Why The AKC Must Change to Save the Bulldog Breed

Why The AKC Must Change to Save the Bulldog Breed

Ever 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 of luxurious entertainment.  It’s easy to forget that Las Vegas, from the Bellagio to Circus Circus is simply a business model with rules designed to take as much money out of your wallet in the most feel-great way possible.  We are drawn to the allure of winning big, but break it down and casinos are simply another algorithm designed to make money.  The rules are set up 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 bullog look like?  Even a better question, what should an ethically bred english bulldog look like?  While these questions are layered and complex, a good argument could be made that the American Kennel Club and its breed standards have largely shaped what the bulldog breed looks like today.  

The AKC is many things: gate keeper of the purebred dog, generator of canine show culture, and registrar of canine genealogy.  The club has been instrumental in the formation and structure of modern  purebred dog breeds as we know them.  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.  The breed in the 40’s, 50’, and 60’s was athletic with a light wrinkle set and did not suffer from the health problems that we see today.  Unfortunately, breed standards created by the AKC in the 70’s and 80’s and enforced by English bulldog show clubs around the country gradually evolved the breed. Rules were created to sink the snout into the forehead, legs and back quarters were shortened 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 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 that 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, ignoring 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 required to win in the show ring are simply making the breed unhealthy.  Ideally, the AKC would create a new set of standards that would allow for a slight snout, elongating the skeletal structure of the breed.  Ideally, the AKC would 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.