately, these structural changes created a sea of health problems related to breathability, eye problems, and joint issues.  

The bulldog evolved from a symbol of vigor to a walking vet bill due to the changes the AKC made in its breed standard.  Bulldogs and adopters alike have suffered immensely.  Even the media in recent years has recognized and voiced with displeasure the problems with the modern bulldog.  Yet, bulldog show breeders along with the show clubs they represent backed by the American Kennel Club turn a blind eye to the problem.  Most bulldog breeders will deny that a show bulldog is unhealthy at all. But they have to ignore the gasps for air caused by elongated soft palates and small tracheas.  Instead, they focus on their ribbons and trophies, addicted to the endless cycle of politics and egos that drives show culture.  Forgotten are the adopters that actually fund these habits.

Ideally, the AKC would admit that the bulldog breed standards they require to win in the show ring are simply making the breed unhealthy. They would also create a new set of standards that would allow for a slight snout, elongating the skeletal structure of the breed. The AKC could advocate for the health of the bulldog breed instead of padding its bottom line with the unethical circus that is bulldog show breeding.  Hopefully, the rules will change and the breed that so many of us love will stop suffering.