Why Do Bull Terriers Look Like That?

Bull Terriers have a very distinct appearance with their odd egg-shaped heads and muscular bodies. So, why do they look like that? Let’s find out!

Feb 21, 2024By Nikita Hillier
why do bull terriers look like that

Bull Terriers have a very odd appearance compared to many other dog breeds. There is no denying that their unmistakable appearance helps them stand out greatly in the canine world due to a set of unique features––namely, their distinctive egg-shaped head and crested skull. These two features are the hallmark of this breed and one of the biggest reasons they are so deeply loved and adored.

In this blog, we will cover the reasons behind their distinctive appearance and any potential health benefits or limitations these features bring.

Breeders Strove for an Egg-Shaped Head

bull terrier dog wearing fur coat
Image Credit: Seaq68 on Pixabay

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Bull Terrier is its head. Often described as oval or egg-shaped, this distinctive head shape is the very specific result of careful breeding practices. Some reasons why breeders created this feature include:

  • Adherence to the breed standard. Many kennel clubs have “blueprints” that specify the ideal breed standard. They often exclude dogs with any deviation from the established norm. The egg-shaped head is a requirement for Bull Terriers to join elite organizations and compete in dog shows.
  • It gives the dog a unique expression. Bull Terriers have small, triangular eyes and pointed ears that give them a constant alert expression. Many owners believe that this gives their dog an intelligent look. This distinctiveness not only sets them apart from other terrier breeds but adds to their charm.

The Dog’s “Crest” Results From Genetics

side profile of white and black bull terrier
Image Credit: Commitment_coaching on Pixabay

The crest on the skull of a Bull Terrier is known as the “stop.” It is the point at which the forehead and muzzle meet, creating a very distinct unique angle or break. This feature is extremely noticeable in the dog’s profile.

Here’s what to know:

  • The “stop” results from the dog’s ancestry: The very pronounced stop in Bull Terriers resulted from crossing bulldogs with many different types of terriers to create a dog with the immense strength of a Bulldog, but the agility of a terrier.
  • The crest does not have any physical advantages: While the stop in the Bull Terrier breed's head may have some historical significance in the breed’s development, it doesn’t have a physical benefit. Unlike some breed features that have a very clear purpose, such as the webbed feet of water dogsor the distinctive coat of some working breeds, the pronounced crest in Bull Terriers is more of an aesthetic thing than a functional one.

The Benefits of These Distinctive Features

white bull terrier side profile black background
Image Credit: Kenny Fotos CR on Pexels

When considering the benefits of the egg-shaped head and pronounced crest in Bull Terriers, it is also important to acknowledge that these features are essentially just the result of selective breeding for appearance rather than functionality.

Aside from cosmetic purposes, Bull Terriers sport such unique features because:

  • They have a deterrent effect: The muscular and strong build of Bull Terriers can often serve as a deterrent. The large, rounded slope of a Bull Terrier's head, their eye shape, and their muscular build can make them look very intimidating. This works as a deterrent to ward off intruders and keep homes safe.
  • They convey expression: The expressive face of the Bull Terrier is shaped by their distinctive head features. This enhances their ability to communicate with their owners and other dogs or animals.
  • People see a reason to preserve this breed. As centuries pass, dog breeds come and go. Only dog breeds with exceptional charm and features are preserved by responsible dog enthusiasts. Bull Terriers aren’t going extinct any time soon! Out of the American Kennel Club’s 201 breeds, they rank 64th.

Responsible Breeding Prevents Common Concerns

brown and white bull terrier staring at camera
Image Credit: Vitali Adutskevich on Pexels

While the unique appearance of Bull Terriers is fascinating, these features come with some unique health concerns. Yet, by only adopting from ethical breeders, you can get a pup that is free of:

  • Respiratory issues. The Bull Terrier’s muzzle can make it prone to some respiratory issues, such as shortness of breath. This makes it important for owners to monitor their dog’s breathing while playing outdoors.
  • Inbreeding. Some unscrupulous breeders will mate Bull Terriers from the same litter to get desired traits, like a pronounced crest. Inbreeding reduces the gene pool puppies have, leading to serious health concerns, like cardiac problems.
  • Aggressive behaviors. Just like people, dogs inherit traits from their parents—and that goes for temperament. An ethical breeder would never breed a Bull Terrier with an inclination toward aggression, as this does not contribute to the betterment of the breed.
  • Recessive genes. According to PloS Genet, some mini Bull Terriers have lethal acrodermatitis (LAD), which can lead to a weak immune system, skin lesions, and poor growth.

Bull Terriers Aren’t the Only Dogs with Unique Traits

Shar Pei_Head
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bull Terriers aren’t the only dogs that have unique traits. Other dogs bred with distinctive traits include:

  • Shar-Pei. These dogs are known for their wrinkly faces. Breeders selected this trait because it protected them from animal attacks.
  • Basset Hounds. Like Corgis and Dachshunds, Basset Hounds are bred to have a form of dwarfism. Their short stature helped them hunt rabbits and other small game.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs. These shepherding dogs were bred to have thick double coats, so they could herd livestock in cold temperatures.

Bull Terriers, Like Other Dogs, Have Distinct Characteristics

brindle and white bull terrier
Image Credit: I_Love_Bull_Terriers on Pixabay

In the case of Bull Terriers, their unique appearance, including their famous pronounced crest and egg-shaped head, adds to their individuality and aesthetic appeal. While there aren’t any truly functional benefits that directly contribute to the dog’s life, they do contribute greatly to the overall charm and appeal of the breed.

Ensuring that you buy your dog from a responsible breeder will help you ensure that your dog’s aesthetic traits don’t come at the expense of their health and longevity. After all, everyone wants their dog to have a long life.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!