The Original American Bulldog
a chapter from
stories, facts & legends
by Lemuel D. Miller
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Note: Thanks to my friends John D. Johnson and Alan Scott for all there help in writing this chapter.
As I write this chapter controversy abounds concerning this magnificent breed of dog. The professed experts on the breed have diverse opinions, all claiming to have the real, the true, the one and only American Bulldog. However, real evidence to substantiate these beliefs and opinions cannot be found. Newcomers to the breed, in the hopes of owning one of these beautiful animals, sit in lounge chairs, with phone in hand trying to find the real truth as they call every breeder in the magazine. What ultimately happens is the breeder with the best sales pitch gets a new client, and the word spreads that now they have the one, true American Bulldog. The controversy continues because even the so-called experts (a drip under pressure) can't get together on how big, how tall, how bulldoggy, what color, how much they should weigh, what kind of work they should do, if any, where these dogs really come from, etc.
If I might be so bold, if we simply look to the beginning of this century, even to the'60s and early '70s, before people started tampering with the stock-working American Bulldog, there is enough evidence to substantiate size and look (conformation). The interest of the breeder and enthusiast should first and foremost be to preserve the breed in its true form, preserving the type of Bulldog that is supported and defined throughout history. If this would take place, then we would have consistency in the breed. May I respectfully ask, "Do we want to preserve what has been passed on to us by our forefathers, or do we want to develop a new breed of dog?" In years gone by, breeders in America have proven over and over that it only takes a few years to ruin a good dog. For instance, in the'60s and '70s, the Rottweiler was a good working breed.
Today, it's hard to find a good one unless you buy an import that you pay big bucks for. And what about Bulldog people that took a good working bulldog and turned it into ol' sour-mug, the now known English Bulldog that looks nothing like the original, acts nothing like the original and functions nothing like the original. And yet they have the audacity to call this dog a Bulldog when the only thing he can catch is a nap! Please allow me to explain it like this. During the time of bull-bating and dog-fighting, the Bulldogs had to be hard dogs, powerful dogs, dogs of great courage and extremely game. But when the era ended, someone had what they thought was a good idea (unfortunately, a bad idea of Bulldogs) and began breeding for fancy (show purposes). Characteristics desired by true bulldogers at earlier times for fighting and baiting purposes, were by the fanciers exaggerated, so that the unfortunate Bulldog became seriously abnormal. During the renovation period, huge heads, bowed legs, and wide chests were developed, and quite often, these abnormal bulldogs were cripples. Only God knows for sure how these changes of type were accomplished. The only thing for sure, the dog developed by the fanciers would never succeed as a bullbaiting, hog-catching or fighting dog. By studying the following pictures, you can easily see the aforementioned transformation.
Obviously, there was indeed a drastic change with the fanciers show-quality Bulldog. But thank God, not all Bulldogs went through this transformation. It is evident from this bronze called Beware of the Dog of the year 1880, that a strain of the true working Bulldog was maintained by some.
So what does this teach us? I believe it teaches that at the turn of the century, there not only was a working Bulldog that could still do the work it had originally been bred to do, but there was also a show Bulldog that couldn't do any work. The problem is this, there are very few breeders that will breed for preservation of the original breed. Instead, breeders simply breed to what looks good before finding out what is good. Why, appearance is what sells, so money becomes more important than preservation. With breeders such as this, after a few generations, now the bulldog we offer to the new puppy buyer looks, acts and functions nothing like the original. One of the reasons the original type is destroyed by modern-day breeding practices is because today's breeder has no idea as to the history of the true American Bulldog. What's worse, they seemingly don't care. I want to go on record by saying I really don't know where the American Bulldog came from. However, there is enough history available to help set some things straight. In the contemporary Bulldog world, there are two basic lines of Bulldogs we observe in order to try to find an original copy. These lines are Johnson and Scott.
But what the modern bulldogger fails to see and realize is the fact that these dogs have been around a lot longer than either John D. Johnson or Alan Scott. And both of these gentlemen will be quick to tell you that.However, these two wonderful pioneers for the modern Bulldog era gave the name American Bulldog to these fabulous animals and started keeping records of their breeding practices. For this I am forever grateful. I bred my first Bulldog in 1967, but the only record I kept was in my head. Nevertheless, I had a Bulldog, an American Bulldog. In searching the history of the American Bulldog, probably the easiest way to find the modern-day American Bulldog's true type is by paintings and pictures.
So let's go back to the year 1830 to look at an obvious American Bulldog ancestor in J.T. Tuite's painting. Now observe the similarities of one of my Bulldogs that goes back to the '60s - Possum. Is it a coincidence that the two dogs look so much alike? I think not. In years gone by, the old timers bred the best to the best in order to get the best. Thus, type stayed consistent. Uncle Ralph has had Bulldogs all of his 80 years, as well as his dad before him and neither have ever heard of John D. Johnson or Alan Scott.
This line is also known as Ol' Southern White's
Uncle Ralph emphatically told me time and time again, these dogs have been here a lot longer than we have. Over and over, he has assured me he kept his Bulldogs of which he has always called White English (no doubt the same dog northerners called English White) pure. He stated, "I never put ‘pit’ in my dogs. Didn't want to mess them up." About these dogs he used as home and property protectors he said, "Didn't have to train 'em to do that, did it automatically." Uncle Ralph also used his Bulldogs for working or catching cattle, hogs or anything else that needed to be taught a lesson. You be the judge on whether or not Uncle Ralph preserved the breed or developed his own type of American Bulldog. Here is a picture of Uncle Ralph's White English, Joshua's Shunammite at 1 year old.
I asked Uncle Ralph why he called his dogs White English? He said, "Because mine was the white kind and other folks had the brindle kind. They're pretty much the same bulldog only with color. I prefer white."Now notice the brindle kind, that is true to type. Below is a picture of Alan Scott's foundation sire, Mac the Masher. If this bulldog was white, he would look just like Tom Seahorn's bulldog of 1928. Only God knows how long these bulldogs have been around. I remember my grandmother who was born in 1891 telling me about the Bulldogs her family had while she was a young girl. "But, what about the size of these bulldogs?" Just study the pictures from the early 1800’s to the 1960’s and you decide. Dr. Carl Semencic in the '70s asked a very well-known breeder for today's largest American Bulldogs that same question. His answer, "Well, a big male could go 85 lbs." May I submit, this correlates with the same size dog I grew up with in the'50s and'60s.Tom Seahorn and Bulldog 1928
A big male was an 85-pound dog. The reason they were this size was because these were true working dogs that would spend eight to 1 0 hours a day being sent from behind a horse to herd and catch cattle. The bigger dogs just couldn't keep up with the demanding work done by the cracker cowboy. The fact is, this bulldog we call American, has been with us a long time in the 85-pound range, and certainly not 140 or 150 pounds. As hard as I've tried, I have not been able to find one picture beyond 30 years passed that even remotely resembles Mr. Johnson's 150-pound bulldog named Elrod. I have seen Elrod on numerous occasions at Mr. Johnson's home and spent hours talking about Bulldogs.
I respect the man and his dogs and call him friend. But, in my honest opinion, there was not any Bulldogs at the turn of the century that looked like Elrod in any way. Mr. Johnson and all of the followers of his fine line of Bulldog should call them by their real name, you do anyway, because you want to make sure that people know and understand yours is not the small performance type, yours is a Johnson Bulldog. Recently, at an American-Bullldog show here in Florida, I asked Perry Driggers to speak about Ol' Southern' Bulldogs. He gladly accepted, and with his southern charm, he entertained the crowd with stories of Ol' Brag, an American Bulldog. After he was through, he took time to shake hands and talk, bulldogs with the bulldoggers. Now you must understand that Mr. Driggers has never heard of Alan Scott or John D. Johnson. For 74 years, he has had Ol' Southern Bulldogs - the-, now known American Bulldog. While talking with friends, a gentleman with a beautiful Johnson Bulldog walked up to Mr. Driggers and asked his opinion of his Bulldog. Mr. Driggers politely asked, 'What is it?"
In Mr. Drigger's defense, he honestly had never seen a bulldog like the Johnson type. I overheard him say, 'Well, we never had any Bulldogs like that around here. What do you do with him?" You see, Mr. Driggers being a competent cattle rancher, knows that in everyday use with farm stock (cows, hogs, etc.) a Bulldog this size will get killed too easily. So he legitimately wondered how this type of bulldog was used. The fact is, if you study the history of true American Bulldogs, you'll find Bulldogs that look like Tom Seahorn's Bulldog of the 1920's in John D. Johnson's dogs as well. But, you must go back to the 1960's and 1970's to find them. Why are they there? It's because John D. Johnson and Alan Scott at that time basically had the same dogs. Just take a look at one of Mr. Johnson's famous Foundation sires, Sandman the Great. Sandman was a great watch dog! What a beautiful specimen of a true American Bulldog. This great dog is out of Alan Scott's Mac the Masher which Mr. Scott purchased from Cell Ashley.
For the new bulldogger, allow me to explain that Cell Ashley got most of his Bulldogs from the Kittle family of Sand Mountain, Ala. or from Florida. It appears that Sandman is of the same type as Tom Seahorn's. The difference is in the cropped ears, not in the type of bulldog. Now let me introduce you to a son of Joshua's Sandvalley Sam a.k.a. Cowboy Joshua's Ol' Southern White aka "Josh". Cowboy is an ol' time Southern Bulldog, that is a grandson of Darrin Jones' Jones' Sam, a fine Ol' Southern Bulldog of the 1970s. As far back as Darrin and 1 could trace, Cowboy's heritage, there is no evidence of any contemporary line of American Bulldog such as Scott, Johnson. etc., in Cowboy's family tree. "Josh" 1999 "Sandman" 1975
What does this mean? I believe it to be great news for the American Bulldog, offering a new gene pool that has been certified OFA Excellent. By observing the pictures of "Josh" and Sandman the Great, I think it will be obvious that they are the same type of bulldog. Notice the shape and size of head and body. My Lord, they are all but identical. Now let's compare Joshua's Tabatha. a daughter of Cowboy, with Sandman the Great to see if she is true to type. Josh is an 95-pound hard-bodied OFA Excellent American Bulldog. Tabatha is a 77-pound hard-bodied OFA good American Bulldog, that in appearance could easily have been Sandman the Great's daughter. These ol' type Bulldogs have been around as Uncle Ralph said, "Forever." By having a vivid imagination and a desire for a larger Bulldog, Mr. Johnson developed in the last 20 years the Johnson Bulldog. On the other hand, Alan Scott desired to stay with the original type. I would like to formally declare these two lines of Bulldogs are now two separate breeds and deserve to be bred as two separate breeds. On July 7, 1970, Alan Scott and John D. Johnson both came up with the name American Bulldog for registration purposes.
I believe the Bulldog that most closely resembles the Bulldogs they started with should keep the name American Bulldog. That happens to be the Scott type. Let's preserve both types! It's very evident by studying pictures and paintings of the last 200 years that the type Bulldog in America certainly looked more like Sandman the Great than Elrod. Elrod is a beautiful example of what has been developed by Mr. Johnson. Sandman the Great is the type that most assuredly resembles the original. Now I know there will be some who have read John Blackwell's book American Bulldogs that will quickly point to the picture of Johnson’s King Kong on page 6 and sav, "What about King?" According to Mr. Blackwell (who made an honest, mistake), the picture of King Kong was taken in 1950. Impossible! King was Johnson's favorite dog and happened to be a large big-boned Bulldog that Mr. Johnson has tried to duplicate ever since. But born in the '50s how, when Johnson:s King Kong was sired by Sandman the Great who is out of Scott's Mac the Masher'? Now, according to John D. Johnson, telling me personally, Sandman the Great was born Jan. 30, 1973. 'Nuff said!!! In talking with both Alan Scott and John D. Johnson, it is evident that they both liked Sandman the Great, Dick the Bruiser and Mac the Masher. However, when King Kong came along, Mr. Johnson chose the direction he wanted to go with his bulldogs while Mr. Scott chose to stay with what he already had. For you that like the Johnson-type Bulldog (and I love them for home protection) Mr. Johnson, the father of this type should be patted on the back and honored by having the breed of bulldog named after him. Do it while he's alive. It would be a great honor for a real southern gentleman to have this great line of bulldog receive his name. As for those who choose to preserve what history has declared the American Bulldog, may I give you this quote from Dr. Carl Semencic, "Remember the history folks, because it you don't your breeding efforts will only serve to destroy a fine, old, venerable, pure-bred, working dog. It's almost gone already. WHO AMONG YOU WILL SAVE IT?"
Note: Since the writing of this chapter from the book "The American Bulldog: Stories, Facts and Legend" by Lemuel D. Miller, Mr. Johnson has established a separate registry for the Johnson Bulldog which is referred to as the Johnson Bulldog.
Congratulations Bro. John!!!!!
I found this picture of a Buffalo hunting crew taken in the mid 1870's. The dog in the picture sure looks like an original bulldog to me