Bull Terriers

milo-2011-smWhy a Bull Terrier?

When I began scheming my novel “Murder in the Dog Park” I knew Jane, my tough chick protagonist, had to have an equally tough dog as her partner. Jane needed a dog with enough moxie and muscle to stand up to her sandpaper personality and to help her capture bad guys.

Enter the Bull Terrier.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Bull Terriers (Bullies or BTs to those in the know) beyond the fact that they had heads shaped like space aliens, triangle-shaped eyes and that they’re built like doggie linebackers. In short, Bull Terriers pack a punch. That seemed like enough of a reason to create Archie, the black and white Bull Terrier Jane rescues from New York City’s mean streets.

You may already know Bull Terriers from TV. Spuds McKenzie of Bud Lite fame was the doggie star of 1980s commercials. The poor guy, actually a female, was forced to wear an ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt and sun glasses. He was posed with scantily clad women (get it…he’s a dog!). Spudsy sold a lot of beer, but I’m not sure he did a lot of good to promote Bull Terriers.

In the 1990s, Target introduced the world to Bullseye, an all-white miniature Bull Terrier with the company’s red logo painted over his left eye—non-toxic according to Target’s website. I hope Bullseye got aTarget gift card for his troubles.

As I researched Bull Terriers for “Murder in the Dog Park” I found out that today’s Bull Terriers are a far cry from their British ancestors. Bull Terriers date from the mid-1800s when breeders crossed Old English Bulldogs with Old English Terriers—hence the name “Bull and Terrier.” The first Bull Terriers earned their keep by hunting vermin–mainly rats–and engaging in dog fighting and bear baiting when these activities were legal.

Early Bullies were bred to have all-white coats with heads resembling a  Manchester Terrier. The Bull Terrier’s distinctly egg-shaped head (in breeder lingo the BT lacks a “stop”—the point which the forehead and the muzzle meet) appeared in the early 1900s. Since then, the oval-shaped head, triangular eyes and small, round “cat feet” have been hallmarks of the breed.

In addition to white, Bullies can be tri-colored, brindle, red and white, and solid colored. Although people often confuse Bull Terriers with American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers are a separate breed. The American Kennel Club describes Bullies as “Playful and clownish” and compares them to “a three-year-old child in a dog suit.”

Bullies are fun, but also a handful. These are muscular, powerfully built dogs that can easily bowl over a child or human who isn’t paying attention. Bullies  are tough doggies like to play and party hard. They need a lot of exercise so if you are coach potato, this is not the right dog for you. Bullies are highly social but need firm and consistent training so they do not dominate the household. Translation: if you’re a weenie, you should probably get a mellower breed—like a basset hound (more about that in a minute). Getting caught in the middle of a scrum of Bull Terriers is like being at a Bull Terrier frat party. Calling Spuds McKenzie!

After publishing “Murder in the Dog Park,” I finally met my first real-life Bull Terriers and their humans thanks to the good people at Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Club and Rescue. It was a thrill to see Archie in honest-to-doggie version. The Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Club and Rescue folks taught me a few things about Bullies that the American Kennel Club didn’t mention, including hucklebucking– a kind of doggie breakdancing Bull Terrier-style that features ass chasing and insane, high speed hijinks. Imagine a Bull Terrier on crack after drinking a dozen Red Bulls. You can find lots of goofy hucklebucking videos on Youtube. Knock yourself out!

The million dollar question: Do I own Bull Terrier?  Although I am a huge fan of the breed and an unabashed Bull Terrier groupie, I do not own a Bullie. Not because I don’t love them, but because I don’t have the cojones to stand up to the breed. I’m a wimp. That’s why I have a basset hound. I guess I have a thing for dogs with short legs and long ears. And I’ve always had basset hounds; I’m a creature of habit. Switching breeds at this point would seem almost disloyal. That said, I support Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Club and Rescueby donating a portion of my book sales to this wonderful group. Please get in touch with them if you are interested in adopting or fostering a Bull Terrier.


On behalf of Archie the Bull Terrier, I thank all the Bullies around the world for their inspiration. Bully for you!