Anyone who has seen and been around a French or an English Bulldog can immediately understand their widespread appeal.
If you are considering one for yourself, which should you choose?
If you are torn between these two types of Bulldogs, delving into the similarities and differences between them will help you make a decision that fits.
An Overview of the Similarities and Differences
Before we go into more depth, here is a summary of the key similarities and differences of the French and English Bulldogs.
- Brachycephalic family traits – flat face with multiple folds, disproportionately short legs and a relatively big head.
- Sensitivity to heat.
- Friendly to people, good with children.
- Similar health problems related to shortened face and limbs – breathing problems, back issues, and elbow or hip dysplasia.
- Easy to groom.
- Size – the French bulldog is smaller.
- Some health issues are breed-specific.
- Temperament – the English bulldog tends to be less energetic.
Now, let’s take a closer look at these elements…
Originally the English Bulldog was massive, approaching 100 pounds. It is believed to have sprung from the Alaunt in the fifth century in England and originally herded cattle, horse, and boars.
The Alaunt was a mastiff-type dog that came from Asia and Afghanistan. When bull-baiting was banned in England, Bulldogs were selected for smaller sizes. Further development of the breed also occurred as they were exported to the United States and Germany.
The French Bulldog also had its start in England but in the 1800s. Breeders intended to create a toy English Bulldog. They crossed rat terrier-type dogs from Paris, France, and parts of the United Kingdom, with English Bulldogs.
By 1860 there was a breed standard for the Toy Bulldog calling for a weight of 16 to 25 pounds. Specialized shows allowed dogs under 12 pounds. The breed underwent development into the French Bulldog with the booming Miniature Bulldog trade in Normandy, France, in the 1860s.
The appearance of both the English and French Bulldog has been modified and reflects their current nonsporting status.
What should strike you when you first see a French or English Bulldog is power. Sure they are cute, but their appearance should have defining characteristics of strength and purpose.
- Muscular and broad frame.
- Short, straight legs with a bowed appearance.
- Broad chest.
- Wide-set shoulders.
English Bulldogs have an undershot jaw and dramatically drooping jowls. They have folded (rose) ears and broad black noses. Their coats are short and fine, and they can be red, piebald, brindle, white or fawn with varying areas of white. The English Bulldog is considered a medium-sized dog with a breed standard ranging from 40 to 51 pounds for females and 50 to 55 pounds for males. Its height is 12 to 16 inches at the shoulders.
French Bulldogs are, of course, smaller than their English counterparts, with proportionately smaller heads. They weigh between 25 and 28 pounds and stand a mere 12 inches tall. They come complete with wrinkles at the shoulders and face but lack the throat dewlaps of English Bulldogs. Their coats are shiny, short and smooth and come in brindle pied, black brindle or tiger brindle, fawn, and blue/grey. Like English Bulldogs, their tails can be straight or corkscrew. Unlike their English relatives, their characteristic bat-like ears stand upright.
Energy and Temperament
While bulldogs were originally bred to be aggressive, the French and English Bulldog of today should make a pleasant and easy-going companion. Despite individual differences, both breeds are known for even temperaments, moderate exercise requirements and extroverted personalities.
Do not let the English Bulldog’s sour face fool you. Underneath is a sweet affectionate soul with a natural love for children. Adults typically have lower energy and endurance than French Bulldogs. Nevertheless, they need regular exercise and plenty of attention.
French Bulldogs may be more active than the English types, but they still need particular care on hot days. They also may not be able to tolerate extremely long walks, but they do enjoy playing with other dogs and children. Frenchies, like Bulldogs, are affectionate and love to be spoiled. Being smaller, they tolerate being held and carried more.
Bulldogs can be hard-headed, stubborn or intractable. These characteristics were useful in their heritage as livestock guardians. Training is paramount if you do not want your French or English Bulldog to become a bully. French Bulldogs may be more quick-witted than their larger cousins, yet they both have high capacities for remembering what they learn.
Health and Lifespan
Unfortunately, both types of bulldogs can suffer consequences of being bred to be so adorable. Both are vulnerable to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, the English Bulldog to a greater extent. Some characteristics are:
- Stenotic nares: nostril openings are abnormally small.
- Elongated soft palate.
- Everted laryngeal saccules.
- Secondary issues – underdeveloped trachea, enlarged tonsils, and collapsed larynx.
Signs your dog may have brachycephalic syndrome are stressed and strident breathing, coughing, gagging and retching, all of which can exacerbate airway restriction. The effects of fluid build-up and inflammation from airway disease can further restrict breathing. However, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent detrimental progression.
Shortened limbs, or chondrodysplasia, leaves the bulldog types susceptible to hip and knee joint abnormalities and spinal disorders. Short faces mean more vulnerabilities to eye problems. French Bulldogs are prone to Von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder.
As with any dog, a bulldog’s lifespan directly relates to the medical care it receives over its life, how quickly underlying issues are addressed, and how severe its inherent genetic disorders prove. Both French and English Bulldogs have an average lifespan between 10 and 12 years.
Which One Should You Choose?
English and French Bulldogs make charming, amiable, affectionate and cute pets. Which one you decide to nurture as a canine companion depends on the qualities that appeal to you most in a dog.
While they share much in common as bulldogs, the significant differences in appearance and the more subtle contrasts in personalities give you some criteria to narrow your decision.
Combine this with consultation from books, current French or English Bulldog owners, or your veterinarian, to make an informed decision for yourself and your family.