Item number: 5676
A 19th Century English Preserved Fighting Bulldog
Ex English Private Collection
Of unquestionably ancient origin, traceable at least since the Roman Empire, the human fascination with matching animals against one another for sport, or ‘baiting’, had remained a hugely popular entertainment for centuries, the spectacle providing welcome opportunities for wagers before being outlawed during the 19th century. The sport has always been widely associated with England due to its popularity here throughout the ages and although the contests became illegal in 1835, they would continue for some time in less public venues.
The Bulldog was a formidable fighting dog, bred specifically for participation in these events. With a short muzzle and powerful broad jaws to clamp down on its opponent, its upturned nose allowed it to still breathe freely while retaining its hold. After the contests had been outlawed these dogs lost their primary function and the breed rapidly fell in to decline, almost to the point of extinction and many were exported to America.
Given its English ancestry and determined personality, it is perhaps hardly surprising that this small, courageous and formidable dog should become a symbol of England and its fighting spirit, particularly during the Second world War, appearing in many propaganda images and posters of the era.
This superb male specimen would have undoubtedly been a favourite champion, revered by its original owner, whose obvious fondness for the animal shows in the quality of the preservation work carried out, which would at the time have demanded considerable expense.
Height: 48cm (To top of head), Length: 76cm (From nose to tail), Width: 27cm (Across forelimbs)