The Olde English Bulldogge breed was created decades ago by David Leavitt to come up with a healthy English bulldog that is able to work and breathe without a problem. Breeding Olde English Bulldogge dogs means being very careful about the pedigrees of your breeding dogs, the registries, and the health screenings available at ay given time.
Because the breed is so young and generally loved by a younger audience, there is a multitude of directions taken for the breed. Some want it to be athletic and muscular, others want it to be smaller and more English bulldog-like, etc. The problem is, there is no one rule-them-all breed standard of registry. Some of these clubs are strict while other allow pretty much any specimen, even non health cleared ones.
An Olde English Bulldogge breeder must take all preventative measures to avoid a repeat of what happened to the English bulldog: a disaster where now most of the specimens can’t properly breathe after a 30-second jog. Let’s see why David Leavitt decided to engineer and produce a new breed and what was the original mix!
Background of Olde English Bulldogge Breeding
Breeding Olde English Bulldogge Dogs means dealing with a new breed being the modernized version of the English bulldog. The Olde English Bulldogge breed is healthy but the plethora of registries and variations may be confusing to the general public.
To understand the philosophy behind the breed and why it came to life, we’ve got to go through some background and even a little bit of storytelling.
David Leavitt's project
David Leavitt created the Olde English Bulldogge breed in the 1970s, as a resurrection of the now extinct Old English Bulldog. He was dissatisfied with the health problems of the still-popular English Bulldog. He realized that English Bulldogs did not have the body that its ancestors had. Leavitt set out at his kennel in Pennsylvania to create a breed of dog that looked like the 19th century bulldog—a dog that could breath and work—but with good temperament. The breeding scheme he used was from a cattle breeding formula developed at University State of Georgia by Dr. Fechheimer. Leavitt described his process as follows:
You start with 3 unrelated dogs, 2 males and 1 female. Female pups are bred to the second male. From this point females are bred back to uncles, each generation. I have 2 unrelated scheme started, so future outcrosses will be possible. I’ve used breeds that all have old Bulldog in their background.
The process of remaking the Bulldog took generations of dogs and a number of years. By 1988, Leavitt had reached the 5th and 6th generation of the two lines. The final dog was a new breed that Leavitt dubbed “Olde English Bulldogge” (originally “Olde English Bulldogg”). This new breed’s bloodline was ½ English bulldog, ⅙ American Bulldog, ⅙ American Pit Bull Terrier, ⅙ Bullmastiff.
Leavitt started the Olde English Bulldogge Association in the 1980s and maintained the new breed’s first registry. During the 1980s, Leavitt worked closely with Ben and Karen Campetti of Sandisfield, Massachusetts in developing and expanding his breeding program. In 1993, David Leavitt turned over his registry and sold his breeding stock to Michael Walz. In 2001, the Olde English Bulldogge Kennel Club was formed and the Olde English Bulldogge Association merged with it in 2005.
The major changes over time that have occurred in these business machinations and changes in the registry holder has been the development of larger Olde English Bulldogges than its inventor’s ideal. In response, David Leavitt formed a new registry named the Leavitt Bulldog Association.
An Athletic Working Dog
David Leavitt’s new breed which resembled its ancestors of the Regency era but with a very sweet and loving temperament. His dog was designated as a “working dog” and the Olde English Bulldogge, which today is sometimes called the Leavitt Bulldogge, is a muscular and athletic dog. The breed standard includes the word muscular in major parts of the dog’s anatomy including shoulders, back, chest and hindquarters. The dog has an athletic build with weight in proportion to height.
This dog can’t run miles like a herding dog but can go the distance for most activities. It has an ability to be a good tracking dog and can hold its own or better in weight pull and agility competition. The dog was meant to look scary but be not overly aggressive. Still, it is loyal and courageous and will defend its family if necessary. It has earned its place, then, in the role of a guard dog. It is not, though, fit for personal protection training. Nevertheless its scary facade, dogs have found work as service animals and as therapy dogs for children and the elderly.
Comparisons to Other Bulldogs and Bully Breeds
People who are breeding Olde English Bulldogges are trying to breed better dogs than what is currently found within other bulldog-like breeds. Just like the American Bully is always compared to American Staffs and Pitbulls, the Olde English Bulldogge breed is always compared to English bulldogs and various mastiffs.
Comparing them should not mean confusing them; they are indeed closely related and the Olde English Bulldogge is half American bulldog, but the breed has very distinct characteristics and features.
Confusion With English Bulldogs
The Olde English Bulldogge is not the English bulldog, though, the two are often confused in the lexicon of articles and in the minds of the public. According to the breed’s creator, the Olde English Bulldogge is only ½ English bulldog. The newer breed is taller and heavier. The Olde English Bulldogge has a longer muzzle and nostrils not inhibited by wrinkling and can breathe. The English bulldog weighs between 20-60 pounds. On the other hand, 60 pounds would be a very small Olde English Bulldogge and just meeting the minimum mark according to some registries’ breed standards.
Olde English Bulldogge vs. Other Bull Breeds
They are many mixes and variations of breeds using the label “bulldog”. Some of these mixes such as the bullmastiff have gone through the test of time and have received official recognition. Other bulldog breeds that may be confused with the Olde English Bulldogge include the Bantam Bulldogge, the Banter Bulldogge, and the Olde Boston Bulldogge.
The Bantam Bulldogge is a miniature English bulldog. Its diminutive size overlaps that of the French Bulldog. Differentiation between the two then can be a problem. The Bantam bulldog is not recognized as a breed by any major kennel club. It is listed sometimes as a rare breed mostly for marketing purposes.
The Banter Bulldogge is a breed created by Todd Tripp in the late 1990s at his kennels in Southeast Ohio. Tripp wanted to recreate a breed similar to the Brabanter Bullenbeisser that was found in the area of the Netherlands and Belgium in the 18th century. In making this breed, he included not only bulldog but also a high percentage of boxer. This dog is not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs.
Olde Boston Bulldogge
The Olde Boston Bulldogge is a larger version of the Boston terrier. The intent of the initial breeders, the Rutan family, was to create a dog like the early dogs of Boston that were used in pit (dog) fighting. These dogs are similar in look and build to the Olde English Bulldog but quite a bit smaller. Top weight is about 45 pounds. They are also from many of the other bulldog breeds by their short tail.
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
In addition to these dogs with English bulldog somewhere in there bloodlines that are a host of other breeds of dogs using the bulldog label. The Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog came out of Georgia and the history of plantation life in the deep South. This breed was bred for plantation work and at the time of the plantations, other breeds were freely mixed in the population of dogs. Alapaha Blue Bulldogs are considered extremely rare and very expensive.
The Victorian Bulldog, the Valley Bulldog and Campeiro Bulldog also have characteristics similar or identical to both the English Bulldog and the Olde English Bulldogge. Most of these other breeds have not developed clear enough breed standards, and enough popular support to be recognized by the major registries.
Qualities & Characteristics of the Olde English Bulldogge
Olde English Bulldogges have specific characteristics. The general appearance should be one of a dog capable of engaging in the sport of bull-baiting. It should be athletic and not so big that it couldn’t readily escape being gored. The dog has a large head with its circumference at least equal to its height at the shoulders. The dog has a square muzzle. The muzzle size is set as the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop does not exceed one third the distance from the tip of the nose to the occiput. The height of the muzzle does not exceed its length. The dog’s body was built to be powerful. The dog is longer than it is tall. The feet are cat’s feet and are slightly rounded with the front feet being larger than the rear. Most dogs have rose ears (though tulip and button are still standard). Eyes must be brown. Acceptable coat colors include red, fawn, or black, solid white; brindle of red, mahogany fawn or black; solid color or pied.
Disqualifications include having eye color other than brown, a blue/gray coat, a nose color that is not black, a tail that is overly curly or short (either naturally or docked), and rear dewclaws. These dogs were bred to have a courageous and alert dog. These dogs have a sweet temperament and are good family dogs. There are some that will show some same-sex aggression but this can be managed with good early socialization. Some can be high energy and such behavior needs to be properly channeled into some kind of work in order to avoid furniture chewing and other signs of anxiety and stress.
Registries for Olde English Bulldogges
The history of the modern origin of the Olde English Bulldogges arose with the work of David Leavitt. Had the dog breed been a phone or a car it could have been patentable. If he worked out the gene sequence that would have been probably patentable too. When he bowed out of the breeding business and sold his registry market forces started to come into play. They may sharpen the breed’s distinction or they may end up destroying the dog as a breed. The parent club of the dog is now a dispute among different registries. The two are the Olde English Bulldogge Kennel Club and the Leavitt Bulldog Association (or Leavitt Bulldogge Association). The latter is the more recent of the two clubs.
The United Kennel Club, in fact, permits dogs coming from both the two primary competing parent clubs in the United States the Olde English Bulldogge Kennel Club and the Leavitt Bulldogge Association. Of course, the United Kennel Club does not emphasize the look of the dog but instead, what the dog can do. The major dispute between the two parent clubs seems to be the size of the dog and keeping it within certain weight limits. The UKC simply solves the problem for itself by dropping the weight requirement altogether and simply requires that the dog be proportionate with its size.
International Olde English Bulldogge Association
Another registry that is very popular but may present some problems for the breed’s further recognition as such is the International Olde English Bulldogge Association or IOEBA. According to its website, the IOEBA was established in 1995 to the preservation of bulldog breeds including rare bulldogs. It states it is a non-discriminatory registry. This large Association has a very well-done website that is packed with information on all these rare bulldog breeds.
However, the “non-discriminatory registry” seems to mean a lack of strictness in what dogs are being registered and the IOEBA has many consumer complaints. The IOEBA has a great deal of popularity because it is very easy to get a dog registered and it recognizes all these other new or rare breeds. For example, any eye color or any coat color is acceptable and the tail may even be docked. There are no requirements for hip soundness like would be required by the LBA for breeding. The pedigree only has to go back two generations. In contrast, the Leavitt Bulldog Association requires three and the AKC requires three generations for new breeds for a limited period of time.
Olde English Bulldogge Kennel Club
The OEBKC has some harsh criticism of this competing club calling it a registry that “will register alternative bulldogs under the Olde English Bulldogge breed name“. Its breed standards for the Olde English Bulldogge differ in some big ways from the OEBKC and the Leavitt Bulldog Association.
Leavitt Bulldog Association
The Leavitt Bulldog Association (which added the name “Leavitt bulldog” to the already myriad names that this dog can be found under) saw the return of David Leavitt in 2005 to his original project which he felt was straying from his ideal. Leavitt particularly did not like the trend leaning to heavier dogs, most certainly fearing a repeat of what happened with the English Bulldog. A phenomenon that seems to readily repeats itself in other breeds in the United States.
The Leavitt Olde English Bulldogge standard is almost completely the same as the breed standard set out for the Olde English Bulldogge. It makes a lot of sense since it is the very same creator behind both. The weight ranges are now identical and perhaps the weight dispute has been resolved. The Leavitt Bulldog Association requires detailed hip x-rays prior to giving breeding approval. Also, there are restrictions on breeding closely related dogs, and timing and age of breeding bitches. These kinds of restrictions seemed absent from the other registries.
Health Concerns When Breeding Olde English Bulldogge
David Leavitt created the breed by making sure health issues English bulldogs was burdened with were totally bred out. Not just by luck, but through a specific breeding scheme based on heredity and canine genetics. Because new breed registries allow dogs without health clearances have appeared since then, some breeders took it easy and some health issues are starting to appear.
Is the Olde English Bulldogge healthier that other bull breeds?
One of the primary motivation for David Leavitt in recreating the breed of the early 1800’s in Great Britain was health. The English bulldog has been bred to exaggerate its ancestor with a pushed-in face to the extent that today’s dogs have terrible respiratory problems. It is a dog that can’t tolerate heat at all because it can’t adequately pant. Death from a summer’s outing is a real threat to these English bulldogs. The squat frame has made the dog unable to breed or birth without human intervention. The life expectancy, also, is a dismal 7 years when for a dog of equal size it would be double the year-count more. Its plight has been the subject of numerous documentaries, commentaries, and tirades by animal rights activists.
In addition, the English bulldog has incredibly high rates of hip dysplasia. In fact, it is ranked as the number one breed for its occurrence by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Out of 844 evaluations conducted through December 2017, an incredible 71.8% were found to be dysplastic. Elbows came it at 34.9% of the 360 evaluations dysplastic. For the serious condition of tracheal hypoplasia of the 779 dogs evaluated 5.9% were abnormal and 9.8% had equivocal findings.
The Olde English Bulldogge has all the loveable look and temperament of its cousin without all the bad health baggage. Olde English Bulldogge dogs have virtually no respiratory problems. While it does not have the complete insensitivity to extremes of heat and cold (as really no dog does), it can romp outside in the summer sun without a person worrying that an expensive trip to the vet is on the near horizon. These dogs have a life expectancy that exceeds ten years (on par with other breeds their size). For breeders, they are born most often the natural way. Males can mount and achieve a natural copulatory tie. Breeders should expect a natural whelping without the costly intervention of artificial insemination.
Health Concerns of the Olde English Bulldogge
According to the OFA statistics, hip dysplasia is a big health problem of the Olde English Bulldogge. Of the 81 dogs evaluated, 64% were dysplastic. The problem of malformed hips which can result in painful arthritis and lameness in the dog comes from the parent bloodlines that were used in the creation of the breed. As was discussed above, the English bulldog has a tremendous problem with hip dysplasia. The genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia has been a well-known fact among breeders for many years now. Buyers and breeders should be on the lookout for it and not buying without a hip clearance and not breeding dogs with bad hips respectively.
Unfortunately, the OFA statistics are a small number of dogs and do not tell consumers where or why these dogs were tested.
The dog bred by David Leavitt back in the 1980s was bred to be a sound dog. These kinds of problems were not supposed to be in the prototype for the new breed. The confusion over the years of the proper registry may have allowed the bloodline to take a backseat to the market forces of the day. It is noticeable that the Leavitt Bulldogge Association understands at least the gravity of the situation with the hips and requires breeding approval prior to allowing its registered dogs to breed. How effective these controls can be with competing registries remains to be seen.
The other major concern for the breed is bloat. Bloat is the life-threatening condition that occurs when the stomach turns on its axis and cuts off blood flow to the intestines. It is a condition seen most often in broad-chested dogs. There is no remedy for it except emergency medical attention.
How To Breed Olde English Bulldogge Dogs
Thanks to the breed being much healthier morphologically speaking, those wanting to breed Olde English Bulldogge should be able to do so without the need for c-section or artificial insemination. Nearly all pregnancies and deliveries happen without specific issues and whelps are strong and resistant with a great size at birth.
The average Olde English Bulldogge litter size ranges from 3 to 12 puppies with an estimated average of six puppies based on dogs of similar size. These puppies are not subject to tracheal hypoplasia often seen in the English bulldog. In this condition, the puppies are born with a narrow trachea which may cause significant breathing problems and death in young puppies. The litter of the Olde English Bulldogge dam should be expected to be whelped healthy and stay that way for at least a decade with normal preventative care.
Natural breedings are preferred
One of the key hallmarks of a breed of dog that is healthy is its ability to reproduce without the help of human intervention—or at least that is in the ideal which David Leavitt wanted for his breed. The dogs of the 1820s would not have been conceived by artificial insemination as a routine matter at least and certainly surgical delivery of puppies would have been mostly an impossibility. Natural mating is preferred as a routine matter so that the sex drive of the dog does not diminish over time. It is one of several elements that will work to keep this breed vital and close to its 19th-century ideals. Some English Bulldogs reportedly lack the sex drive to even attempt to mount.
Also, these dogs’ anatomy is built to complete the insemination with a natural tie. Until the breed is well established, letting these dogs mate naturally removes some risk of anatomically bad breeders with a bit too narrow hindquarters slip into the gene pool with an artificial insemination. Again, natural breeding put the dogs within the eyeshot of two breeders and this makes it unlikely that studs with problems in this department will be bred as often. (Word does get around).
How to Avoid Another English Bulldog Repeat
The best way to avoid future health problems in this breed is to control the bloodlines. The problem of hip dysplasia found in these dogs which was most likely almost completely bred out of David Leavitt’s original stock is now known to be a rising problem. Consumers need to demand hip clearances for the sire and dam of each puppy purchased. Since most buyers of puppies either don’t want or don’t know to do it, it is the duty of breeders to follow the breeding guidelines set out by the LBA and have their dogs examined for hip problems before breeding and refrain from breeding dogs too young for these hip problems to be clearly assessed. The plethora of registries is a big problem right now for the present health of the breed, especially as some of them are much less demanding in terms of screenings and health clearances. The market may work it out or it may do so at a big cost to the breed much like it did to the English bulldog.
The best thing these dogs have going for them is that they could easily become as widely popular as the English bulldog fairly quickly in our media-driven world. They got a boost when mentioned in a documentary on purebred dogs (which watered it down by being extremely negative overall about purebreds as a whole). A well-known celebrity that has them and champions their cause wouldn’t hurt the campaign.
It would be a shame to lose these decades-long labor for the breed to those breeders out for the quick buck at the expense of the dog and the breed’s health. The first step would be for the OEBC and the LBA to agree to an identical breed standard. The closeness of the two should make this possible. The idea to impose breeding restrictions unless hip tests are passed should be a paramount issue. The rates reported at the OFA now are exceedingly high and do bear out that this health issue as a major concern. These dogs were intended to be working dogs from the beginning and hip dysplasia interferes with that role. Buyers and breeders must carefully read the pedigrees of the dogs they intend to purchase, and make up their informed and safe decision.